In a monumental return to the music industry, former Disney star Demi Lovato has returned to the music scene with her seventh studio album, Dancing With The Devil…The Art Of Starting Over. Written after Lovato miraculously survived a near-fatal overdose in July 2018, it is raw, honest, and showcases the powerhouse vocals Lovato is best known for.
In a varied discography ranging from teen-pop in her debut record Don’t Forget (2008) to mature and empowering anthems in Tell Me You Love Me (2017), Dancing With The Devil… The Art Of Starting Over seems to be Lovato’s most cohesive project yet. In episode four of her YouTube series ‘Dancing With The Devil’, Lovato states that all of her albums are her “babies”, yet this record is like a “teenager” as she has seen it evolve.
Beginning work on it prior to her 2018 overdose, it is a culmination of the pain and the recovery process which Lovato has been through in the past three years, and the structure of the album aptly reflects this. Anyone, Dancing With The Devil and ICU (Madison’s Lullabye) make up the opening three tracks, retelling the harrowing experiences of Lovato battling with addiction and depression, as well as her time in ICU, where she woke up legally blind and unable to see her little sister. The title track is also paired with a tell-all music video, where Lovato relives the night of her overdose, the singer showcasing the upper echelons of her vocal range, as it is accompanied by crescendo-like instrumentation.
‘Closing tracks Butterfly and Good Place leave fans with the assurance that Lovato is winning the battle against her demons.’
Interestingly, the Intro, a piece of spoken word from Lovato herself where she addresses the listener with “let me take you on a journey, one which sheds the skin of my past,” is the fourth track. It seamlessly flows into upbeat, yet honest, The Art Of Starting Over, which in essence acts as another opening track to this chapter of the record devoted to Lovato’s recovery, and where she finds herself today. With an evolving tracklist, the album seems to listen like a story of Lovato’s growth. Melon Cake discusses her struggles with bulimia and the regaining of power in her relationship with food, and closing tracks Butterfly and Good Place leave fans with the assurance that Lovato is winning the battle against her demons, with the closing line of the record being “now I’m in a good place.”
Common themes tie the tracks together, most noticeably independence as, following a very public broken-off engagement to Max Ehrich, Carefully, Lonely People and The Art of Starting Over reflect her current state of mind. Love is something she won’t let define her; she is strong and independent on her own. The frank lyricism, ‘’All love is, is a means to an end// Romeo and Juliet are dead’’ in Lonely People doesn’t try to hide this fact, and paired with understated production on honest tracks such as California Sober gives the lyrics and vocals a real chance to shine. Lovato also covers Tears For Fears’ Mad World, the raw emotion in her voice clearly evident as she channels her pain into art by singing this beautifully emotive classic.
Carefully selected, the collaborations are a fantastic addition to the tracklist. Met Him Last Night, written by and featuring Ariana Grande, is a standout track, which metaphorically refers to Lovato’s demons as the “devil” and reinforces the wider themes within the album. With both vocalists known for their powerhouse ranges, their voices fit together effortlessly; the long-awaited duet from pop’s biggest names not failing to disappoint.
Easy, featuring Noah Cyrus is heartbreakingly beautiful, whilst What Other People Say with Sam Fischer lyrically reads like a confession, the ballad-like piano melodies guaranteed to stick in your head. On the other hand, My Girlfriends Are My Boyfriend, featuring Santa Clara rapper Saweetie, offers much-needed relief on the album; the light-hearted and empowering lyrics making it not only a summer anthem but a bright celebration of friendship and independence.
‘Laced with emotion and surrounded with an air of maturity, the record marks a turning point in the popstar’s career.’
Yet with such a long tracklist, some songs, namely 15 Minutes, The Kind Of Lover I Am, and The Way You Don’t Look At Me are forgettable after the first listen. With similar themes and production, some songs lack the quality to make them anything more than ‘just another pop song’. All in all, Dancing With The Devil… might just be Lovato’s best record to date. Laced with emotion and doused with an air of maturity, the record marks a turning point in the popstar’s career as she closes one chapter and enters a new stage of growth; truly appreciating ‘the art of starting over.’
Written by: Amrit Virdi
Edited by: Dominic Allum