Singer, songwriter, dancer, and actor Jason Derulo belongs to a new breed of multi-hyphenate artists who know no creative boundaries. And as the flagship artist for the new joint venture between Warner Bros. Records and super-producer J.R. Rotem's label Beluga Heights, Derulo has set his sights high. "I don't want to stay in a box," he says. "I want all the love!"
He's already feeling that love. Derulo's smash debut single "Whatcha Say" - an irresistible slice of finger-snapping, futuristic pop-R&B - quickly climbed to No. 1 on the Billboard's Hot 100, Rhythmic, and Pop charts and remained atop the Pop chart for four consecutive weeks, making Derulo one of two new artists who debuted in 2009 to go to No. 1 at all three formats with a debut single. "Whatcha Say," which climbed to No. 2 on the iTunes singles chart, has sold four million copies worldwide, including three million in the U.S., and has been certified double-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. Derulo's new single, "In My Head," is moving even faster at radio with more than 160 Pop and Rhythm stations on board and a Top 15 berth on the Pop chart.
Those two singles are just part of what awaits on Derulo's self-titled debut album - an uncategorizable blend of pop, rock, electronic, and R&B elements that showcases this exciting newcomer's many talents. "It's definitely a music lover's album," the 20-year-old says. "It reflects all my different influences, but it's deeply rooted in pop. My vision for the album was to make music that would impact the world. And by that I mean that music is a healing thing. When you play your favorite song, you can forget all your troubles for three minutes. I want to provide those getaway moments for people." To that end, Derulo recorded more than 300 songs that he narrowed down to the nine that appear on the album. "I wanted to make sure I had something special that would endure and sound timeless," Derulo says.
Derulo wrote or co-wrote each track on the album, which was produced by Rotem, who has also worked with Rihanna, Leona Lewis, Rick Ross, and many others. "J.R. is a musician like myself, and has the ability to work within all different types of genres," Derulo says. "We can literally do whatever we want in the studio and experiment, which is really important to me because I want to break down barriers and do things that have never done before." The album features songwriting contributions from in-demand hit-makers Claude Kelly (Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You," Britney Spears' "Circus," Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA"), Evan Bogart (Beyonce's "Halo," Rihanna's "S.O.S."), and Alex James (Adam Lambert's "Sure Fire Winners," Tata Young "My Bloody Valentine").
That Derulo would aim high musically is not a surprise given his background. Born and bred in Miami, FL, Derulo composed his first song, a little ditty called "Crush On You," on the piano at age 8. "I was a huge Michael Jackson fan growing up," he recalls. "I studied his videos and copied all his moves. I'd also practice singing Usher and Justin Timberlake songs while doing their moves." As a teen, Derulo moved to New York to attend the vaunted American Musical and Dramatic Academy and competed at the legendary Apollo Theater, winning the Apollo's 2006 season Grand Championship.
Derulo kept at his writing, and at age 17, he composed and sang the chorus to "Bossy" - a track on Southern rapper Baby's album Five*Stunna. From there, the floodgates opened and Derulo became a sought-after tunesmith, showing his range and versatility by crafting songs for hip-hop star Lil Wayne, R&B singer Cassie, and girl group Danity Kane to name a few. Around this time, J.R. Rotem's brother Tommy was searching for artists to sign to Rotem's new label, Beluga Heights, which had scored big with Sean Kingston's "Beautiful Girls." Tommy contacted Derulo through his MySpace page and invited him out to Los Angeles to pen songs for Kingston's second album.
"I was most impressed initially with Jason's writing," J.R. says of Derulo, who also co-wrote Iyaz's five-week No. 1 "Replay." "Although we knew he was interested in being a solo artist, we were feeling him out as a writer. But from the first night in the studio there was a magical chemistry. He was vibing off my beats and I was loving his energy and melodies. We recorded a bunch of songs and it was on."
Derulo found his musical match in Rotem. "For eight months, we literally locked ourselves in the studio to write and record," Derulo says. "Our aim was to not be influenced by trends, but to make sure that our art was coming from a true place." He points to the song "Ridin' Solo" as a good representation of their artistic collaboration. "The song is about the empowering, yet bittersweet realization that it's okay to be single."
"Jason is one of those guys who can write songs for other people but has a career of his own," Rotem says. "He can write pop songs for women to sing, R&B for men to sing, he can write ballads; he's very eclectic. He has really inspired us."
Derulo has been going full steam ahead since the beginning of 2010. In late January, he wrapped up a six-week stint on the road with Lady Gaga on her red-hot, sold-out "Monster Ball" tour of North America, which included four shows at New York City's famed Radio City Music Hall. In February, he made his feature film debut in MTV Films' Turn the Beat Around. On March 2nd, he released Jason Derulo, which debuted at No. 4 on the Digital Albums chart and No. 11 on the Billboard Top 200 Album chart. Since then, he has performed on American Idol, The View, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Lopez Tonight, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Collectively, his videos have racked up more than 175 million views on YouTube, making Derulo the channel's 20th Most Viewed Musician of all time. In June, Derulo was nominated for three 2010 Teen Choice Awards in the music category, including the highly coveted "Choice Music: Breakout Artist - Male." "In My Head," has been nominated for "Choice Music: R&B Track," while the album has been nominated for "Choice Music: Album - R&B."
This summer, Derulo will hit the road as support for Black Eyed Peas in Canada in July, appear at the Summer Sonic Festival in Japan in August, and perform several dates in Europe, including England's V Festival, before hitting the road for a headlining U.S. tour at the end of September and Australia and New Zealand in November.
"I don't feel like I'm competing with other artists," he says. "I'm just going to try and be the best I can be. And when I get to that level, well, I'll figure out a way to get better."