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Jason Derulo knows you’re watching him. With his dreadlocks, white jacket and pants, and ruby red boots, it’s hard not to. The look is a big part of his appeal — even before he removes his shirt to flash his famous abs for gaga fans at OZY Fest.
Before Derulo’s sweaty headlining performance in New York City’s Central Park, the hit-maker behind “Talk Dirty” and “Swalla” sat down backstage with OZY to chat about how his look is expanding into a side hustle, and how modern technology more closely connects stars and fans. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
What’s a trend you’re seeing in music that’s about to take off?
The next trend I feel like is the Latin flavor. Latin music is kind of taking over the world, and I’m excited about that trend, actually. I’m from Miami, and it’s like a little Havana, almost. If you don’t speak Spanish, you’re in trouble.
Who inspired you to start dancing, and what’s your go-to dance move right now?
MJ [Michael Jackson] is the whole reason I started dancing and singing in the first place. My go-to dance move right now is probably the Milly Rock. The Milly Rock is superpopular right now. … MJ was everything. The first album I bought was Thriller. Always Micheal Jackson on TV, jamming to all the dance moves.
Aside from MJ, who do you most want to collaborate with, living or dead?
I think collaborations should be organic. My favorite collaborations have been like that. J-Lo [Jennifer Lopez] — she was on my wall when I was a kid, so that was amazing. Stevie Wonder is someone that I studied, and I bought his box set when I was a kid, so that was incredible. But you know I work with all kinds of artists, from singers to rappers to country-music stars.
We hear there’s a Derulo fashion line on the way. What can we expect there?
My fashion line is called LVL XIII (Level 13). It’s going to be available in Bloomingdale’s starting in August. It’s a mixture of future, sexy and street. It has an upscale vibe. To me, starting out, I always liked Bloomingdale’s. … I’m really excited to talk about the business — it’s a whole other endeavor. It has nothing to do with music or my artistry.
My brand is an amazing brand. Though I want people to know about it, I don’t want to shove it down people’s throats. It’s a brand-new thing. I want people to see it on the rack, and I’m sure it will go off the shelves because it’s great material. I love wearing it myself.
A lot of artists now are diversifying. What is it about this generation that it wants to do a little bit of everything?
It’s important to diversify. Today, being a celebrity is only part of it. It’s the stage that allows you to do other things, especially with music, right? So if you’re not diversifying, it’s a shame, especially with music not selling as much as it used to. Although music hasn’t sold as much as it used to, artists weren’t as famous as they are now. You can, with a click of the button, see what your favorite star is doing at any given time.
How are streaming services changing music? Would you consider an exclusive streaming deal for your next album?
The biggest way it’s changing music is that songs don’t have to be a big hit on the radio to be a big hit. There are so many songs that are culturally big because they’re bigger on other formats, whether it’s on social media or these streaming networks. It’s exciting because the people get to decide what the hot songs are. There are so many different playlists you can be put on, and there’s so much intel on what people are listening to and what they’re skipping, you know what I’m saying?
So make sure you don’t skip any of my songs, I’ll track you down. [Laughs]. So, yeah, there’s just so much intel that tells you what song you should put out next, based on what people are digging, what people are listening to. It’s a very different world, and I’m excited about it.
What’s your go-to pickup line?
I’m just kind of smooth in my everydays, you know what I’m saying? I don’t really do the pickup-line thing.
This story has been updated. An earlier version misstated the name of Derulo’s go-to dance move. It is the Milly Rock.