Likes: Nightingale, In Case, Shouldn’t Come Back, Warrior
Dislikes: Heart Attack, Neon Lights, Really Don’t Care, Something That We’re Not
Overall: Disappointing, conformist and doesn’t do Lovato’s ability justice.
A decent singer-songwriter who could play both guitar and piano, Demi Lovato seemed like a burgeoning talent to watch with her first 2 albums, “Don’t Forget” & “Here We Go Again.” On 2011’s “Unbroken” however, it appeared her record label, Hollywood Records, wanted to take a different direction by significantly reducing Lovato’s writing credits and giving the album a mainstream-friendly techno-dance ambiance versus her usual pop-rock. On the new “Demi,” Lovato’s writing credit has been restored, but not without the help of a lot more people (an average of 14 writers & 8 producers more than “Forget” & “Again”) and the album is practically doused in electronic-dance effects. Just like JSaysOnline contributor Eddie J. stated in “5 Artists Only as Good as Their Producers,” when you add too many people to the creative team, it can ruin a perfectly working formula. Lovato may make it onto the Hot 100 Billboard chart (especially with tracks like “Neon Lights” that sound like a sampling of current hits), but the budding artistry that could make her formidable and give her longevity is in jeopardy.
“Demi” is so difficult to listen to. Musically, it’s over-produced and noisy; there’s so much going on. The sweet and simple melodies (sometimes with a gradual build-up) that made some Lovato tunes endearing (ex. Catch Me, Falling Over Me, Fix a Heart) are scarce. If we’re going to get noisy, let’s at least rock out (ex. Remember December). Vocally, there’s a wearing over abundance of high-pitched emo-rock whines and squeals. The vocal richening and progress heard on “Unbroken” is best featured on “Nightingale.” Lyrically, Lovato tries to redeem herself and leave familiar traces of her writing style (ex. “Without the Love,” “Warrior”), but they get lost in the wash of songs that paint a picture of a high-school romance and all the adolescent reactions that come with it (ex. “Really Don’t Care). The fact that the same young woman who wrote “For the Love of a Daughter” (from “Unbroken”) is the same one who co-wrote “Heart Attack” throws me. I can’t figure out what was more of a reductive step; writing juvenile lyrics or the concept recycling (“Never Been Hurt” is identical to the “Unbroken” title track).
It’s so ironic how self-titled albums (particularly those released after a debut) are never worth the declaration and are no way indicative of who the artist is. Promoted as her “most personal album,” (even with a very symbolic cover) it’s twisted how there doesn’t seem to be much Demi on the record at all. “Demi” sounds like a compilation of demos for other or newly-signed pop acts. While in the early stages of recording, Lovato said in an interview that “fans can expect a less dancy, pop album. No dubstep for me; I'm good. I miss hearing real instruments on the radio...I want my lyrics to mature and my sound to mature just like I have." Hollywood Records clearly wasn’t feeling her on that. This whole thing reminds me of how RCA called themselves whipping Kelly Clarkson into pop shape on the “All I Ever Wanted” album after the rebellious “My December” didn’t move units. It’s also reminding of how Britney Spears’ “Circus” failed to tell the tale of her 2007 breakdown. Lovato sought treatment at a rehabilitation center for an eating disorder and self-harm, and was subsequently diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. Aside from the hit “Skyscraper,” which is honestly a love song written before Lovato’s treatment, the revelations of that time have yet to be heard musically. Hopefully, Lovato will find her true voice again.