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Here’s one for you: Jason Derulo’s career is five years old at this point. That’s like, a decade, in pop music years; a five year career means you’ve likely survived two to three albums, your breakout trend crashing and burning, and probably had to rebound at least once. You’re basically a pop veteran. What makes this milestone remarkable for Jason Derulo is that there’s never been a time where he wasn’t fucking awful. You look at other longrunners with recent misfires, and there’s an “at least” defense: at least Wiz Khalifa used to be a credible mixtape rapper, at least Maroon 5 has “This Love” and “Sunday Morning”, or at least Chris Brown’s a decent performer. There’s no such defense for Derulo, who has been terrible since Day One. His singing’s always been over Auto-Tuned or over processed, he’s never been a commanding presence, and his songs are obnoxiously gimmicky without any other defining features. He almost ran out of steam around “The Other Side” (which is only boring instead of actively bad), but ever since “Talk Dirty”, we’ve been in a Derulaissance that’s seen him get hits off songs that have to be written this badly on purpose. You can’t tell me that “Wiggle” was ever conceived as anything but the worst.
Speaking of the worst, let’s talk about “Want To Want Me”. The song’s the lead single from Derulo’s upcoming album, so it’s a bit of a break from the tacky brass and woodwind instrumentation grafted onto “Talk Dirty”, “Trumpets”, and “Wiggle”. In fact, “Want To Want Me” is pretty much straight electropop. A stuttering bassline and programmed drumbeat lead the way in the verses, while the chorus gets outlined in quick synth blasts and occasional group vocals. It’s a smoother sound than anything Derulo’s had before, but that’s not encouraging. The guy’s past beats have relied on, as I mentioned before, some sort of gimmick or an obvious sample, but “Want To Want Me” sounds like it was the first thing queued up in GarageBand. It’s the gas station knockoff Slushi of summer pop.
This sweet and slushed iteration marks new(ish) territory for Derulo. There are still whiffs of Axe coming from “Want To Want Me”, but it’s tamer than the Tattoo/Talk Dirty cycle, which felt like being smothered in an Axe-drenched bro-tank. The sneering horndog from that era’s been replaced by a wedding singer with transparent aspirations of being JT/Drake/MJ/pre-lawsuit-Blurred Lines-era Robin Thicke/whatever guy’s riding an R&B hit right now. It’s a pedestrian move, and not a great one for Derulo, who’s never been a capable vocalist (Does Jason Derulo have a good falsetto? Spoilers: No). Derulo’s been saved multiple times, even in the pre-“Talk Dirty” days, by his songs being kind of stupid, but “Want To Want Me” is stupid in a boring way.
“It’s so hard to sleep/I got the sheets on the floor” Ugh, but what if you wake up cold at like, 4:00 AM? That’s the worst.
“In the back of the cab/I tip the driver, head to town” I can’t help but think Derulo’s dating himself here by getting a cab instead of Uber.
“I got your body on my mind/I want it back” How can you get it back if it’s not y–never mind, I’m not thinking about this.
“Girl, you don’t want/I want you to want me/And if you want, hey girl/You got me” Okay, so this chorus is not good, but I’m just going to appreciate that Derulo was maybe/probably inspired by two of the best power pop songs of all time.
“You open the door/There ain’t nothing but a smile drawn to the floor” I just realized: Jason Derulo doesn’t say anything before he comes over; he just shows up. Not even an “wyd?” Obviously, we know this didn’t happen in the way we know any club story that ends with “we totally had sex” didn’t happen, but the entire premise of “Want to Want Me” so paper thin it reads as funny more than anything else. Okay, sure, you just bomb over to this girl’s place and you have sex. Sure, Jason.
“Want To Want Me” ends up in an aggravating spot. It’s not bad enough to cause spittle-covered rage like a sizable chunk of Derulo’s catalog, but it’s not good, either. It’ll probably show up again on the Songs of the Summer charts and be used to signal the point where the DJ’s officially run out of hits at the wedding reception, but I’ll be ready to ditch this bland grab bag come fall. But, I expect this isn’t the last we’ll see from Derulo. He always wiggles into a hit, one way or another.