Sunday, February 25, 2018

Tell Me You Love Me | Demi Lovato

After she ripped into Taylor Swift during an interview in 2016 and was then criticized for it, Demi Lovato – the singer, actress, and twin sister to Poot – posted a tweet to declare something that probably should have been presented in an announcement more formal than a tweet, if it were a true threat. "So excited for 2017," she wrote. "Taking a break from  music and the spotlight... I'm not for this business and the media."

Then came 2017. And in the centerfold of it, our ears were given a whole lot of song from the one and only Lovato. Having been lauded for her powerhouse vocals on her fifth studio album, 2015's Confident, she decided to plow her way through a track titled "Sorry Not Sorry," which catapulted toward the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Like many on her sixth studio album, titled Tell Me You Love Me, the track leans with a gospel sway but is crushed under Lovato, who fancies a transformation into the human equivalent of a foghorn to wow her audiences.

Though emotion cracks through her delivery of the stellar title track, Lovato isn't quite as concerned with inflection as she should be. Rather, her focus is squarely on volume: the louder, the better. On "Sorry Not Sorry" and "Daddy Issues," she crescendos into a barreling screech that, while I suppose works for choppy pop anthems, isn't her most flattering technique. Similar remarks can be made about "Sexy Dirty Love," where her outbursts are perhaps the most merited; she cracks into an excited shout only when appropriate, rather than at every turn.

Admittedly, "Daddy Issues" and "Sexy Dirty Love" are definite earworms, but Lovato's most stunning performances as a vocalist come from her hushed, sensual tracks, like "Only Forever" and "Concentrate," and scaled-back ballads, namely "Hitchhiker." Those moments, when she sounds her most mature, are what counteract the booming urgency of the belted bangers – and it's the first time we've gotten to hear Lovato in that capacity, given that her craft has traditionally abused her voice's larger-than-life abilities.

On this album more than any other before, Lovato is all wrapped up in some mad relationship funk on these tracks. In that sense, it's a commercial pop record through and through. But as is the case for many commercial pop records, it can come off as manufactured, because none of its tracks provide the same indication as to how the relationship is faring. Sometimes, her lover is playing games and just doesn't do it for her anymore; other times, she isn't afraid to admit that she can't concentrate on anything other than the bedroom or the altar, whichever better fits the romantics she caught at the moment.

Tell Me You Love Me, like most of Lovato's albums, lacks much behind its current curb appeal and vocal acrobatics. It's reflective of its moment in pop music, reliant on the slickest styles of the hours: a little sensuality, a little acoustic guitar, a little urban flair. It serves its place in the current musical landscape just fine, but it's not much to scoff at aside from that – and if meets the same fate as Confident, which might as well have been a mere glimmer in pop music's history, it certainly won't have aged like fine wine in a few years' time.

Tell Me You Love Me is available now under Island Records.

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