Review: Demi Lovato, ‘Demi’

Demi © Hollywood

Demi Lovato • Demi  • Hollywood • US Release Date: May 14, 2013

Demi Lovato did herself a favor by joining the judging panel of X Factor, regardless of the sagging ratings.  By being on television every week, she allowed herself another promotional vehicle for her own career as a burgeoning pop star.  Lovato has already garnered a no. 1 album (her sophomore album Here We Go Again topped in 2009), but her fan base was composed of pre-teens and teens, not those ‘grown and sexy’ adults.

On her fourth album at the ripe age of 20 (she’ll turn 21 in August), Lovato tries to bridge a younger audience and a more mature one.  Demi accomplishes this at times, but also shows the talented singer still has room for improvement in a couple of areas.

On “Heart Attack” and “Made in the USA”, Lovato is at the top of her game.  On “Heart Attack”, she delivers her vocals with swagger and a sick upper register the recurs throughout the album.  Lyrics like “Putting my defenses up / cause I don’t wanna fall in love / If I ever did that / I think I’d have a heart attack…” effectively latch.

The biggest miscue (if it is one) about the proceeding “Made in the USA” is that the title hearkens back to Miley Cyrus’s own “Party in the USA”.  Whether this was intended or not is arguable, but one questions if Lovato should be patterned after more established pop stars or try to separate herself.  Regardless, “Made in the USA” is a fun track, particularly when Lovato sticks to her upper register.  Her lower register sounds a bit more unstable during the first portion of the verses.

The third selection, “Without The Love”, isn’t too shabby, though it is a shade less intriguing than “Heart Attack” or “Made in the USA”.  The use of acoustic guitars and strings within the production is a thoughtful musical choice.

Neon Lights” is a rub on Demi. On the one hand, it is the obligatory dance-pop number that appears on any number of pop stars’ albums and is necessary to establish/solidify Demi’s relevance in the modern pop movement.  On the other hand, it is flawed as Lovato over-sings at the peak of the chorus and the cut itself feels overproduced and generic.

Follow up cut “Two Pieces” smartly contrasts, but has its own rubs. The six-eight time time signature on the verses is nice and the initial feel is one of a singer/songwriter-styled cut.  On the chorus, there’s a bit of an odd switch-up back to common time and more of an overt anthemic pop ballad.  It sort of works, but it’s also clunky.  Furthermore, Demi again sometimes ‘goes in too much’.  She excels when she lets her falsetto get to work.

On “Nightingale”, Lovato redeems herself more than “Neon Lights” or “Two Pieces”.  Sure, she tries too hard, but her effort is appreciated.  The biggest quibble? Things are going too slow and similarly in balladry.  “In Case” doesn’t change this, but it is on even keel with “Nightingale”.  Patterned after Adele’s ‘piano ballads’, the “Someone Like You” vibe is nice, but some more cosmetic ornaments wouldn’t have hurt.

Really Don’t Care” is a necessary uptempo cut after one or two too many ballads.  Sure, it doesn’t show of Demi’s vocal prowess like the exposed ballads, but it definitely reunites Lovato with her younger listeners and makes older listeners happy she still wants to have some fun.  Feisty, catchy, and jubilant, “Really Don’t Care” is one of the better cuts. We could’ve done without Cher Lloyd’s pop rap, but it isn’t a deal breaker, fitting the context of the cut.

Fire Starter” is okay, but it isn’t perfect.  She does takes a step up in age from “Really Don’t Care”, claiming “I’m a badass jumping off the moving train / I’m a Jane Bond, putting all the guys to shame…”. On the refrain, she asserts “I’m a fire starter / make you blood run faster / I melt hearts like water…” Alright then.

Something That We’re Not” once more reconnects with the world of teen-pop, proving relatively enjoyable while “Never Been Hurt” finds some vocal imperfections/instability (at times sounds as if Lovato is yodeling).  “Shouldn’t Come Back” seems like just another boring ballad until it finally grows in intensity while “Warrior” is an appropriate closer.  While there is no issue closing with a ballad, the back-to-back ballads the conclude Demi are a bit much.

Ultimately, there are many things to appreciate and praise about Demi.  There is a clear heightening of maturity and even some impressive moments.  With the praise also comes the criticisms. Lovato needs to work on vocal control, sometimes refraining for ‘going for it’ every time.  As far as the album’s balance, there are a few too many ballads.  Even though Lovato wants to expand and mature her audience, she still needs to show more of her fun, 20-year old side.  Demi is a good crowd-pleaser, but doesn’t come off unscathed by flaws.

Favorites: “Heart Attack”; “Made in the USA”; Really Don’t Care” 


Photo Credits: © Hollywood

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