Demi Lovato’s triumphant return to music with new lease on life

Demi Lovato has been through it all; the good, the bad, and the Disney. Though everybody knows her past, or rather, they think they know, nobody has been able to accurately depict how strong and sensitive she really is until now. In her newest album release, Dancing With The Devil…The Art of Starting Over, Demi regains her strength, reclaims her narrative and takes control over her own life. With lyrics this specific in each track, she’s holding nothing back and wants you to know exactly her side of the story in every element of her life. Ultimately, this further deep dive into her innermost demons shares just how lucky she, and we, are that she wasn’t yet another headline of a star gone too soon.

The opening track and album’s namesake, ‘Dancing With The Devil’, sees Lovato taking ownership over her past mistakes, which is a theme she constantly circles back to within the album. The following track, ‘Anyone’ was her obvious, heartbreaking cry for help that really does make the listener wonder how her pleas went unanswered for so long. It also shows just how fragile of a mental state she was in leading up to her 2018 overdose.

The most revealing and upsetting ballad on the album is undoubtedly ‘ICU (Madison’s Lullabye)’, which she penned for her younger sister. You can hear the pain behind her words, hoping she hasn’t tainted Madison’s image of her while she beautifully notes how much she loves her and can’t wait to be a present, permanent figure in her life. In her recent YouTube documentary, Demi explained that upon waking up in her hospital room following her overdose, Madison was one of the first loved ones to speak to her. Unbeknownst to Demi at the time, she asked who was speaking to her, since had temporarily lost her vision. Now that her vision has mostly returned, literally and figuratively, she’s finally able to recognize what truly matters, as evident in the especially poignant lyric, “I was blind, now I see clearly, I see you”. This gorgeous track really highlight’s Demi’s incredible songwriting skills, and proves that love was the strongest bond outshining all others, ultimately serving as the wakeup call she needed to lead her down the brighter path she’s on for the remainder of the album, and hopefully her life.

This album features a handful of perfectly-selected collaborations: Noah Cyrus on ‘Easy’, Ariana Grande on ‘Met Him Last Night’, ‘My Girlfriends are my Boyfriend’ with Saweetie and ‘What Other People Say’ with Sam Fischer. (She even does a eerie cover of Gary Jules’ ‘Mad World’.) Each song provides a different tone, yet Demi shines the brightest each time and is evenly matched with all of the collaborators, making it still her story, just with a little help from her friends.

She takes over the reigns in her life and rejects the intense pressure the industry has set upon her in ‘Melon Cake’, voicing that, naturally, it’s hard to not lead a very restrictive lifestyle that makes you feel like a pawn rather than a human with autonomy. The song title refers to her previous management team that didn’t let her have a real cake on her birthday for fears she would spiral with her body issues upon eating it They gave her a watermelon shaped like a cake with cool whip instead, and this small gesture, though intended to be helpful, actually hurt her. Similarly, ‘The Way You Don’t Look At Me’ depicts her problems with self-worth as it relates to body issues, but notes it’s worth speaking up about so what she went through wasn’t in vein.

She wrote “Butterfly” for her late father, whom she had a tumultuous relationship with. She refers to the month he passed, June, as being a month/anniversary she would dread since it “always came too soon”. Knowing she got a lot of her issues from him, she admits, “a part of me I had to find ’cause it was killing me inside/I figured this was something I deal with my whole life, stop pushing my past to the side/ forgiveness is the hardest truth It’s something that you have to choose”. By giving herself the release of forgiveness, she’s able to move on with a more open heart for them both, which is certainly one of those life mantras easier said than done.

This continuation of self-grace shows up again in California Sober, which she now says her life is based around. “Cashin’ in my chips for forgiveness/trading in my shame for perspective/tired of being known for my sickness/it didn’t work, I’m tryin’ something different/used to live in fear of always slipping but living for perfection isn’t living,”, she protests clearly. It’s a decision she knows not everybody will agree with, but she doesn’t need them to. She’s come to an impass where she can only apologize and bring up the past a limited number of times, so now with that experation date, she’s trying what she believes could finally result in the best outcome for her in the ever-changing road of recovery.

A peek into Demi’s romantic side plays out in the bopping ‘The Kind of Lover I Am’ and lets us see that she’s always been more of a lover than a fighter, and that love runs deep. She dives into her newly-announced pansexual identity, saying she just wants to love somebody, at some point, no matter who they are, although right now she’s totally “good” on her own. This is a welcomed outlook considering her ended engagement last year, but she makes sure to call him out as a hard-learned lesson in fame-hungry manipulation in ’15 Minutes’. Even in ‘The Art of Starting Over’, she shares, “it didn’t take long to realize that the woman in me does not cry for a man, who is a boy, and he does not deserve this.” Preach it, girl.

‘The Art of Starting Over’ also rounds out the album with the main takeaway: “I let my darkness out, I guess I’m mastering the art of starting over”. Then finally, ‘Good Place’ delivers the long-awaited words we always wanted to hear from her, “I’m in a good place”; this time she really means it.

Demi Lovato is shining in a different way these days. In a way that’s reflective but progressive, and above all, healthy. She’s not necessarily starting over, but she is certainly reborn and moving forward in a way that’s sure to inspire others who share her same battles. Of course her voice is stellar, and she’s always portrayed confidence, but her transparency and humbleness are truly what make her unmatched in her artistry. Having grown up right along side her since the Camp Rock days, I am personally so relieved she’s still here with us to share her amazing gifts, and wish her nothing short of the utmost inner peace in her very long future ahead.

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