The Florida-born R&B singer Jason Derulo began working on his third album, Tattoos, while facing tremendous personal difficulties. Following a tragic accident that almost threatened to derail his career, Derulo channelled his recovery time into crafting playful party hits and heartfelt ballads, aiming to fuse his unique style of R&B with dance music and 80s-inspired adult-contemporary pop. This is the story of how Tattoos not only made its mark on the pop world, but also how Derulo’s triumph over adversity can teach us all a lesson about self-determination and personal resilience…
Listen to ‘Tattoos’ here.
The backstory: “I didn’t know whether I was going to walk again”
In January 2011, during dance rehearsals for his Future History World Tour, Jason Derulo was practising acrobatics when he fell awkwardly in a horrific accident. Landing directly on his head, he broke the C2 vertebra in his neck, in what is medically referred to as a “Hang Man’s Break”, fracturing the same bone which often proves fatal in hanging victims. “Lying on the floor I didn’t know whether I was going to walk again – let alone get on stage,” Derulo admitted in an interview with Time Out magazine. “It was a crucial time.”
Around 95 per cent of people who suffer the same neck injury reportedly end up paralysed or dead, but, miraculously, Derulo survived the accident. However, the long road to recovery was a difficult one. Spending the best part of a year learning to regain control over his own body, Derulo struggled with such daily activities as tying his shoelaces and taking a shower by himself. Regularly going to the gym to strengthen his physical fitness throughout the ordeal, he would later admit that his brush with death completely changed his perspective. “Everything happens for a reason,” he philosophically reflected in a Facebook post. “Traumatic experience can change you for the better. My outlook on life is so much clearer!”
During such a long period of recuperation, Derulo channelled his creative energy into writing new material for his third album, eventually amassing hundreds of song ideas that he planned to finish off following his recovery. When the time finally came to enter the recording studio to record what would become Tattoos, Derulo considered himself extremely lucky to have come out of the experience with a positive story to tell. “It definitely could have been a lot worse,” he told the Daily Mirror, “and amazingly I’m completely better. Now, it is like it was just a bad dream.”
The recording: “It was rough trying to choose 12 songs out of 300”
Having already laid the sonic foundation for Tattoos by fusing dance-pop with contemporary R&B on his previous album, Future History, Derulo was keen for his next effort to flesh out his sound with nightclub-ready beats and radio-friendly pop tunes nodding toward synth-led soft-rock and 80s power balladry. Working with top-tier producers such as RedOne, Ricky Reed, DJ Frank E, Jonas Jeberg, Martin Johnson and The Cataracs, Derulo was able to craft songs that ran the gamut from hip-hop to pop-rock, charting the course for a cross-genre odyssey for the ages.
In fact, the long period Derulo spent recovering from his neck injury meant he was truly spoilt for choice when it came to choosing material, making it all the more challenging to whittle down the best ideas to a concise running order. “It was rough trying to choose 12 songs out of 300,” Derulo said in an interview with Radio.com. “But we finally made it happen.” Released as the album’s lead single, in April 2013, The Other Side was an immediate commercial success, peaking at No.2 in the UK and No.18 in the US, and later going on to be certified multi-platinum by the Recording Industry Of America.