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Demi Lovato - Dancing With the Devil…The Art of Starting Over (Album Review)

Thursday, 15 April 2021 Written by Milly McMahon

Demi Lovato opens ‘Dancing With the Devil…The Art of Starting Over’ with the ballad Anyone, the most arresting and affecting song of her career. Performed at the Grammys as part of the singer’s comeback, she was choked up and overcome by emotion after her hiatus from the music industry following a near-deadly drug overdose.

Here Lovato bravely offers uncensored access to her true self following her 2018 relapse, broaching addiction and recovery on her terms alongside the release of a docu-series that walks in step, opening the floor for the former Disney star to discuss sexual assault, disordered eating, invasive management, and the serious after-effects of her overdose with nuance and complete openness.

The task for ‘Dancing With the Devil…The Art of Starting Over’ is to find complementary musical expression, but the material on the album feels conflicted. After setting the tone with Anyone and the title track, we suddenly take a sharp about-turn, meandering back into familiar, safe pop territory. 

Lovato’s lyrics remain hard-hitting, but the music undermines her abrasive sentiments. The Art of Starting Over and Melon Cake feel vacant, and lacking in direction, leaving an aftertaste of a missed opportunity to challenge her audience. ‘Dancing With the Devil…’ would have been better served by platforming her commanding vocals, keeping things stripped back, and delivering truths. 

Unfortunately, the album's unimaginative production washes out the message behind the music. Lovato tackles rape, coming out as pansexual and her late father over upbeat, finger-clicking beats. Carefully, for example, is a mess of sadness undercut by an instrumental that doesn't fit the music's raw aesthetic. If ‘Dancing With the Devil…The Art of Starting Over’ had continued to the same tone and standard as the two opening tracks, it might have culminated in a monumental work.

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