Demi Lovato has been through her fair share of hardship and difficulty, particularly over these last few years. After a long struggle with addiction and stints in rehabilitation facilities throughout her young adult life, on July 24th, 2018, she overdosed on heroin that had been laced with fentanyl. She has since been in recovery, which has consisted of an extended absence from social media, various rehab efforts and a broken off engagement.
This month, Lovato introduced us to the new era of her personal and musical journey. She released her album, Dancing with the Devil: The Art of Starting Over, accompanied by a Youtube docuseries titled “Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil,” both of which are impressively raw, honest depictions of her trauma and journey from the last few years. Lovato, previously known for intimate songs like “Father,” “Sober,” and “Stone Cold,” is no stranger to featuring vulnerability in her art.
This is also not Lovato’s first docuseries. In 2017, she released her original docuseries “Simply Complicated,” in which she highlighted her struggles with bipolar disorder, bingeing and purging, and substance abuse. Accompanied by her very public diagnosis in 2011, “Simply Complicated” helped turn Demi Lovato into our generation’s poster child for mental health advocacy, bulimia, and addiction. While her outspokenness has proven crucial in combating mental health stigma and helping alleviate the anxiety felt by many when it comes to seeking help, she revealed in “Dancing with the Devil” that the burden of being an “icon and role model” was part of what led to her relapse.
In a clip from the documentary, she says “I look at my fans like family, but because I had been so open and honest about the things that I had dealt with, I felt like I had to be this perfect role model,” highlighting how a lack of nuance and privacy can impact the path to sobriety and advocacy.
While the docuseries certainly discusses the dark times Lovato faced in her addiction, it also ends on notes of her moving forward. Her album also shows this growth, with its two–fold title: Dancing with the Devil: The Art of Starting Over. The album tells the story of Lovato’s difficulties with substance abuse, self image, relationships—and her road to redemption. Its progression mirrors Demi Lovato’s progress in real life, by first telling the story of her “dance with the devil” and then her new priorities as she “starts over.”
The album starts with the song “Anyone,” previously released as a single in 2020, which acts as a powerful cry for help. It then moves into “Dancing with the Devil,” which describes her addiction. The song’s music video, directed by Lovato herself, reenacts the events of her overdose, and shows her singing from a hospital bed connected to monitors. The next song in the album, “ICU (Madison’s Lullabye),” is a heartfelt song about Lovato’s efforts to be a good role model to her younger sister and shield her from the pain she faced.
Following the lullabye, Lovato gives an “Intro” where she says, “Let me take you on a journey, one that sheds the skin of my past and embodies the person I am today, this is the art of starting over.” The remaining 15 songs in the album do just that; they complement the grief and struggle of the start of the album with uplifting tunes of redemption, love, independence, appreciation and a readiness for the future, like “The Art of Starting Over.” The album ends on a high note with the song “Good Place,” which leaves the listener with a sense of hope for both Demi Lovato and their own struggles.
The album contains duets with superstars like Ariana Grande, Sam Fischer, Sawtiee and Noah Cyrus. It has already done very well since its April 2nd release. On the Billboard Charts alone, it’s #1 for album sales, #2 on the Billboard Top 200, and the biggest pop female album streaming debut of the year. It also made #6 on Spotify’s Top Global Albums Chart for last week.
Demi Lovato’s ability to bring hope, empathy, relatability, and heart to her fans through her music and documentary is awe inspiring. Her killer vocals and intimacy make her newest album absolutely captivating and a must listen for anyone, but particularly for those feeling like they are working on “the art of starting over.” I’m excited to see what else Lovato has in store for herself and her fans in this new era.