Arabian (arabian) wrote in ohnotheydidnt,

ONTD Original: Music Review... Demi Lovato: dancing with the devil... the art of starting over

About a year ago, I wrote a review of Taylor Swift's folklore. I had planned to do more of other artists (including Taylor's other albums, Beyonce's Lemonade, Demi Lovato's backlog, some Rihanna, Britney, etc.), but other fandom stuff got in the way. Well, with Demi finally dropping her long-awaited new album, I'm back with another one. (Yeah, cuz people have been waiting breathlessly, hah.) Anyhoo, here it is.

I listened to the whole album first without lyrics and then with, and I listened to each song at least four times. Obviously, I knew the backstory overall of this album because I’m a huge Demi stan, I’ve been watching her docuseries and reading/watching her interviews, so I know that this album is based on her “journey” and that did come into play when reviewing this.

My scale: 1 = Bad | 2 = OK | 3 = Good | 4 = Great | 5 = Awesome | 6 = Masterpiece

ANYONE — The opening notes of this song literally make my heart ache. The lyrics are like gut-punches to the soul, the self-loathing, the loneliness, it's all so raw and aching and desperate, hidden and yet so obvious. Her vocals are divine, the higher reach on the last "Anyone" just sends me, and her final, soft repeat of the "hundred million stories/hundred million songs/no one's listening..." so heartbreaking, so good. Demi's broken loneliness told in song is breathtakingly gorgeous and heartbreakingly familiar to far too many. — 5

DANCING WITH THE DEVIL — The vocal acrobatics of Demi Lovato are on full display as are the depths to which her addiction took her. In unflinching honesty, she bares her soul with lyrics intense and revealing. The emotion she delivers is heartbreaking and heart-ripping even as its clear just how healthy her voice still is, and oh, so GLORIOUS! My only nitpick—one I've seen elsewhere—is I do wish there'd been a little break between the chorus and bridge, but eh, I can live with it since the rest of the song is just so outstanding. — 5

I.C.U. — This is probably going to be unpopular, but this is my least favorite song. I thought I'd love it based on the little bit I'd heard prior to the album drop, but sigh... it's so treacly and simplistic. Demi loves her little sister, Madison, I know, and I love that; it's beautiful, but the lyrics are so amateurish, no nuance. There is no clever wordsmithing, nothing special about them at all. And the notes are *almost* too low for Demi for much of the song. The idea of it, the potential is totally there, but the execution, the final product? Nah. And the inclusion of "I love you's" to close it out just showed the complete lack of imagination about the actual song itself. — 2

THE ART OF STARTING OVER - I loved this upon first listen, and I just love it every time. There is such a light breeziness to it that I adore. Owning up to her mistakes, accepting that things aren't going to go as she hoped for and moving on with grace and style all to a light, jazzy beat... ooh, it's just delicious. And her vocals! Oh, boy, they are as smooth as silk. I just, damn... I am here for it. So, so, here for it. Honestly if she had begun the album here it would have set a completely tone for the album overall, again just so light and breezy. I understand why she didn't, there has just been too much she's gone through, ah, well. Still, this track is just a little slice of sweet heaven. — 5

LONELY PEOPLE — For a song without many lyrics—seriously it's just a verse, a chorus that repeats and then a final bridge, I love it so much. I love the sentiment so much and that final bridge just brings the message home. The "Romeo has no sequel," "Romeo and Juliet are dead" tell the story, I think, that too many things are romanticized that shouldn't, needn't be because for real, Romeo and Juliet is NOT a love story. And we are sold so many love stories everywhere we turn. We need to love ourselves and if we don't, we are all lonely people because you're going to be alone at some point in your life. So... we get to that final bridge: "The sad and scary truth is we all die alone / So you better love yourself before you go," But let us take the key point there... YOU BETTER LOVE YOURSELF and you know we're getting to the heart of Demi's journey. Finally, frankly, this song is just a bop. I find myself bouncing and singing along with such abandon. — 5

THE WAY YOU DON’T LOOK AT ME — This one is heartbreaking, and it's another one that Demi's mastery of delivery, how she is able to sell the emotions of a song really works so well. I want to rank it higher in my estimation, but I can't because there are a couple of lyrics that have me scratching my head enough that it takes me out of the moment. I specifically mean "locking my fingers" and "this hurts harder than my time in heaven." What does locking her fingers mean? When was she in heaven? Is that supposed to be a metaphor for using drugs? When she OD’d? But she didn’t die. I'm not sure. It's not clear. Every other reference to drug abuse in this album has been to the devil, i.e., hell, and she references hell in this song again with the "I've been to hell and back" so, again, when was she in heaven? Now, the other lyrics are so strong, beautifully, heartbreakingly strong… but that makes what isn't stick out like a sore thumb, at least to me. While the shorter length of the other songs is fine, I do think this one needed more, and even a bit more of that Demi oomph that she’s known for. This one doesn't even clock in at 3 minutes. I just think it needed more. A bridge, something. Now with all of that said, I still teared up the first time I heard it. And when I listen to it, it still breaks my heart and brings out the inevitable, "Oh, Demi" because she sells the heartache of it so well. It's a beautiful song... I just think it could have been better. — 4

MELON CAKE — Ooh, I LOVE THIS SONG SO MUCH! It might just be my favorite. Yeah, I think it is. I just... how, how, how on earth did Demetria Devonne Lovato make a song about eating disorders, suffocating over-controlling micro-managers, slight references to drug/alcohol abuse such a freaking joyous bop that is a powerful anthem of freedom and finally finding your own voice? I don't know how, but she did. There is such a release, such a sense of self-identity in this track that I am filled with joy listening to it, singing along (true story). Every time I finish it, I say aloud, "Oh, Demi," but unlike I usually do—like after watching the Grammy performance of "Anytime" or listening to "The Way You Don't Look At Me"—it is with a smile on my face, and I'm so proud of her. The song is bouncy, her voice is utterly—and I mean UTTERLY, FANTASTICALLY—divine, the lyrics are completely on point, getting her message across without being cheap, or amateurish (erm, see I.C.U.). They are clever, cheeky, make you smile while making you ache for her past, and then rejoice in her now. Oh, oh, this part: "Dear little me / I'm sorry that it took so long / But, baby, you're free," owns my soul in every way. Yes, baby, yes, yes, you are free. GOD, I LOVE THIS SONG SO, SO MUCH! — 5

MET HIM LAST NIGHT (With Ariana Grande) — I’m guessing this turned out to not be what anyone was expecting. I know I wasn’t. It’s not a banger, no vocal acrobatics from either one of them, neither go off at all. Instead, it’s more reflective. It's philosophical more than anything, and oh, so gorgeous. The more and more I listen to it, the more I love it. I adore the lyrics, the metaphor of meeting a great guy, and it turns out he’s a toxic user and now, she’s cutting him free ("Watch me bounce before I give you my all / So I promise tonight is the last call") being one for addiction, as “him” is the devil, and we know for Demi, the devil is her addictions. Demi and Ariana’s harmonizing is just gorgeous, and I think having her on this track with Demi works beautifully because Ariana has this light sweetness to her voice that adds that innocence almost like the angel on Demi’s shoulder, helping to pull her back. It just is all pulled together so beautifully. — 5

WHAT OTHER PEOPLE SAY (With Sam Fischer) -- I wasn't in love with this at first, but it's really catchy and grew very quickly on me. As the weeks passed, I found myself wanting to listen to it a lot. It just has such a great message, and Demi and Sam’s voices blend together really well, the harmonizing is fantastic, the lyrics are so good, subtle, nuanced, not simplistic, and her vocals! In terms of this album and the cohesiveness of it, however, I do think the solo version would have made more sense. Still, this is a great, underrated song. — 4

CAREFULLY - Ugh, I know I said that "Melon Cake" was my favorite, but I love this one so much too. Maybe it’s this one. It’s just so, so good. So beautiful. The bravado and vulnerability on display at the same time is so powerful, I just can't get enough of the strength of these lyrics. The music, the lyrics, the beauty of this song is beyond, I just can't even. At barely above 3 minutes, "Carefully" manages to go from a flirty challenge to a soaring chance at forever love. How even? And her voice? She is such a beautiful singer. I adore her voice, I could listen to her sing forever. — 5

THE KIND OF LOVER I AM — This is another breezy tune. I like it, but I don't love it. There's a So-Cal feel, a gentle almost laziness that just sweeps over the listener taking you along as she invites you to know her better. Yeah, there's an intimate vibe and I like it, but I'm just not in the love it stage yet. The outro where she talks makes me smile with it's refreshing candor that ends on the recurring theme of being good on her own. — 3

EASY (With Noah Cyrus) - Vocally, this is just outstanding, both Demi and Noah Cyrus sound amazing separately and together, their harmonizing is absolutely gorgeous. Overall, lyrically this is just lovely—although the gift shop bit doesn't quite work for me (and unfortunately begins and ends the song). However, since Demi has made it clear this album is a journey, this is one of the tracks where the cohesiveness loses its way. Unlike every other song, this is one that I just can't find where it could fit in her timeline even with some kind of rearrangement. I mean, even the history with her ex doesn't work what with another female duet-ing (albeit so beautifully). On its own, however, my goodness, the song is fantastic and, yes, I will be belting my heart out along with it. — 5

15 MINUTES - Oh, Demetria! You sly fox, you! I originally didn't think this was savage enough, silly me. I was wrong. The Malibu bit, flat-out making fun of his Malibu "breakdowns" he put online where they got engaged was fantastic. Honestly, the lyrics were great all around, there is a subtle soap opera reference that I think only a hardcore soap fan is gonna get: "But this is where the sand in the hour glass ends" is clearly a reference to the famous "Like the sands through the hourglass, these are the days of our lives" from the opening of the soap opera Days of Our Lives. No, that isn't the soap that her ex was on, but still, it's a soap opera and that's the dig. WE LOVE TO SEE IT! Hah!

Then there are the three different takes on 15 minutes in the chorus, the first in "You were looking for 15 minutes" referencing the well-known phrase of 15 minutes of fame which he sought in dating her. The second "Now you got 15 minutes" as in, 'you've got 15 minutes to get your stuff to get the fuck out of my life, go!' And then finally, "hope you enjoyed your 15 minutes," fucker, cuz that's all you're gonna get. The verses had some great stuff as well, the first made it not only clear that she saw right through his using ass at last, but also that he gave up what could have been an amazing future, so, your loss. The second verse had a great rhyme with "headache" and "working on it" (loved that!) as well as the fabulous line: "It should be an honor / I even had the time to bother." That's it, know your worth, Demetria!

And, of course, her vocals were on point throughout with some growl and derision sprinkled here and there. I also liked how the song began with a mid-tempo beat before taking off and ended the same way. It just gave a sense that she doesn’t care about him for the most part, she gets a little worked up when thinking about him, sure, but for the most part he’s a been there/done that, good riddance memory. From beginning to end, this song was so well produced and thought out. Love it. — 5

MY GIRLFRIENDS ARE MY BOYFRIEND (Featuring Saweetie) — I like this, but compared to everything else, it just feels slight, but it’s still really good. I'd like the Saweetie feature better if the beat didn't stop and then only gradually come in under her. Once the beat comes in, it's great. Also, I love the end of it so hard: "hit the jeweler, heard his name was Jacob (I know that's right)." But, yeah, when it begins, it feels shoehorned in because it doesn't flow from the chorus before it. The overall song, though, it's a good beat and is catchy as hell. — 4

CALIFORNIA SOBER - I like this a lot, after a handful of listens, it’s becoming a favorite. It's like a sweater that you can pull over and feel really, really comfy. I love the feel of this one and adore how the melody builds up in a gentle way (if that makes sense) throughout the verses leading to the bridge. It's done in a light way, which reflects Demi's state of self, the heaviness is gone. She's lighter, freer... after all, she "let the darkness out." The lyrics and sentiment are lovely and the softer chorus at the end resonated beautifully before she belted a bit. And as always, damn, she sounds good. I gotta say, honestly, I would have preferred this were the final track to close the album out. — 5

MAD WORLD — Firstly, I'm not sure why this was in the final half of the album which is lighter, happier because this is not a happy song. Secondly, Demi's version of this is gorgeous. Her voice is dripping with such pain and emotional weight. It's just... the way she sings these lines: "And I find it kind of funny / I find it kind of sad / The dreams in which I'm dying / Are the best I've ever had" is just heartbreaking. There is so much heartbreak, a world of pain in her delivery. And then the anger, cutting right to the quick: "Hello, teacher, tell me, what's my lesson?" (she sang with such bitterness, followed by such hopelessness) "Look right through me, look right through me." Yes, it's a cover, but it's absolutely gorgeous. I just wonder, again, why it's not in the first half? — 5

BUTTERFLY - Wow. I just... wow. OK, nope, this is it. This song... man, this song. It's not just beautiful, I think it's perfect. I think it's an absolute masterpiece. Every word, every placement of melody, every note she sings, the delivery of it, the purity, the emotion is just perfection. The fluttery repetition of "butterfly" in the chorus growing in intensity is just gorgeous and beats like a heart building in strength. What she learned from everything her father went through, what she took from it, and that she's at last forgiven him has released her demons and has set her free. My goodness, this is so beautiful. I can't even.... Yeah, this is my favorite. — 6

GOOD PLACE - This song is absolutely beautiful, but I'm not sure about its placement to close out the album and Demi's intention of being in a "good place." Why? Note the chorus: When I chose drugs over love, money over trust, till I found us / When I chose lust over love, danger over trust, till I found us. Overall, the lyrics speak of a broken person made whole by fixing themselves from the foundation up who has found love. And that's lovely, but the somber melody and pain in the tone and delivery of the vocals indicate that the love may not last and they know it deep down, but can't admit it to themselves. Demi's (gorgeous) delivery simply doesn't sound happy here which can't be said for "Butterfly" or "California Sober," two songs that I would have preferred as a closer, particularly "California Sober." I'm reviewing this track, though, and it is beautiful. The lyrics and vocals are gorgeous, and really, I love it. I love it a lot. It's one of my favorites. Everything about it works as a song. It's poignant and vulnerable and, as always, Demi delivers vocally. — 5


I LOVE ME — I really love this song. The wordplay, the tonal beats, the self-help message, the lyricism that could have been delivered in an emotional ballad but instead was turned into a bop, and such sold itself so beautifully with that defiant: "I'mma 10 outta 10 even when I forget!" in the bridge. — 5

I'M READY (With Sam Smith) — I really, really like this song. I actually love it until it ends with such a whimper. All of those great vocals from both Demi and Sam Smith (someone that I'm normally not a fan of), the great verses, and the chorus, the pulsating beat are just glorious and then the choir comes in and you're expecting this HUGE, BIG-BUILD up of epic belting and harmonizing and you get... NOTHING. It just, you know... OK, we're done now. — 3

GRAY — I'm glad we got this song because I want every Demi song we can get, but... I'm not gonna lie and say I'm not pleased this was not on the main album. First of all, it does not fit the concept of DWTD... TAOSO at all. It would have stuck out like a sore thumb, like really, really sore. Secondly, it's just not nearly as strong as any of the other songs on the album. Like at all. It's OK. But whereas every other song on the album was distinctively Demi, and had her mark on it, this song is generic and, yeah, I don't love it. — 2

I'M SORRY — I adore this one so much. It literally made me tear up when I first listened to it. It is SO BEAUTIFUL and heartbreaking. It could be about a former lover, but I personally think that, like "You Don't Do It For Me Anymore," it's a message to herself and her issues. I could be wrong, but the vibe is similar to that and that's immediately where my mind went. Where it differs, of course, is the simple style, the soft message as opposed to the bombastic self-flagellation that the other song delivered. This rebuke is more painful because there is true sorrow because it's so hard letting go. Demi Lovato is just so damn good at delivering that emotion through her singing. This is a prime example. — 5

CHANGE YOU — I imagine this didn't make the cut because it didn't fit the concept, but damn, is this song beautiful. I love it so much. It's almost as good as "I'm Sorry." This is just, ugh, I love this one. It tells its story simply and when Demi uses her voice this way, she knows how to hook me and just draw me in so completely. It's like a companion piece to "World of Chances" years later, the same girl, a woman now still giving users chance after chance, but maybe she's finally learning. So, so good. — 5


So, yeah, overall, I think it's safe to say I ADORED this album. The vast majority of the tracks I found awesome, a few were great, one I thought was a pure masterpiece. There was only one that was merely OK (not including bonus tracks), and that is one that may grow on me. I just think that Demi hit it out of the park. Yes, I'm a stan, but I have never been this high on any album she's released before. There have always been a handful of songs that would fall into the 2-3 range, but this time? WOW. I am so impressed. Love it. Love it so hard.
Tags: demi lovato, music / musician, music / musician (pop), ontd original, review

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