He’s the guy that sings “Jason Derulo” before each of his songs.
You most likely know from his debut single and biggest hit “Whatcha Say,” which came out in late summer of 2009 and stayed around long enough to hit the top of the Billboard 100 last year.
That song sounds really familiar. Do I know it from somewhere else?
Sort of. “Whatcha Say” is based pretty heavily around a sample of British singer-songwriter Imogen Heap’s single “Hide and Seek.” That’s her heavily auto-tuned voice you hear Derulo trading back and forth with on the chorus. That song got around. It was heard on The L Word, So You Think You Can Dance and the season finale of The O.C. That particular use of the song became so weirdly iconic that Andy Samburg did a spot-on parody of it for Saturday Night Live that went viral, greatly boosting the popularity of the song.
So he’s just famous for using someone else’s song then?
Not at all! His “In My Head” has a Lady Gaga-ish thumping electrobeat and cameo from Nicki Minaj on the remix, and hit number No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. He even performed it on American Idol last year. His third single, “Ridin’ Solo,” also hit the Billboard Top 10, and he performed that one on America’s Got Talent. Then there’s the matter of all the songs he’s written for other people.
Isn’t it kind of creepy that “In My Head” he tells some girl he’s fantasizing about that he’ll be her teacher?
Yeah, a little. But maybe he didn’t mean for it to come off that way?
Anyway, who has he written for?
In 2006, Derulo got his start by writing and guest appearing on “Bossy” for Cash Money overlord Birdman. Not bad for a 16-year-old, huh? This led to writing gigs for Birdman’s “son” Lil’ Wayne, Danity Kane, Pitbull and Cassie, amongst others.
Wait, he was writing for Birdman when he was 16? What? How? Where did this guy come from?
Jason Desrouleaux was born in Miami, Florida and studied music, theater and ballet while growing up. A bit of a prodigy, he wrote his first song, “Crush On You,” when he was eight and had a manager by the time he was 12. But this was nowhere near impressive enough for Derulo, so in 2006 he took home the top prize on the TV version of Showtime at the Apollo. He wrote for other artists for a while, but mentioned in interviews that he was frustrated that his career as a singer wasn’t taking off. That all changed when he met former American Idol judge, songwriter and Warner Music vice president Kara DioGuardi and producer Jonathan “J.R.” Rotem (Rihanna, Sean Kingston), and hooked up with Rotem’s Warner Bros. imprint, Beluga Heights. Derulo and Rotem have been a tight team ever since, with Rotem providing tracks that split the difference between Eurpop-derived dance music and more traditional R&B balladry, and Derulo and a cadre of outside songwriters providing the lyrics and hooks. As soon at “Say” took off he was recording a self-titled album, opening Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball Tour and staring in the MTV movie Turn the Beat Around.
So why does everyone like him so much?
Unlike many current R&B singers, Derulo has an emotional palette with more colors on it than shades of lusty aggression. (Though there’s plenty of that as well on “In My Head.”) On his best songs Derulo sells a mixture of vulnerability and introspection, as in “Say,” in which he castigates himself for the hurt he caused the woman he loves by cheating on her, and promises that he can become a better man if given one more chance. He does a good enough job selling the regret that you begin to believe that maybe he’ll actually change this time. On the gleeful flipside, there’s “What If,” in which Derulo nails the giddy rush of new possibility, falling head over heels in love and immediately begins thinking about the fantastic life he could have with a girl he just met. It’s goofy, sure, but endearingly so.
Okay, but why does he wear that spiked jacket to the club in the “Ridin’ Solo” video? Isn’t he worried about scaring off the ladies?
According to that song’s lyrics, now that Derulo is done with his old relationship, he’s a free man that can do whatever he wants. Maybe his ex used to forbid him to wear spiked jackets on the town?