Review Summary: But somewhere we went wrong
Former Disney star Demi Lovato has gone to incredible lengths to distance herself from her former occupation, even going so far as to write the song La La Land on her debut album Don’t Forget about it. Three albums later, and it finally feels Lovato’s come into her own lane, rather than churning out club-orientated records like Unbroken (which was a massive disappointment after her early pop rock albums proved to be surprisingly solid albums). Unfortunately, her own lane doesn’t seem to be very good. With the R&B influence present on tracks like All Night Long totally absent, Lovato now loads her songs full of tame acoustic guitars and programmed drum beats, something that doesn’t really feel like an appropriate substitute for her early, very band driven material.
As a singer, Lovato has always been good, but she tends to falter when delivering ballads, such as Unbroken’s pathetically boring Skyscraper. So, with about five ballads sandwiched into the tracklist like sour grapes, the album starts to drag only four tracks in, and doesn’t get much more interesting than that. Of course, the songs where Lovato does deviate from her teary-eyed melodrama don’t end up being very good either. By far the most experimental song on here, the Ryan Tedder written and produced Neon Lights throbs with synths behind Lovato’s rather more sombre vocal before predictably bursting into a campy EDM drop. It’s no surprise that this song features here because despite its awkward placement within the tracklist, it’s a perfect single.
The same applies to Really Don’t Care, a collaboration with X-Factor brat Cher Lloyd of all people. What happened to the Jonas Brothers collaborations? Here, Demi channels the spirit of fellow slightly overweight man hater Kelly Clarkson as she spews forth a number of cheesy lyrics over the most sickeningly sweet instrumental here. Lloyd’s part is even worse as her hamster-on-helium vocals induce more cringing in 15 seconds than anything else that crops up on here.
Things do (slightly) improve on tracks like Something That We’re Not, which might be the ultimate friendzoning anthem of the year. It is a fun song though, making good use of guitars on the chorus that basically just makes me wish she still made songs like Get Back or The Middle. Of course, there’s little moments on this track, like the snooty dismissal of her admirer ‘not gonna happen dude’, that put me off just when I’m beginning to enjoy it. Shockingly, the first two songs might be the best, largely because the offensively bland Heart Attack remains roughly the same throughout its three and a half minute runtime, and Made in the USA isn’t any more interesting aside from a moderately catchy chorus.
Ultimately, there’s very little here to commend because even when Lovato isn’t being really boring on this album, she’s just being really bad. With only one or two tracks worth revisiting and such painfully bad lyricism throughout, you’re better off going for Don’t Forget or to a lesser extent Here We Go Again, both records that make this and its predecessor seem so shockingly sterile. Even die-hard fans are going to have a hard time accepting that Demi is moving further and further away from the sound she made her name off. And for anyone who hasn’t invested in Lovato’s discography, this is by no means the place to start.