Jason Derulo – Future History Review

At 19 Jason Derulo was a song writer and producer rubbing shoulders with Lil Wayne and Diddy. By 20 years old, Jason Derulo had released his own multi-platinum, self-titled record. Now the singer is poised for a second chart-topping success with his sophomore record Future History.

I find something very odd about anyone singing their own name. Jason Derulo opens Future History by doing just that, singing his name with a heavy dose of auto-tune; that new-fangled crutch that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Thankfully, Jason’s egotism tempers enough to allow the opening track, Don’t Wanna Go Home, to settle into being a terrific club tune.

It seems like he has likely seen the movie Beetlejuice as Don’t Wanna Go Home lyrically samples Day-O and for someone Jason’s age, Beetlejuice is the mostly likely exposure point for that Harry Belafonte classic. Belafonte is not the only shout-out on Don’t Wanna Go Home however, as Derullo transitions, quite well, from Day-O to Lil Jon’s Get Low.

“Much more than a Grammy, yeah you mean that much to me” sings Jason Derulo on the next track, showing he knows how to talk to the ladies. Snark aside, I enjoyed his romantic side on display on Future History‘s first single It Girl. Though I prefer my romantic ballads without the word shit in them, It Girl remains a terrific piece of vulnerable, romantic longing.

Breathing is another song with a good chance of being a major hit. Yet  another track about a man nakedly vulnerable, Breathing is about Jason Derulo telling a former flame that he still loves her with the line “I only miss you when I’m breathing.”  The romantic obsessive lyrics and the terrific beat give Breathing a propulsive chemistry.

The track Be Careful is one of those weirdly specific lyrical digressions that can be revealing of an artist but not all that relatable for the listener. If you’ve never had a one night stand while touring and had the woman stalk you afterwards you won’t be able to relate lyrically to this one. Worse yet, the beat of Be Careful is lacking in comparison to It Girl and Breathing.

Coincidentally, the next track, Make It Up As We Go, is a strong lyrical indication of the attitude that might have gotten Jason in trouble on Be Careful, though he seems oblivious to that. Make It Up As We Go has Jason telling his girl that they don’t need to label their relationship; they’re just having fun.

There is a strange polarity between Make It Up As We Go and the next two tracks on Future HistoryPick up the Pieces and Bleed Out both pose Jason Derulo as desperately in love with a woman who has left him and hurt him bad. Pick Up The Pieces is a gorgeous ballad with Jason singing about love made of glass and asking if he and his girl can pick up the pieces.

Bleed Out finds Jason in torturous emotional pain as his girl twists a thorn into his heart. The track is a terrific examination of a relationship coming to an end with all of the pleading emotions and an excellent mix of synth, drum and auto-tune used to underscore Jason’s blood dripping emotional pain.

If I examine Future History as a concept album I would still open with Don’t Wanna Go Home, where Jason meets his girl. Make It Up As We Go is the relationship in progress and then the upbeat, romantic track Givin’ Up is Jason admitting finally that he is ready to give up chasing other women and admit he’s in love. Finally, It Girl follows that same line of thought.

If you want to stretch my extrapolations a little, you could pose Be Careful as a mistake Jason made on the road that caused trouble in his relationship leading to Pick Up The Pieces and into Breathing. Finally, we get to Bleed Out in which Jason finally tires of trying to make up with his girl and the painful emotions associated with that are on full display.

This all leads us bitterly to Dumb, in which Jason berates himself for loving his girl as hard as he did. Dumb makes excellent use of the forgotten Scorpions track Still Loving You, heavily processed and auto-tuned, as the background for Jason’s self criticism. Lastly, the track X could play as a book end to Don’t Wanna Go Home if Future History were a concept record.

X is an awesomely danceable club track that finds Jason in a place where he can admit that he’s still in love with his ex-girlfriend but he’s reached a matter of fact understanding of this, nearly free from emotion. There are two bonus songs on Future History but the tracks, Overdose and Give it to Me play only to demonstrate why they are bonus tracks and not ‘official’ album tracks.

Future History is not intentionally a concept album. Rather, Jason Derulo simply has themes that run throughout his lyrics. His themes are obsessive love, vulnerable romanticism and bitterness at the loss of love. Derulo is only modestly more lyrically complex than any other Hip-Hop artist out there but Future History shows the potential for him to have the kind of emotional and intellectual breakthroughs that Kanye West found on 808’s and Heartbreak.

Derulo hasn’t been hurt enough or found enough success to become as eccentric as Kanye, but the potential is there. He’s maybe one more album away from a major breakthrough as an artist, if he stays the course that Future History charts. For now, he demonstrates an exceptional talent for creating club beats and combining them with emotional lyrics with a deep awareness of his feelings, vulnerabilities and pain. And for now, that’s enough.

Future History was released on September 27th, 2011