When Jason Derulo called his second album Future History, he could not have foreseen that just a few months after its September 2011 release, his many fans would be seeing a disturbing photo of him on his main web page in a neck brace. On January 3, while training for a world tour in support of the recording that was scheduled to begin in Glasgow on February 23, the 22-year-old Miami native injured himself by landing on his head during an acrobatic move. He suffered an acute fracture to his vertebra, but the news could have been much worse, After being rushed to the hospital in Pembroke Pines, Florida, he was told by doctors that the accident could have left him paralyzed. He will be in the brace for a few months, and fans may have to wait longer for his next live performances, but beyond that, nothing can stop this multi-faceted performer’s career momentum.
Six years after he began writing songs in his mid-teens for Danity Kane, Sean Kingston, Sean “Diddy” Combs and Lil Wayne, Derulo is a budding superstar in his own right, with numerous chart singles to his credit. The singer/songwriter scored immediately in August 2009 with his debut track “Whatcha Say,” which hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and sold 3.6 million copies. That and his follow-up “In My Head” (which reached #5) set the stage for the release of his 2010 self-titled debut, which peaked at #11 on the Billboard 200 and spawned another Top 10 hit (“Ridin’ Solo”). Generating a total of 9.6 million in singles sales, and scoring a #2 hit as a co-writer of Iyaz’s #2 hit “Replay,” Derulo won two BMI Pop Music Awards in 2011: Songwriter of the Year and one of the 50 Most Performed Songs of the Year for “Replay.”
Released in late September, Future History includes the hits “Don’t Wanna Go Home” and “It Girl.” “Don’t Wanna Go Home” spent five weeks in the Top 10 at pop radio, and hit #1 on the UK singles chart. “It Girl” also hit the Top 5 on the UK singles chart and the Top 10 in Australia, Denmark, Ireland and New Zealand, and it reached #17 on the Billboard Hot 100. In addition, the video for “Don’t Wanna Go Home” racked up more than 26 million views on YouTube.
“I called the album Future History for multiple reasons,” he says. “The title is a representation of where I’ve come from. It’s been a long road to get to where I am. Right now is the bridge between past and where I see myself going in the future. I think we can always determine what the future will be based on what we’re doing right now. I love the music I’m doing right now, and I would love for it to live on and be part of musical history someday. The biggest difference between this album and my debut is maturity. I was only 19 when I wrote and recorded [my debut album] Jason Derulo. It was me just making these great songs and sharing what was on my mind then. They came off super fast and I got caught up in the whirlwind where people knew the songs but not the artist.
“Future History is more of an open book,” Derulo says. “I’m not afraid to say anything. I’m speaking on my life experiences and letting them out. It’s not just good songs but songs that are a representation of who I am and how I deal with my life. My thinking goes, I’m going to have to perform these songs for the rest of my life, so it’s best that each holds a piece of my life and history in it. It will never be work to bring them back and sing them no matter how much time passes. They will always be fresh.”
Raised on a healthy diet of Prince, Michael Jackson, Elvis, and Madonna while growing up in Miami, Derulo—born Jason Joel Desrouleaux to Haitian parents--composed his first song, a playful ditty called “Crush On You,” on the piano when he was eight. By his teens, he was attending the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, where he also competed for and won The Apollo's Grand Championship in 2006. When he was 17, Derulo composed and sang the chorus to “Bossy” for Southern rapper Birdman, and soon became a sought-after tunesmith, crafting songs for hip-hop star Lil Wayne, R&B singer Cassie, and girl group Danity Kane, to name a few.
Around this time, producer J.R. Rotem’s brother Tommy was searching for artists to sign to Rotem’s new label, Beluga Heights, and contacted Derulo through his MySpace page and invited him out to Los Angeles to pen songs for Sean Kingston’s second album. J.R.’s decision to produce Derulo’s 2010 debut album led to immediate success, with a string of hit singles which made the singer the first male solo artist to score consecutive #1s on Billboard’s Pop Songs airplay chart in its 17 year history with his first two entries. J.R. Rotem produced “Pick Up The Pieces,” “Be Careful” and “Dumb” on Future History.
Derulo’s breakthrough year also found him trying his hand at acting, appearing in the MTV feature film Turn the Beat Around in between massive tours with Lady Gaga (six weeks on her sold out Monster Ball tour of North America) and the Black Eyed Peas in Canada. Since headlining his first tour later that year, the venues for Derulo’s shows have doubled in size.
Looking back at his evolution as a songwriter and recording and performing artist, Derulo says, “There was no grand design except for the fact that my goal was to become an artist from the beginning. I made a demo for myself to try to get a deal, but none of the producers who had made a name for themselves wanted to work with me. They were all trying to get with major artists. I didn’t have the money for them to produce songs for my demo, so I told them I was also a songwriter and I would be willing to write for different people. I made a demo of my songs myself and they started getting placed. Success as a songwriter happened almost by mistake.
“I think I was just blessed with a desire to succeed at this,” he adds, “and that’s the bottom line. What drives me is my desire to achieve great things that are based on helping cheer up someone’s day and making them forget their problems. If there’s something I can do, why not do it? I’ve been working at this a long time, and with the release of Future History, I reached a special point in my career I call a new beginning. I think my work ethic is my best quality as an artist.”
Jonathan Widran is a free-lance music/entertainment journalist who contributes regularly to Music Connection, Jazziz and All Music Guide. He can be reached at Few522@aol.com. He is also on Google+