The fact that Demi Lovato is here to share her new album with the world is something that could’ve been decided by flipping a coin and hoping it lands on the side you’ve chosen. After experiencing such a traumatic past couple of years, Lovato embarked on a journey of self-discovery and found a new way of life. Her seventh studio, ‘Dancing With The Devil… The Art of Starting Over’ details the journey explicitly from its darkest, most heartbreaking moments to its most empowering and triumphant ones.
Despite Lovato’s voice being undoubtedly the strongest from her fellow former Disney Channel stars, her career isn’t one that I’ve kept up with that intimately. I’ve listened to the radio-hits but I’ve never been prompted to listen to a full studio album. However, knowing a portion of what she went through made this album feel crucial to listen to. As she reveals in her new YouTube docu-series ‘Dancing With The Devil’, her life has been going through overwhelming highs and lows since the beginning of her career. She releases an incredible amount of emotional baggage not just from her overdose but also about her eating disorder, failed marriage and complicated relationship with her late father. It’s one of the things which I actually found really compelling about the album as well, she never limits the storytelling to just her experience with her overdose. She even mentions in one of the songs how she is tired of being known for her sickness. This album shows us Lovato as a person beyond her tragedies, it explores her role as a sister, a daughter, a lover and a former addict. In fact, the way the album unfolds is one of its greatest strengths, there is a story being told which is incredibly rewarding and heartfelt, even more so if you’ve kept up with the singer’s life.
The ‘Dancing With The Devil’ part of this album which comprises of the first three songs starts off the album on an incredibly melancholic and cinematic chapter. The opening track ‘Anyone’ starts off the story with a literal cry for help. Having a deeply personal song written as a cry for help days before her overdose as the opening track is a huge indicator that Lovato isn’t sugarcoating any details. It’s a song that I can’t see myself listening to a whole lot because of how haunting and painfully raw it sounds. The title track ‘Dancing With The Devil’ is incredibly reminiscent of a James Bond song. It’s very cinematic with its grand production and image-heavy lyrics, Lovato really knows how to paint a picture in your head. The third and final track of this part of the album deals with the repercussions of being close to someone who is dealing with addiction. The story behind this song and the song itself contrast themselves quite drastically. The story that inspired it was unimaginably sad while the song itself feels like a continuation of that story where Demi is in a better place and she can literally see her sister Madison. See her not only physically but also see the person that she’s become. With that ends the melancholy and starts the healing.
While a depressing album about her struggles would’ve still been amazing and vulnerable, Demi Lovato wanted to shed light on the healing process. Noticing the linear structure of this album is actually quite important because it resembles a process we all follow in real life. This isn’t a continuously triumphant story about how she’s conquered her demons, far from it actually. Healing from anything is never linear, you will have ups and downs. This goes for anything whether it’s self-love, an eating disorder and especially addiction. It’s a constant battle that has to be fought every single day and this album reflects that. Tracks like ‘The Way You Don’t Look At Me’, ‘Easy’ and ‘California Sober’ show that inner struggle and emphasize the fact that they’re not going to leave anytime soon. Anyone who’s dealt with anything remotely similar knows that this is a lifelong thing. However, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t any highs along the way. Tracks such as ‘Carefully’, ‘The Kind Of Lover I Am’ and ‘My Girlfriends are My Boyfriend’ celebrate self-love and empowerment. Then there are tracks like ‘Melon Cake’ and ‘Good Place’ which acknowledge the past and its while embracing the present. ‘Melon Cake’ specifically feels like an anthem of freedom for Lovato. The album never focuses on one side more than the other and in doing so, it represents a much more realistic look at healing.
Sonically, Lovato makes this nineteen-track album feel refreshing. Despite its rather long tracklist, the album never feels repetitive and the songs are quite short giving it a nice fast pace. That being said, I have yet to listen to the album another time and I don’t necessarily plan to. It’s not something I can pop on and have fun with. Despite the lyrical content being strong throughout, I wouldn’t say the same about the instrumentals. There isn’t much of this album that stands out. That being said there are plenty of standout tracks to keep this album from feeling anything but dull and boring. Vocally, Lovato never misses a beat and with this album, she shows us how versatile her voice can be whether it’s accompanying a piano ballad, a pop track or even a dance track. To be perfectly honest, I much prefer Lovato on the slower, more mellow tracks than the in-your-face pop tracks she has. It’s not a matter of quality because she undeniably excels in any genre, it’s purely a preference. For example, I thought tracks like ‘Carefully’ and ‘ICU (Madison’s Lullaby) matched Lovato’s voice in a much more satisfying way than tracks like ’15 Minutes’.
Overall this was a pretty great album to start the year with. Lovato brings her all to what is probably her most important album ever. Its image-heavy lyrics paired with Lovato’s power-house vocals make for an emotionally powerful story. There is a universal sense of relation with Lovato’s lyrics which will resonate with tons of people around the world. The fact that this album is here is really a testament to her strength and she showcases that perfectly.
Ranking of Songs:
- The Kind of Lover I Am
- Met Him Last Night (feat. Ariana Grande)
- Mad World
- Easy (with Noah Cyrus)
- Dancing With The Devil
- ICU (Madison’s Lullaby)
- My Girlfriends Are My Boyfriend (feat. Saweetie)
- Melon Cake
- California Sober
- The Art of Starting Over
- Lonely People
- The Way You Don’t Look At Me
- 15 Minutes
- Good Place
- What Other People Say (with Sam Fischer)
You can stream ‘Dancing With The Devil… The Art of Starting Over’ on any music streaming platform!