Review Summary: Demi succeeds where she never has yet and creates a very emotional album that uses her past life to great effect in its lyrics.
Demi Lovato. Two words that spark controversy wherever they are mentioned. To some she is a pop godess who they would bow down for, for others she is nothing more than an ex-Disney whore who likes to badmouth the company that made her (La La Land was directly aimed at Disney for being too controlling). She has to date released four albums and each of them have received mixed reviews. Some love her music and style, whereas others think that her music is dull and lifeless and there is really nothing good about her. On her 2013 fourth studio album Demi she really has strived to change that perception however with deep, emotional lyrics and a more than interesting string of backing instrumentals.
This album is probably her best vocal performance to date and also the most emotional album she has put out. Warrior in particular shows off her new lyrical style of really getting deep and talking about her own personal life. She uses a lot of strong high notes during this song and shows off even more her ability to hold notes for a long time and bounce from lows to highs as she last displayed on Give Your Heart A Break. "I've got to get this off my chest and let it go" she declares in a very emotional vocal snippet as the song speaks about how she is optimistic for the future. "I was broken and bruised, now I'm a warrior, now I've got thicker skin, I'm a Warrior, I'm stronger than I've ever been" she says, and this is good to hear given her prior struggles with self-harm and addiction. Perhaps the main reason that this album succeeds is due to how open she is. "I've got shame, I've got scars that I will never show, I'm a survivor in more ways than you know" is a line that got to me in particular. This album is arguably one of the most honest you will find since Alice In Chains' Dirt.
The backing instrumentals are no slouch either, with some really great piano work throughout the album that lays down a very deep and dark sound in the background, feeling both depressing and yet optimistic, which compliments the lyrical content perfectly. Never Been Hurt probably has the best backing instrumental here, with some fantastic guitar work and bass work in the background that allows Demi to show off a little. The drums here also have quite a good presence when they kick in and feel completely natural for the nature of this album. This is the first album from Demi where she really does have a top-class series of instrumentals backing her up. On her pop-rock albums (her first two) she had some guitar presence there that just felt a little too distracting, whereas on Demi the instrumentals feel fluid and natural and this release flows very well. It is also a remarkably consistent album, with none of the tracks sounding out of place and nor does the quality dip. This is one where she has set the bar exceedingly high for whatever she chooses to do in future.
Each of the songs here has stuff that is good about it. The last minute of Nightingale in particular is one of the most emotionally intensive things she has done. "Demi Lovato" and "emotionally intense" seldom go hand in hand in the same sentence as her past material is primarily famous for being catchy (and irritating) pop numbers but here she really pours her heart into the songs and it works to great effect. All of the songs are fantastic, but it is on Nightingale and Warrior where she really comes into her own. Heart Attack is one that stands out for bringing back the overly catchy nature of her first two albums, whereas Made In The USA has an instrumental that is considerably more up-beat and in your face than any of the other songs. This is really what the album does very well-the fact that both the instrumental performance and the vocals are constantly doing something fresh and new and it all feels good. Another thing that I noticed was that unlike most pop artists of today Demi does not use auto-tune to completely alter her voice and it is nice to hear that a pop artist is at least trying to make it her own way.
Demi is a fantastic success for an artist who gets maligned too often, and this release really is a powerful one with a lot of emotional songs and a great vocal performance that perfectly compliments the stellar instrumental performance. If there was a pop album that I would recommend every day then it would be this one.