Push from Rotem helps 20-year-old singer-songwriter open large

At 20, singer-songwriter Jason Derulo is anything but a tenderfoot, having penned lyrics since his teen years for such hip-hop artists as Lil Wayne and Danity Kane. Though several labels had tried to woo Derulo after being intrigued by the wunderkind rep he was building in the Miami music scene and on his MySpace page, it was L.A. producer J.R. Rotem who succeeded in bringing him in for a recording session.

The duo clicked creatively, leading to a job writing for another of Rotem’s proteges, Sean Kingston, and an offer to launch Derulo’s solo career. His first single, “Whatcha Say,” flips Imogen Heap’s electronic-vocal “Hide and Seek,” fusing a love ballad with house music. Inspired by his brother’s relationship, the track chronicles a man’s fallout with his soulmate after he cheats on her.

“People go through this every day, where they mess up and beg for their love back,” Derulo says of “Whatcha Say’s” wide appeal — the song recently notched the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 after 12 weeks, with 1.7 million copies sold.

Opening for Lady Gaga on her tour, Derulo plans to release his self-titled debut album in March and will appear in the MTV doc “Turn the Beat Around.”

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