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Dancing with The Devil, Lovato’s finest album

Lovato is no stranger to talk about the past and she willing to share deeply personal struggles with drug addiction and an eating disorder with an audience of millions.

Demi Lovato, a pop singer, launched her new album with a warning. Not in the literal sense but her seventh album sets it apart from any of her previous work. The official tracklist for Dancing With the Devil…The Art of Starting Over labels it a “Prelude” – three songs indirect reference to Lovato’s nearly-fatal drug overdose in 2018.

Dancing with The Devil, Lovato’s finest album

Then there is “Anyone”, heart-wrenching suffering that is a risk that falls beyond mere introductions. It is a call to action, a plea to remember the past and gently carry it into the present.

Lovato is no stranger to talk about the past and she willing to share deeply personal struggles with drug addiction and an eating disorder with an audience of millions. Yet her past music often shies away from labelling anything specific, preferring instead to maintain a show of braggadocious swag.

Dancing With the Devil is Lovato’s finest, and most cohesive, album to date, and it doesn’t need a plastered-on smile to prove it. Don’t expect it is a bold, chest-thumping song on this album.

In the contrast, Lovato is just as happy to talk about her highest times of healing right alongside her lowest. On the fresh-aired, carefree “The Art of Starting Over,” she wonders at her newfound admiration for life, and herself, singing with a happy shrug, “New beginnings can be lonely / Thank God I’ve got me to hold me.” Lovato’s introspection on the difficulties of recovery sounds profound for someone who has spent much of her life dealing with perfectionism.

It’s impossible to view any track on Dancing With the Devil as irrelevant to Lovato’s past few years, especially with an accompanying documentary of the same name being released last week. For the most part, having so many personal and detail-ridden songs works in Lovato’s favour, and the insights gathered from her thoughts and emotions make staler songs more engaging.

“Melon Cake,” is dated jangly pop-rock and awkwardly self-reflecting, but it’s also a revealing look at how strict diet regulation was dangerous, and her joy to be without it makes for a celebratory listen. Other tracks, however, are not as worthy of further contemplation. “Easy” is a snoozefest disguised as a tearjerker, and while “My Girlfriends Are My Boyfriends” attempts to inject a dose of girl power with a Saweetie feature, it still feels like week-old bubblegum pop.

A gem on the 19-track album, Lovato is more willing to experiment than on previous releases. Her music and her voice are more versatile than ever. Her scratchy, haunting cover of Tears For Fears’ “Mad World” is a standout, bringing the song’s distorted lyrics to its lead to sing with a pained, yearning ache. She’s even embracing the exploration of her sexuality, as heard on the flowery, humorous polyamory-bop, “The Lover I Am.”

What Lovato explores most though, is the sobering reality that her journey has just begun, as she sings on “California Sober”. A sense of reliance still feels integral to her being completely Dancing With the Devil. However, it manifests differently as a light fragrance that floats into a blue sky or a small rainbow in a puddle after a thunderstorm.

On the album’s closer, “Good Place,” Lovato carefully encourages the fans of her well-being over fingerpicked guitars. It isn’t a final report of her happiness, but instead a soft and contented recognition that her place may very well shift over time, a healing response to her initial warning.

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