Charlie Puth on his 2022 Super Bowl commercial with Doritos, new music, and TikTok.

Charlie Puth Is Flamin’ Hot

The singer talks new music, TikTok, and the 2022 Super Bowl.

Gabriela Hansen

When it comes to male pop stars, Charlie Puth might spend the most time online. He’s been an internet savant since cutting Top 40 covers like Adele’s “Someone Like You” over a decade ago. In 2011, he propelled to fame through an initial record deal with Ellen DeGeneres’ label, eleveneleven. Ever since, Puth has churned out unrelenting hits like “Marvin Gaye” (featuring Meghan Trainor), “We Don’t Talk Anymore” (featuring Selena Gomez), and the stand-alone “Attention.”

While fellow internet-born pop stars Shawn Mendes and Justin Bieber scaled back from posting their breakthrough homemade singing videos after achieving IRL fame, Puth stays active online. He’s especially busy on TikTok, fostering a conversational relationship with fans. It’s all evidenced in his latest single, “Light Switch.”

Puth dropped the funky track on Jan. 20 after months of teasing snippets on TikTok. Fans boarded his creative journey, watching him build instrumentals and melodies from the ground up. “There's so many talented artists that never showcase their songwriting or production abilities,” Puth tells Elite Daily of his TikTok presence. “That was the whole point of doing all of this.”

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His TikTok offers unexpected access to a pop star’s process that we rarely see outside of concert documentaries or sit-down TV interview specials. The fan engagement seemed to pay off. “Light Switch" has over 25 million views on YouTube.

On top of this, Puth is a not-so-secret production and songwriting hitmaker. Last year, he was credited on two charting songs for Bieber, including co-writing his Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 song “Stay” with The Kid LAROI. Add in recent perplexing drama with producer Benny Blanco that seemed to draw even more attention to his TikTok page (more on this later), and Puth is having a moment.

He’s holding on to the attention by starring in a Super Bowl 2022 primetime Flamin’ Hot Doritos commercial. Puth plays a beatboxing fox who performs alongside a slew of other musical animals including Megan Thee Stallion as a songbird.

Puth admits he’s “grown” to be a football fan over time. Really, though, the allure of having a commercial spot during the big game (and his habit of munching on Doritos in the recording studio) made the commercial an obvious “yes” for him. Collaborating with Megan Thee Stallion didn’t hurt either. “We recorded separately,” Puth says. “There was about five different layers. I did the [beatboxing] then she added her part.”

All this has led us to a cultural era in which Puth is making pop music with integrity. Puth doesn’t seem to chase viral success or write music with the intent of it blowing up. Though, he surely isn’t coy about promoting his work. Instead, Puth is seemingly embracing the fact that being a music nerd is something to be proud of. Elton John recently told him as much. It’s pop music, after all. It should be fun.

His goofy personality shines through on “Light Switch, a standout in his already impressive catalog of hits. The song is about, well, feeling like a light switch. (Think Katy Perry’s plastic bag smilie on “Firework.”) Puth confesses he’s not quite sure of the magic recipe for imbuing genuine personality into Top 40 hooks.

It probably has something to do with his creative process. Puth empowered his fans to feel like they’re in the recording studio through his TikTok videos showing real-time song creation. “I wanted them to have a little bit of a deeper connection to it on maybe a songwriting level, even though maybe some of them are not songwriters,” Puth says of his fans. “Maybe they'll feel like they wrote the song with me from the very beginning.” He’s not the only artist following this new pop music standard. Charli XCX’s new Hulu documentary Alone Together chronicles the similar crowdsourcing creation of her 2020 album, How I’m Feeling Now.

While Puth could have phoned in his TikTok presence to simply market his music, he appears to see the internet as a place worthy of creative investment. “I downloaded the app because I just love the internet,” he says. “I would kill if there was an app like this when I was a teenager.” It’s an ironic statement, of course, given he spent his early years on YouTube.

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His status as a pop music tech savant is so ingrained, Puth is even considering using TikTok to scout and sign rising talent. He recently received a bout of good press for a TikTok video consoling a burgeoning actor rejected from Juilliard. Perhaps, Puth’s interest in working with digital-savvy young artists, instead of, say, those attached to his record label, is repayment. The internet is where his career first gained traction. “I feel like a lot of people on TikTok aren't trying to be successful, world-class musicians,” he says. “They're just trying to make content that feels real to them.”

Jaded isn’t a word one would use to describe Puth, though he’s experienced his share of romance rumors and pop music “feuds.” Still, Puth has largely evaded bad press. He recently found himself a very public naysayer in producer Benny Blanco, who threw shade at Puth’s use of TikTok. Puth acknowledged Blanco’s jabs, and Billie Eilish even came to his defense. Bieber also jokingly “pranked” Puth earlier this month for having once dissed him in 2016.

Though he’s ingratiated himself into the pop music elite, Puth doesn’t seem interested in his celebrity status. “I literally just stay in my brain [and] in my world at the end of the cul-de-sac on musical row,” he says. “I just don't leave it because I do see some of that crazy stuff, but it has nothing to do with core changes and melodies. The moment I start reading [other things], I'm like, ‘Oh, that's not very nice.’”

Prioritizing the music means there are still certain things Puth has yet to check off his bucket list. For one, he wants to collab with Paul McCartney. It isn’t a far-fetched dream considering Puth recently worked with another living legend. He’s among artists like Stevie Nicks and Stevie Wonder to feature on Elton John’s collaboration album, The Lockdown Sessions, last year.

Puth also isn’t opposed to moving beyond music and taking a stab at acting. There’s a certain charisma he brought to the “Light Switch” music video that could glow on a bigger screen. “I don't know if I could be on Euphoria, [but] I'm not opposed to any more acting,” Puth says. “I don't know. Maybe we talk a year from now — you’ll be like, wow, this role that you're in, this blockbuster movie that you've joined forces with.”

He credits authenticity for why his career is flourishing now. Part of this originality means embracing his prolific nature. Puth has already teased snippets of a song on TikTok, “Tears On My Piano.”

“I think the reason why this music is resonating so much and why I'm experiencing what I think is the most exciting part of my career so far [is] I'm just being myself the most I've ever been before,” he says. It seems he’s taken Elton John’s advice.