First Impressions: Jason Derulo, “Everything is 4”

deruloFun fact: Jason Derulo was born in 1989—the same year as Taylor Swift, you might have heard—so when the new wave synths whir into motion at the start of “Want to Want Me,” you know he came by them second-hand, perhaps from any one of the R&B-worshipping indies that have risen to prominence in recent years. The nimble rhythm and smooth slip into falsetto, though, could only have come from hours spent studying the Prince playbook, something that’s driven home with the song’s bookend, “X2CU,” a 1999 raveup that, weirdly, shares a bit of wordplay (and almost a title) with a Sam Hunt single. It’s not as clever as the Sam Hunt song but both Derulo songs are effortlessly light on their feet and funky like the guy could do this in his sleep—funky like Prince hasn’t been in a long time, actually—so all is forgiven. Besides, Derulo gets down with a country cat on the superb workingman’s blues “Broke,” which has banjo from Keith Urban and harmonica from Stevie Wonder and sells its “mo’ money, mo’problems” singalong almost solely on the back of Derulo’s charisma. That’s not even the best guest feature: On “Try Me” Derulo is “just lookin’ for some lovin’” and Jennifer Lopez takes a verse to respond sensitively and compassionately to his come-on, which is itself pretty affectionate and not nearly as leering or brazen as his reputation (or “Talk Dirty”) might suggest. Things do get considerably randier on “Get Ugly” and “Pull-Up,” a couple of dirty-minded little strip club bangers that are distinctive mostly for Derulo’s goofy sense of humor. The ringtone rap drawl on the former is not as endearing as the automotive sound effects on the latter, though neither are among the record’s finest moments. The thing about Derulo is, he does alright on the dancefloor jams, but he’s really something when he writes pure pop, which the best songs here are: Not only do they display subtle skill—how fully he’s absorbed pop’s playbook, how cannily he tweaks it—but they give him room to be a little bit warmer, more humane. Plus: He just makes them sound so easy.

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