By Staff Writer Sakshi Umrotkar
Singer-songwriter and actor Demi Lovato’s seventh studio album, Dancing With The Devil…The Art of Starting Over, marks the artist’s attempt to turn over a new leaf and celebrate a better lifestyle with a tracklist of both experimental and nostalgic songs. Accompanied by Demi Lovato: Dancing With The Devil, her YouTube documentary series, the album represents a fresh start for Lovato in both her personal life and her musicality.
Lovato performs her single, “Dancing with the Devil,” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
The personal anecdotes that Lovato shares in her YouTube docu-series, such as details about the tragic night of her drug overdose in 2018 and her struggles with eating disorders and body shaming, only amplify the album’s moving lyrics. A highly anticipated watch for Lovato’s fans, her third documentary revealed aspects of substance abuse, sobriety, and Lovato’s musical and vocal growth that were mostly kept in the dark for the past two years.
The album flows like a storyline about Lovato’s trauma and the lessons she learned while overcoming it. Despite Dancing With The Devil…The Art of Starting Over being a pop album, Lovato also incorporates elements of R&B, pop-rock, and folk-pop to experiment with brighter soundscapes and punchier hooks.
Lovato released her YouTube docu-series on February 17.
Dancing With The Devil…The Art of Starting Over begins with a “prelude” section consisting of the first three tracks in which Lovato reflects on her traumatic drug overdose. These tracks are reminiscent of Lovato’s typical vocal and composition styles, with dramatic choruses and a ballad-like flow. The songs succeed in communicating the album’s general tone of contemplation and recovery, setting the bar high with moving lyrics about Lovato’s journey through the past few turbulent years of her life. With references to her inner battles tied together by a soft piano melody, these songs allow Lovato’s voice to shine through, highlighting the raw vocal strength that her discography has always delivered.
Similar to the prelude, Lovato’s singles showcase the best of the album and capture its musical and lyrical gist well. “Dancing With The Devil,” one of the four singles on the album, has a more nostalgic feel due to its similarity to songs such as “Tell Me You Love Me” and “Skyscraper” from her previous albums. The song reads like a cautionary tale against substance abuse, describing Lovato’s spiraling addiction from “a little red wine” to “a little white line” and “a little glass pipe.”
Lovato does deviate from her usual style slightly, incorporating staccato electro-pop beats in some tracks and mellower acoustic guitar notes in others to match the transition from singing about her insecurities to celebrating her newfound freedom and satisfaction. In “Melon Cake,” she sings, “And now I’m sayin’ no more melon cakes on birthdays / No more barricades in doorways,” to signify a new era of health and rehabilitation after suffering from eating disorders for most of her life.
Despite her success with a few of these experimental songs, Lovato’s musicality does fall short with other tracks that sound rather generic, with repetitive beats and overused harmonies that offset the idea of the singer accepting a unique, original style of her own.
The album also features collaborations with four incredibly acclaimed singer-songwriters — Ariana Grande, Sam Fischer, Saweetie, and Noah Cyrus — who match Lovato’s expertise and contrast her powerful voice well. Her collaboration with Cyrus in “Easy” stands out as one of the most striking duets on the album. Cyrus’s softer falsettos and raspy voice contrast Lovato’s wide chest register perfectly, creating satisfying harmonies in the chorus. Creating a similar vocal dynamic, Lovato collaborates with Grande in “Met Him Last Night,” where Grande’s signature high notes provide the ideal backdrop for Lovato’s soulful belting.
As Lovato explores acceptance and self-love in the concluding tracks, the album finishes with soft, dreamy soundscapes in “Mad World” and “Good Place,” through which she reflects on the tribulations she has encountered in the music industry, vowing not to look back after starting over. The consistent theme of reflecting on the past to move on towards happiness ties this album together to make it an empowering story of reconciliation.
Listen to Dancing With The Devil… The Art of Starting Over.