Charlie Puth: How Long – Music Video Analysis

If you have watched the music video for Charlie Puth’s ‘How Long’, then it is highly likely that some things have crossed your mind. Namely:

-the hell-
-is he doing?

You’re not alone, my dear stranger on the interwebs; just about all of us were scratching our heads through most of the video. A little bizarre, a little charming, Puth’s physical performance in this was quite an interesting spectacle. However, though it appears nonsensical, a close observation can bring to light the deeper implications of what he is trying to tell us. So sit back, relax, and let a lonely twenty four year old man on the internet break everything down for you before he breaks down in tears himself. 

The video begins as Puth quietly walks into view amidst street noises, giving way to the bass intro. Though appearing a little somber at first, his demeanor changes quickly and he begins singing and dancing to the upbeat rhythm. The dancing he displays is quite objectively horrible subpar at best, lacking proper coordination and style. Could there be any deeper meaning behind this goofball behaviour? M a y b e. Maybe it could imply that he is not taking the entire situation seriously, letting go of control. This claim can be juxtaposed alongside the lyrics of the song itself, where the speaker is talking to his significant other. It is apparent that he is exasperated at her attitude towards him because he cheated on her after being intoxicated by alcohol. Can we say that he had lost control in a situation where he needed to be more in control of himself? I suppose we can.

As the video progresses, Puth enters a building, still dancing around.

Even on a table!
The more you look at it the creepier it gets.

Ultimately he stops in front of a painting of a woman who appears to be engulfed in flames. Her eyes are covered by a red ribbon.

*obligatory Dragon Ball Z reference*

In this instance, Puth’s entire upbeat demeanor comes to a screeching halt. His expression takes the form of a quiet sadness; you see hints of desperation and tranquil fury in the longing way he looks at the painting.

Aww 😥

It’s a short ‘look away and you’ll miss it!‘ moment but he lets his head hang down in sorrow at the very end of the shot.

Or is it shame?

Many fans speculate that the woman portrayed is supposed to represent Selena Gomez, though there is no proper evidence to corroborate these claims. Regardless, a point of interest can be raised: is this the woman Puth cheated on? Or is she the one he had the drunken affair with? In the lyrics, he appears to strongly favor his old partner and fervently denies that he has any emotional attachments with the other woman. The flames engulfing the figure could portray Puth’s disdain and perhaps even raw hatred towards her.

While the visuals focus on this painting, the song itself is in the middle of the bridge by this point, right before the final chorus. The next shot has him looking quite…

…high. I didn’t have a witty remark this time okay? It’s 4 am and I should be in bed.

But let’s roll back a bit. The scene just after he lowers his head is very nice when it comes to video composition. Observe:


It’s a sudden shift from solemn sadness to elated intoxication! Puth has taken to clouding his mind to run from the pain of this whole experience until eventually…


He begins levitating, of course. The final chorus kicks in with full force and Puth gets lifted off the ground and into the air, somehow dancing even more awkwardly than before.


I’m terribly sorry for the chronology issues but we must roll back once more! During that moment with the painting, the video lingers on a woman in a car for two small shots.

That face you make when you don’t want to have your picture taken but in case the picture does get taken, you want to look cool.

You’re probably asking, in your most eloquent manner of speaking: ‘who dat?

She could be his beloved who, in her disappointment, has chosen to leave him. The car symbolizes her lack of desire to remain and and to quite literally move on.

I guess she…DODGED a bullet, am I right?



Jokes aside, it’s time to wrap things up.

The building in which the painting has been housed could serve to represent Puth’s own mind, a space of shame and regret, which he enters to wallow in his sadness and eventually leave. The increased ridicule of his dancing and disregard of physics as the song progresses may be a way of him trying to get over the sadness of his actions through increased partying and distractions, until at the very end, reality sets in and he must come back down to join the real world again.

Telling us that it’s time to snap back to reality as well. What are you doing reading this? Go do your homework.



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