Jason Derulo has grown up.
The 25-year-old already has already built an enviable string of hits, but usually through the sexual innuendo of "Talk Dirty" and "Wiggle" or gimmicks like the massive sample in "Whatcha Say" and trying to sing his own name as often as possible. He was a star who was trying a little too hard.
On his fourth album "Everything Is 4" (Warner Bros.), though, Derulo has hit his stride, easing back on all the sexy talk while still piling on the pop hooks.
Derulo has also expanded his musical palette on "Everything Is 4," especially brushing off his Michael Jackson-inspired falsetto on the unstoppable "Love Me Down" and its "Off the Wall"-inspired funk guitar. The likable "Want to Want Me" is a breezy summertime jam that leans more pop than R&B, an earworm that embeds immediately. On "X2CU," Derulo cozies up to "Delirious"-era Prince, while he cleverly coins a new kind of date, the "I just want my ex to see you" kind.
Derulo's artistic growth has also helped him land some impressive new collaborators. On "Broke," where he decides that Biggie was right about "Mo' money, mo' problems," Derulo lands Stevie Wonder to sing background vocals and play harmonica, while Keith Urban delivers some acoustic blues guitar riffs. On "Try Me," he teams with Jennifer Lopez for a cool mix of an old-school pop duet and of-the-moment, Latin-tinged production, while "Painkiller," his duet with Meghan Trainor, is another winner.
But it's the slow-burning ballad "Trade Hearts," where he lets newcomer Julia Michaels shine, where Derulo truly shows off his new skills, offering restraint and a surprising depth of emotion.
"Everything Is 4" is a grand new start to the next, even bigger phase of Derulo's career, one where he can just let his music speak for itself.
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"Everything Is 4"
THE GRADE B+
BOTTOM LINE A quantum leap forward in lyrics without losing his knack for a hook