REVIEW: Jason Derulo – Future History

Artist: Jason Derulo
Album: Future History [Deluxe Version]
Genre: R ‘n’ B, dance, pop
Label: Beluga Heights/Warner Bros

Well, this was certainly a departure for me to review. Familiar as I am with the name Jason Derulo, I hadn’t actually listened to anything of his before aside from what popped up in TV show backgrounds and the odd club setting. Yet, for all that I’ll never be an avowed fan of this sort of music, it’s not bad. It’s actually kind of a welcome refreshment from all the guitar-laden whining I normally get to listen to.

For its first few tracks, Future History follows a set formula of danceathon/balladry/danceathon/balladry, before deciding to throw the rulebook out the window at the midway point. The first song, “Don’t Wanna Go Home,” should be familiar to most as it was released as a single in May and has been tearing up quite a few dancefloors, as my memory recalls. It’s a fine catchy number, thumping and driven, a mixture of several sounds and shapes with ample sound effects for good measure. The intriguing thing about this (and Derulo’s music overall) is how divergent his vocals are from the music – one might expect a heady serving of auto-tuned nonsense but he has a clean, suave vocal that gives the music a slightly more accessible sound. “Breathing” follows the mould, with an exalted effects-laden intro that pulls back slightly as the singing begins. The rhythmic build up in the background is relentless however, and one is never left in any doubt as to its club anthem ambitions. The lyrics set themselves apart by indulging in the morose and weepy, but overlooking same, this is grand and catchy. “Make It Up As We Go” misfires a bit in its latter half but opens well, with momentum building steadily as Derulo throws pulsating vocals into the fray.

Derulo does excel when he (as my hip hop dance teacher used to say) aims for the beat. The mixing and production is flawless and his efforts to ensure you’re never far from an infectious rhythm are most admirable. Amongst the finer offerings are “Bleed Out” and “Fight For You.” The former opens very ambitiously, seemingly aiming for something cinematic. It’s all about the distorted vocals and the percussion is given a more central role, and of all the tracks on the album it’s a bit heavier than you’d expect, a bit more aggressive and engaging. The lyrics can veer into the simpering and obsequious during the chorus but if you overlook this, it’s a very enjoyable and atmospheric track. “Fight For You” seems a bit like a ballad, but with a more imaginative vision. It’s emphatic about its feelings but filled with a kind of vamped-up tenderness – heavy percussion lifts it above its mundane origins. The verses are dull, but the chorus is really fun, and the beat is a commanding presence throughout.

As far as slower numbers are concerned, they’re not too bad at all. “It Girl” is a fairly poppy and standard love song with some r’n’b templates attached, though the introduction of less obvious (and some peculiar) sounds after the chorus makes everything a little more detached and chirpy. “Be Careful” uses a piano and flashes of strings to give itself a real emotional veneer. The samples and effects seem a little out of place in music of this type, but the song is quite accomplished and very chart-worthy, the sincerity of the sentiment making it less vacant than you might expect. “Pick Up the Pieces” has an ominous introduction and uses lots of sampling and auto-tune but it is a slower number nonetheless, with a backing repetitious vocal evidencing all the niggling heartache to which he refers in the lyrics.

Otherwise, “That’s My Shhh” creates an interesting otherworldly effect with its spiralling keys and synth, but I’m not sure it’s alluring so much as perplexing. It’s a good effort but a little overlong to succeed. “Dumb” works well for its first half, when a removed guitar leads a bare and minimalistic sound to add some conviction to the syrupy emotions on show. The later, abrupt introduction of a slew of drums, mismatched vocals, and samples ruins it somewhat unfortunately, detracting from the more intensive sound which opened. Of the two bonus tracks, “Overdose” is another addition to the dance fray, good and brainless and impactful, while “Give It To Me” has a fetching doomsday siren and able percussion but falls victim to some repetitious vocal strains.

So, coming out the other end, I’m happily fascinated. The album is good, a sure-fire hit for those getting revved up for a night out, and squeezes in enough heartache-fuelled balladry to maintain an open spot on the charts. I mightn’t be spinning it very often, but at least I’ll actually know some of the songs that play when I go out now. Win.

SCORE: 9/10
Review written by Grace Duffy

James Shotwell
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