Demi Lovato – Dancing With The Devil…The Art of Starting Over (Island)
On the heels of some concern for her mental health, and much advocation for those whose plight is the same, Demi presents a collection of songs that detail the emotions and embattled musings that come with bouncing back. The last decade, she has dealt with issues regarding her bipolar disorder and anorexia, some incidents with cocaine, and a few relationship struggles. This record is her reaching a sort of catharsis, working as a companion to the YouTube documentary series of the same title.
From the opening ballad, “Anyone”, her lyrics display the turmoil that plagued her internally while she struggled. With voice straining, almost unhinged, she wonders aloud what the point is of praying, or even talking to people, if no one is listening. “Dancing With The Devil”, the title track, follows that up with more controlled, more pop-accessible discourse on hiding in drugs and alcohol, covering up the torment underneath. The result is a powerful treatise.
Demi has always been one of the most recognizable and strong voices in pop music, but she has never been as POTENT as she is on this record. She’s giving us a glimpse of her mindset as she fell apart, then rebuilt herself, all in the public eye. Particularly captivating is the way she starts the album at track 4. She allows the first 3 songs to be her past self, then reinvents herself to continue the album. It’s sort of like Taylor Swift killing off the old Taylor, but it comes across as endearing and powerful, instead of pompous and self-aggrandizing.
The moments that feel the most vulnerable and pure are the aforementioned first track and “The Way You Don’t Look At Me”, wherein she talks about how the most difficult part of bouncing back is the judgment of those who were around during the fall. Mostly, the rest of the record is filled with beautifully choreographed pop songs, tinged with that hint of darkness or sadness. The collaborations with Sam Fischer and Ariana Grande are particularly accessible. The former, an on-the-nose account of how temptation and pressure are ever-present. The latter, a more allegorical and poetic account of meeting “the devil” at a club.
While a couple songs fall short of wonderful (“The Kind of Lover I Am”, “My Girlfriends Are My Boyfriends”), there is nothing that I would consider drivel. None of this is pandering. None of this is watered down. Demi is strong. Demi is a diva.
Demi deserves our respect.
FFO: Alessia Cara, Kelly Clarkson
Note: The Deluxe Edition of the record has live acoustic versions of the first 3 tracks. It’s miraculous.