Demi Lovato’s “Dancing with the Devil” showcases angelic vocals and powerful storytelling

| Senior Cadenza Editor

Right on the heels of her YouTube documentary series of the same title, Demi Lovato released her seventh studio album, “Dancing With the Devil…the Art of Starting Over” on April 2. The stunning album is a testament to both her powerhouse vocals and her resilience after years of struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues. Much like the docu-series, “Dancing With the Devil” finds Lovato opening up in ways she never has before, and this vulnerability is wonderfully executed.

The album opens with “Anyone,” a powerful ballad that reads like a cry for help; the melancholy song features just the piano to accompany Lovato’s incredible vocals. In the pre-chorus she croons “a hundred million stories and a hundred million songs, I feel stupid when I sing. Nobody’s listening to me.” Not only is this line heartbreakingly beautiful, but it is an incredibly vulnerable confession from a singer; to feel foolish performing the craft you made a name for yourself with is a special kind of pain. Perhaps the best song on the album, this opening track excellently showcases Lovato’s sheer talent, even in the midst of her pain.

After two more songs, one about her 2018 overdose—the first title track, “Dancing With the Devil”—and the other, a love letter to her little sister, the album starts over in a sense. “Intro” is the fourth song on the album, followed by “The Art of Starting Over”—the second title track. While still discussing heavy topics, the album takes a noticeably more positive turn after the intro, showing audiences that this is a turning point in Lovato’s life and career.

One of the album’s fan favorites is “Met Him Last Night,” which features Ariana Grande. Continuing the theme first orchestrated in “Dancing With the Devil,” the song catches the two pop stars singing “I seen the devil yeah I met him last night/had conversation yeah I think he’s alright.” In an interview, Lovato said Grande wrote the song for her, and Grande’s influence shines through in the duet. While the lyrics are a bit repetitive, the production is very smooth, and it ultimately is a delightful collaboration from two of our generation’s most talented stars. 

Despite its 22 sprawling tracks, “Dancing With the Devil” lacks one coherent sound; “Melon Cake,” a buoyant track about overcoming her eating disorder, sounds like it could have been penned by Katy Perry, and numerous other tracks remind me of songs I’ve heard before. Some may see albums with varied sounds as a flaw, but in Lovato’s case, it is actually a strength. At a certain point, an artist’s work becomes less about creating their own sound and more about using the sounds the industry has already endorsed to remind us just how great they are.

Another standout track is “My Girlfriends are my Boyfriend” featuring breakout rap star Saweetie. Rather than celebrating Lovato’s newly realized queer identity—you’ll find that on the twelfth track, “The Kind of Lover I Am”—the song is an ode to Lovato’s best friends, whose companionship is more fulfilling than any romantic relationship. The upbeat song seems made for TikTok dances, and Lovato’s catchy lyrics along with Saweetie’s confident verse are sure to stick in your head.

“Good Place,” the final song on “Dancing With the Devil…the Art of Starting Over” is a beautiful, stripped tune about how even after choosing “drugs over love, money over trust,” she’s finally found a sense of peace. The events of the past few years have definitely affected and changed her, but she’s still here, ready to share her authentic self with the world. On the song’s chorus, she sings “no longer have to save face/reconciled with okay,” and overall, the album is about this healing process. No matter how dark her past may have been, “Dancing With the Devil” encompasses the catharsis that comes with accepting one’s flaws and realizing that things don’t have to be perfect to be good.

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