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Review: Demi Lovato’s “Dancing with the Devil…The Art of Starting Over”

Lovato’s first album release since their 2018 overdose combines emotional piano ballads with upbeat pop tracks to remind fans of their vocal power.
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Image by Mary Ellen Ritter

Demi Lovato’s seventh album “Dancing with the Devil…The Art of Starting Over” gives their fans a glimpse into the struggles they faced in their private life, elaborating on their battles with addiction, relationships and fame.

Along with their new four-part docuseries on Youtube with the same name, Lovato has brought transparency in the music industry to a new level, sharing the story of their 2018 drug overdose and lifelong struggle with mental illness and substance abuse.

The first part of the album is devoted to the theme of the singer’s rock bottom, beginning with the piano ballad “Anyone” where Lovato grapples with their loss of faith. “Anyone” tells the story of Lovato realizing that nothing — alcohol, music, their imagination, stardom — will fix their problems. Lovato reveals in the docuseries that they wrote “Anyone” in the days leading up to their overdose.

These feelings of discontent quickly turn into life-threatening repercussions in the second and third tracks, “Dancing with the Devil” and “ICU (Madison’s Lullabye).” Lovato admits in “Dancing with the Devil” that they almost died because of their overdose and in “ICU (Madison’s Lullabye)” they make a promise to their younger sister, “I’ll be there, don’t worry/ ’Cause I was blind, but now I see clearly/ I see you.” These lyrics are in reference to the singer’s temporary blindness they experienced upon initially waking up in the hospital, leaving them unable to see their sister, according to the docuseries.

The second part of the album focuses on Lovato starting over, reflecting on their journey of self-love and discovery. Loneliness is a theme throughout the album with “The Art of Starting Over” expressing Lovato’s realization that no material thing or person will help them on this journey, especially not a man. They sing that the woman in them “Does not cry/ For a man who is a boy and he does not deserve this.” In “Lonely People” Lovato reminds their listeners that while loneliness is well, lonely, it is essential to becoming happier and healthier.

This doesn’t mean friends are not important, however. Lovato makes this clear on “My Girlfriends Are My Boyfriends,” featuring Saweetie, where Lovato emphasizes the high place their girlfriends hold in their heart. Why waste your time crying over boys when you could hang out with your friends? While the lyrics lack cleverness and wordplay, the song is catchy enough to earn a spot on any hot girl summer playlist.

Similarly, Lovato’s collaboration with Ariana Grande in “Met Him Last Night” is nothing surreal in terms of lyrical genius, but fans who have been charmed by a deceiving man before will be able to relate. Grande’s feature is sure to bring this track to the forefront of radio hits with its satisfying mix of Grande and Lovato high notes.

Alongside these lighter pop tracks, the lyrics of “Melon Cake” are a punch to the gut about Lovato’s struggles with eating disorders and maintaining the unrealistic image of Hollywood. They reveal that they have witnessed someone getting fired for “chocolate in the back seat” and in a tender moment they apologize to their younger self for what they’ve been through, including depriving themself of birthday cake each year.

Overall, the album delivered on its title, featuring Lovato’s reflection on relapsing and accepting help along with their journey to self-made happiness. This is one of Lovato’s best albums in terms of lyrics with raw moments on tracks such as “Anyone,” “Melon Cake” and “ICU (Madison’s Lullabye).” The project benefits from the pop tracks dispersed throughout to serve as emotional relief from its harder hitting songs. Lovato has given us an in-depth look at their thoughts and insecurities and many listeners will see themselves inside, reminding them that although they might be lonely, they’re not alone.

Grade: B+

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect Demi Lovato’s pronouns. 

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  • LINDA PETRONGELLI
    May 4, 2021 at 9:48 pm

    I heard this album [ Dancing With The Devil } by pop music artist Demi Lovato . The album ” lacks ” t ‘ flow, glow and musical direction ( the album ” kind of drags along at ” certain points ‘; — To Much Of The Same Sound } . This album Lacks the ‘ High Pop Music ‘ Sound ‘ And ‘ Quality ” of Lovato’s earlier albums like ” Confident ” , ‘ Tell Me You Love Me ” — Etc . However there are ” Several Sensational Pop Music Songs ‘ on this album including ” My Boyfriends Are My Girlfriends “, ” Carefully ” , “: Met Him Again Last Night and ( My Album Favorite Song ) the ” Pop Music Masterpiece ” — ” Mad World ” ( this song ‘ Mad World ” is ” One of the Best Pop Music Songs ” I’ve ever heard ) ! are ” Stand Out Songs on this album ! Demi Lovato is a ” Sensational Pop Music Artist ‘– I personally just didn’t care for this album . However in many ways Lovato is being ” Storyteller ” in several songs on this album much like The Legendary Carly Simon’s lyrics would tell stories in her songs alot ! And in this sense of ” Stroyteller ” Lovato is ‘ Growing and Improving ” alot as a Pop Music Artist . The more I listen to this album { Dancing With The Devil } the ‘ More I Like It ” !!