Jason Derulo headlines first virtual Bigelow Bash

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Image courtesy of Pitt Program Council

Jason Derulo performed a selection of his chart-topping songs, accompanied by a live band and backup dancers, in a Zoom webinar Friday night as part of Pitt Program Council’s annual Bigelow Bash.

By Charlie Taylor, Culture Editor

Pitt Program Council’s annual Bigelow Bash didn’t take place on Bigelow Boulevard this year. Instead, Pitt students joined Jason Derulo in the garage of his Los Angeles home.

The singer-songwriter performed a selection of his chart-topping songs, accompanied by a live band and backup dancers, in a Zoom webinar Friday night. Reagan King, PPC’s outgoing special events director, and Keely Rehman, the incoming special events director, moderated a Q&A with audience questions after the live performance. The event started about 15 minutes late due to “technical difficulties,” according to PPC’s Instagram.

Friday’s concert was the first virtual Bigelow Bash, and the first since T-Pain headlined the show in 2019. PPC canceled last year’s Bigelow Bash, which Rico Nasty and Young M.A were to headline, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Derulo is perhaps best known for his signature opener, in which he sings his own name. He said during the Q&A that he started singing the “jingle” while producing his first song, “Whatcha Say,” at age 19.

“I was like, ‘I need to brand myself to the world. This is my opportunity to let the world know who I am, it’s my introduction,’” he said. “So I came up with a jingle that I thought would, you know, stick in people’s minds. And just like any other jingle you want it to be some sort of melody that just is really, really sticky.”

Although “Whatcha Say” was his first solo track, Derulo got his start ghostwriting for other artists, and he said fans might be surprised to discover he wrote Iyaz’s “Replay” and Meghan Trainor’s “Me Too.” Derulo has also written and performed music since childhood, receiving training in both classical and contemporary genres, including opera, jazz and R&B.

“I really think that’s what shaped me as an artist, just being exposed to so many different kinds of music,” he said. “I feel like my muscle has been stretched so much that anything that any kind of music that I want to write, I can kind of write it because I’ve been doing it for so long.”

Derulo identified Michael Jackson as his biggest musical inspiration, and said Jackson was part of the reason why he pursued music as a career.

“The first time I saw Michael Jackson on TV, I was like, ‘Ma, I want to be just like Mike,’” he said. “I was just obsessed with doing all his dance moves, or trying to do them, and singing his songs. And that was really the beginning of it all, you know, just trying to mimic Mike.”

The Zoom performance consisted of songs like “Wiggle,” “Swalla” and “Ridin’ Solo,” all of which have appeared on Billboard’s Hot 100 list. Derulo also performed “Talk Dirty,” which appears on his 2013 album of the same name. He said that album is his favorite, because he recorded it after an injury he incurred while rehearsing an acrobatics move, which could have left him paralyzed.

“That was coming off of a really traumatic experience — me breaking my neck. I broke my C2 vertebrae right before writing that album,” he said. “So coming out of that situation a new person, you know, trying to come out of it stronger and better than ever. I just put my head down and I turned to what I know best, which is music.”

Although this was the first virtual Bigelow Bash, PPC has hosted other virtual concerts this year, including a show from Rico Nasty to make up for last year’s canceled Bigelow Bash. Nicholas Jones, PPC’s incoming public relations director, said the council didn’t anticipate the late start on Friday because the sound check indicated no issues.

“It was completely unexpected, everything in our sound check went perfectly fine,” Jones, a junior media and professional communications major, said. “And then the time for the performance came around, and it just happened. So we just rolled with the punches and tried to get things back up and running as soon as we could.”

Tyler Mead, a marketing major, attended the show after hearing about it from a friend. He said as a first-year, he wasn’t familiar with Bigelow Bash. Mead described the event as “underwhelming,” saying his video lagged and the sound quality was poor, although he acknowledged the limitations of a virtual concert.

“Obviously, you can’t do much this day in age with COVID,” he said. “It’s something just to entertain the students, more so than not having anything at all. I would rather have a concert than not have one, it’s just a matter of who it is and how good the quality is.”

Jones said he recognized that a virtual show can’t replace an in-person one, but he still considered Friday night’s event “successful.”

“Nothing beats a live performance, for sure. The atmosphere it creates, the stage presence, there’s just nothing like it. Do I think that the event was successful yesterday? Of course,” he said. “But I can’t wait for us to go back to in-person concerts.”

Even if audiences and event planners are anxious to get back to in-person shows, Derulo said during his performance that it’s important to maintain a positive outlook.

“I feel like it’s been a time for reflection, for growth,” he said. “For me, I just see this time as an opportunity for all of us. It’s all about positivity.”

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