By Radio.com Staff
Charlie Puth is a musician’s musician, it’s just that he’s ended up on the pop charts as of late. But if you let him, he’ll describe pop songs in terms of harmonics, keys and chord progressions. It’s not that surprising though: he’s studied pop music in order to perfect his hand at it. Here are five of the songs that influenced him to the writer that he is today.
James Taylor – “On the Fourth of July”: There is a song on James Taylor’s October Road called “On the Fourth of July” – the way those chords modulate – it goes through like twelve different keys in the record. It’s crazy. And then, in the final chorus, it goes up a half step from all those modulations; it just blows my mind every time. The record came out in 2002. It’s the most harmonically rich record and whenever I’m layering vocals for any sort of record I reference the harmonies that James put in with his vocal group. The record is crazy.
Eric Carmen – “All By Myself”: I’m always listening to the production of records. And the production to me means just as much to me as the actual lyrical content. “All By Myself”, originally done by Eric Carmen but later done in 1996 by Celine Dion, the David Foster [air drums with accompanying beats] it’s just massive and huge especially for 1996 when you didn’t really have ProTools and all these crazy digital stuff. You had analog hardware. We have so much at our disposal today. It’s just amazing that David was able to make that type of sound with that type of console. It’s just huge—the biggest sounding record in 1996—I love that record.
The Weeknd – “I Can’t Feel My Face”: In a more modern way, “I Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd, produced by Max Martin, it’s one of the records that I heard and was mad at myself for a week that I didn’t make it. I’ve never been mad at myself for not making a record. I had absolutely nothing to do with that record but I lost my mind when I heard that. I think it’s just brilliant.
Backstreet Boys – “I Want It That Way”: Going back on the Max Martin train, “I Want It That Way.” I’m a millennial. That’s my generation of stuff… Backstreet Boys. The lyrics don’t make any sense in that song but it kind of proves that the public doesn’t really care about that. They care about the syllables of certain words and the vowel sounds kind of colliding into each other as smoothly as possible. “Tell me why-ee/Ain’t noth-in but a hart-ache”… It doesn’t make any sense but it just feels good. It’s really nice hearing that. Eleven year-olds right now knew all the lyrics to that song. It’s a timeless record.
ABBA – “Dancing Queen”: “Dancing Queen” by ABBA is another example of Swedish pop bliss. It’s one of the only songs that I know that starts with an A major, if I’m not mistaken. The chorus starts on the fifth [humming to himself]. And, then it goes to the sharp four… It’s so unusual, the chord progression… Usually you’ll go, that song sounds like this and that song sounds like that. But you can’t say “Dancing Queen” sounds any song because “Dancing Queen” truly sounds like nothing else. “Dancing Queen” sounds like “Dancing Queen.” And I aspire to make music—records just like that— where it sounds easy and it’s not too hard to digest for a listener but it sounds like nothing else.