The secret to crossover success seems to be that pivotal song that gets people talking. For Jason Derülo, an artist fitting somewhere between pop and R&B incorporating electronic, dance, and hip-hop, that hit was “Whatcha Say”. His 2010 self-titled album also spawned several more hits, seemingly setting up the singer for future success. Unfortunately for the young pop star, his 2011 effort Future History fell ‘flat as a pancake’ commercially. As they say, “third time’s the charm”. That sentiment is what Derülo hopes for his third album, Tattoos. Tatoos EP is currently the only form of the album available in the US, but the full-length is available elsewhere worldwide. Ultimately, Tattoos definitely sports some worthwhile moments.
“The Other Side” kicks off Tattoos capably, bridging between modern pop and contemporary R&B styles. Vocally, Derülo commandingly seizes the moment, particularly the chorus in which he sprinkles in falsetto. The chorus doesn’t disappoint: “Tonight, take me to the other side / sparks fly like the Fourth of July / just take me to the other side / I see that sexy look in your eyes…” “Dirty Talk” proceeds, proving to be irresistible, whether it’s the sinful lyrics, gimmicky vocals, or the seductive, slinky nature of the production (jazzy saxophone adds another dimension). The song plays true to its title, confirmed by cringe-worthy, lewd lyrics courtesy of 2 Chainz (“Sold out arenas, you can suck my…” or “got her saved in my phone under Big Booty”). Jason Derülo is more respectable: “But your booty don’t need explaining / all I really need to understand is / will you talk dirty to me?”
“Marry Me” contrasts the sexual endeavors of “Dirty Talk” in favor of matrimony. While the positivity of the track is appreciated, it’s a big jump lacking the personality of the former cut. Title track “Tattoos” doesn’t change the script dramatically, relying on bright, sunny production as its backdrop. Even an unnecessary f-bomb from Derülo early on doesn’t kill the sappy vibe: “I’m running out of room / for your tattoos / how can I get over you, over you?” ‘Smitten’ is certainly an understatement on this number. Follow-up “Trumpets” benefits from its outstanding production, anchored by head-nodding hard drums. Derülo seems to exaggerate his fantasies on the hook (“Every time that you get undressed / I hear symphonies in my head / I wrote this song just looking at you oh, oh / yet the drums swing low / and the trumpets they go…”), but the song is definitely addictive.
“Vertigo” continues a trend of relationship duets that have appeared throughout 2013 (see John Mayer and Ariana Grande’s albums respectively). This time Jordin Sparks joins her boyfriend for this piano-driven cut. The results? Successful, easily outperforming either “Marry Me” or the “Tattoos”. If Derülo was too sensitive on “Vertigo”, “Fire”, a collaborative effort with Latin pop rapper Pitbull, undoes that easily. Basically, the party has commenced, evidenced by the care-free chorus: “You’re on fire / the way you’re moving turns me on, yeah / all night / you’ve got the right to do me wrong, yeah, yeah…” If that wasn’t enough, references to “blurring lines” seal the deal. JD just wants to have fun.
“Side Fx” benefits from its production work, which is less predictable than “Fire” was. Once more, Derülo enlists help, this time from west coast rapper Game. The results don’t blow you away, but the song itself is enjoyable. “Stupid Love” leaves little to the imagination, as Derülo proclaims himself “dumb” as he’s “stupid in love”. It’s no deal breaker by any means, but “Stupid In Love” isn’t the ‘second coming’ either. Keeping in line with ‘the bedroom’, the gimmicky hip-hop/contemporary R&B cut “With the Lights On” sounds like it’s played out a million times before. “Rest Of Our Life” isn’t the most sunning original either, but it closes Tattoos much like it began - optimistic and jubilantly.
All said and done, Tattoos is a pleasant album with some bright moments as well as some average ones. One of the pitfalls of modern pop is consistently sounding distinct and fresh, something that Derülo is a victim of. Essentially, Derülo hits enough jump shots to win the game, but he could’ve played better down the stretch.
// Notes from the Road
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