Hating R&B is more or less the default setting for the critically inclined nowadays. Seriously, name a straight-up R&B artist you hold in anything better than mild contempt. John Legend? Usher? Ever since leading light R. Kelly became entangled in a number of crazy debacles, it seems contemporary R&B is the only musical genre (along with, perhaps, much of country) that's basically taboo in many circles.
Well, that's how I felt until a recent experience with "Whatcha Say," by the 20-year-old R&B singer Jason DeRulo, a Broward native who attended Dillard High. The song, which samples "Hide and Seek" by British electronica/art rocker Imogen Heap, is ubiquitous on urban radio and recently hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Anyone who listens to Power 96 or Y100 — the latter at whose annual Jingle Ball event he will perform this Saturday — won't need me to quote any part of it. But just in case, here's some of the song: "I was so wrong for so long/Only tryin' to please myself/Girl, I was caught up in her lust/When I don't really want no one else/So, no, I know I should've treated you better/But me and you were meant to last forever/So let me in, give me another chance/To really be your man."
Jason DeRulo: At the Y100 Jingle Ball. With 3OH!3, Colbie Caillat, Flo Rida, Jordin Sparks, Shakira, the Fray, and others. Saturday, December 12. BankAtlantic Center, 1 Panther Pkwy., Sunrise. Show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $50.75 to $130.75; ticketmaster.com
I was driving to work one recent afternoon when I realized I'd been making the same argument to my wonderful girlfriend over the previous week. Without sharing too many details, I'll say this: Trying to convince my girlfriend I did not, do not, and will not want to date another woman — and that, in fact, I don't really want no one else — was a pretty serious undertaking. Just as Jason DeRulo knows. Not knowing what to do when the roof caves in under the weight of a pile of lies? DeRulo knows.
Meanwhile, I'm hard-pressed to think of an indie-rock song that, in any way, speaks to my relationship situation. And when I thought about it more, I realized most indie rock doesn't talk about shit anymore, relationship-wise. And if you believe popular music should mean something to the people who hear it, you're going to have to concede that, by comparison, guys like Jason DeRulo are doing a great job.