Charlie Puth leaps into past trauma with ex on new single ‘That’s Not How This Works’

Ryan Raggio, Staff Writer

Singer songwriter Charlie Puth and the popular pop-country duo Dan and Shay released a new song on March 31 called “That’s Not How This Works.”

The song dives into Puth’s past relationship trauma, specifically, an ex-girlfriend giving him mixed signals. He shares his experience to listeners with this relatable, head bopper.

The song starts with Puth explaining how his ex left him and found someone else. However, the ex claims that she needs him. The ex kept him on a leash leading him on repeatedly, which produced the line in the song, “Baby, why, tell me, why can’t you just make up your mind / Quit messing with my head.”

Following those cries begging her to stop, led into the chorus of the song.

“You can’t say you hate me/ Then call me when you’re hurt/ Baby you know that’s not how this works/ No that’s not how this works.”

The line says you can’t tell you hate someone, but when you’re sad and have no one else to go to, you can run back to the person. However, that’s not how it works. The second half of the chorus introduces more powerful lines that flow.

“You can’t walk away then come back to what we were/ Baby you know that’s not how this works/ No, that’s not how this works.”

Puth is saying that you can’t get back something you gave away, being with the person you left. Again, that’s not how it works.

Enter Dan and Shay. Their role in the song was to harp on the ex’s attempts to win Puth back. For example, in the second verse, the ex is reminding Puth of things they said when they were together, like being together forever. Another example was when the ex said she needed to drop off all of his clothes, which was another excuse to see him again.

After this verse, the next part mirrors what Puth sang in his verse.

“Baby, why, tell me, why can’t you just make up your mind / Quit messing with my head.”

But this time, Puth sings in a higher octave while Shay Mooney sings in a lower octave of the line, “Quit messing with my head.”

The bridge of the song is quick but powerful, much like the entire song, as it is two minutes and forty-four seconds long. Mooney has the line, “Don’t say that you’re in love with me,” as Puth sings in the background, “Say that you’re in love,” which adds increasing emphasis on how impactful this line is when you hear it from your ex. As much as you want to believe this, it’s not true, which is why this setup was perfect for Puth’s following line to close the bridge, “Cause I know it’s not what you mean.”

The third verse has both Puth and Mooney singing the chorus. When they sing the line, “Baby, you know that’s not how this works/ No, that’s not how this works,” the background drums are played louder and staccato. Staccato notes give more impact to the beat as they emphasize to the words when played and sung together. This was a perfect way to integrate the drums and the meaning of the words as you’re telling your ex, “That’s not how this works.” It’s almost like a feeling of triumph and having the strength to face the facts with your ex to realize she’s playing you.

As the two singers finish the final verse, Puth takes the opportunity to sing his heart out. The producers and Puth layered the final verse to have Puth singing along with Mooney, shouting “no” in the background of the chorus shortly, and putting more emphasis on the higher pitch of a word at the start of a sentence. The most powerful part of the last verse was after he sang the word, “works,” because he stretched out the word and sang the note from high to low, also known as a melisma.

The song ends with Puth saying, “Baby, that’s not how this works.” There are no instruments; however, they inserted Puth singing the line higher and lower than the original to produce a harmonic effect.

If an ex expects you to run back to them, the message Puth gives to the audience is “That’s not how this works.”