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

Lovato’s first album release since her 2018 overdose combines emotional piano ballads with upbeat pop tracks to remind fans of her vocal power.

Megan Phillips

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

Along with her 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 her 2018 drug overdose and her 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 her loss of faith. “Anyone” tells the story of Lovato realizing that nothing — alcohol, music, her imagination, stardom — will fix her problems. Lovato reveals in the docuseries that she wrote “Anyone” in the days leading up to her 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 she almost died because of her overdose and in “ICU (Madison’s Lullabye)” she makes a promise to her 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 she experienced upon initially waking up in the hospital, leaving her unable to see her sister, according to the docuseries.

The second part of the album focuses on Lovato starting over, reflecting on her 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 her on this journey, especially not a man. She sings that the woman in her “Does not cry/ For a man who is a boy and he does not deserve this.” In “Lonely People” Lovato reminds her 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 her girlfriends hold in her 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. She reveals that she’s witnessed someone getting fired for “chocolate in the back seat” and in a tender moment she apologizes to her younger self for what she’s been through, including depriving herself of birthday cake each year.

Overall, the album delivered on its title, featuring Lovato’s reflection on relapsing and accepting help along with her 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 her thoughts and insecurities and many listeners will see themselves inside, reminding them that although they might be lonely, they’re not alone.

Grade: B+