Friday, July 17th, 2015

Demi Lovato – Cool for the Summer

Either song of the summer or we’re too cool for this song.


Thomas Inskeep: Things that are great about “Cool for the Summer”: 1. The ridiculously simple rhymes, like “you”/”too” and lots of “other”/”other.” 2. “Take me down into your paradise.” 3. Demi drops an f-bomb, and the sentence it’s in doesn’t even make sense: “Even if they judge, fuck it, I’ll do the time.” 4. She wants to taste your cherry. 5. Radio Disney has added a song about lesbian experimentation into rotation. 6. Max Martin’s synthy sledgehammer production, one of the best things he’s ever done. 7. That chorus, which punches you in the face. 8. The way Lovato’s voice swoops up on “body tyyyyyyyype.” 9. “Got my mind on your body and your body on my mind” is a direct reference to Snoop’s “Gin & Juice.” 10. Everything. The song of the summer, and the single of the year.

Will Adams: Pop music is getting so dark nowadays, and I love it. “Cool for the Summer” is searing hot, balancing Lovato’s flighty verse with a roaring chorus about a summer tryst. It indulges far less in the coy shock-bait that “I Kissed a Girl” so infuriatingly reveled in; this scenario feels real and terrifying, and makes no pretense about its performer.

Juana Giaimo: My problem with previous Demi Lovato singles was how she didn’t seem to find a way to guide her fantastic voice. “Cool for the Summer”, instead, finds her trying different subtleties: she’s playfully sensual in the verses revealing the secrecy of the relationship, but in te chorus she turns into the Demi we’ve always known with her powerful voice representing now her desire. But she isn’t on her lover’s feet; a needless precaution like “Don’t tell your mother” and the wordplay in “we’re cool for the summer!” shows that she is just having fun and that as well as she is in control of her vocals, she is also in control of the situation.

Edward Okulicz: Sexual experimentation is fun? No, sexual experimentation is fun again. Playing the song straight rather than for titillation and shock factor, Lovato is both desirous and a little scared at the same time. And she does it over saucy electro pop with words as catchy as the tune. She simultaneously beats Carly Rae Jepsen and Katy Perry at their own games and then some.

Anthony Easton: It’s too labored, and too overwritten to reflect summer evanescence, and she is at least half a decade past the faux virginal shit being effective. Add the silly dykesplotation and subtract another couple of points. 

Danilo Bortoli: It’s winter in Brazil now. Or at least what we call winter. That’s why “Cool for the Summer” didn’t strike a chord at first. The true test happens, however, when we know pop songs can live on their own merits and in their own worlds. “Cool for the Summer” is more than simply a summer song — and definitely more than a gay anthem aimed at… Who exactly? Regardless of coded messages and interpretations, what’s left in “Cool for the Summer” is heartwarming fun. And considering Demi Lovato’s history of threadbare takes on generic pop and uninspired ballads, “Cool for the Summer” is next-level, and not just by Lovato’s own standards. She might not be very conscious of it, but what’s in display here is, simply put, songcraft. Pop perfection, I would also add. Mindless fun. No teenage melodrama. No regrets after all. What could be more empowering than that?

Katherine St Asaph: Did you realize “I Kissed a Girl” is almost a decade old? I’d say imagine the thinkpieces, but oh, they existed. So yes, “Cool for the Summer” is sort of like “Domino” (given that “Domino” was sort of like every pop song of the previous year, this is not hard) and also sort of like “I Kissed a Girl” with 75% of its heteronormativity off, which axes the boyfriend who don’t mind it but leaves the cutesy experimentation. And yet, vocals aside, this doesn’t sound cutesy at all. Max Martin has been about five careers’ worth of songwriters at this point, but what he’s seldom been is ironic — “I Kissed a Girl” was mostly Dr. Luke — or even fun, really. A typical Max Martin song takes itself deadly seriously — here, the supposed wink-wink naughtiness escalates to “die for each other” in less than a minute — and renders its scenarios in terrifying technicolor emotion. Given that all this applies to Lovato 5x, “Cool for the Summer” can’t help but sound grippingly in the moment. The song sounds simultaneously of its time and defiant of it; the drop’s there, as is the elegiac Martin pre-chorus, as is the summer, but the chicken-scratch guitar is buried so far down in the mix I probably had to tell you it was there; meanwhile, the titular hook is doubled with a butt-rock riff, which I’m sure is how Martin ‘Full Head of Hair Metal’ White still hears melodies deep down. Lovato sings “body type” like she’s drawing curves with her hands. And I’m sure this is a byproduct of a leftover hook, but as shipped “Cool for the Summer” invents its own code phrase. It’s the rare, great single that is both punchy-immediate and reveals new nuance each listen.

Alfred Soto: So what if Max Martin and co. had “Domino” in mind? As matter of factly as Martin’s arrangement Lovato inhabits this homosexual fantasy without winking at the audience. A good arrangement too: dig the use of space, the tinkly keyboard solo in the last third, the electroglaze coating those guitars.

Micha Cavaseno: There’s an awkwardness around the lyrics, but the delivery gets executed magnificently (the extremes of the highs might be the coos on the verses, but the extreme lows might be how the chorus makes poor Demi sound like she’s going for Katy Perry style yowls and ‘don’t tell your mother’ just sounds so cheesy). The production is restless and ambitious, but always sounds like its pushing Lovato forward, never crashing over her. Its not inexplicable, as she’s been mining anthemic pop with greater and greater ease and comfort, but I have to say I wasn’t expecting her to craft a single that managed to cut out the post-Disney comfort medicine so effortlessly.

Patrick St. Michel: A song that, despite really needing an editor, still manages to shine, at least for a little. It all falls on that chorus, which has the massive task of following up the groaner “don’t tell your mother/kiss one another/die for each other,” and manages to deliver a tension-raising rush that somehow makes the word “body type” not sound awkward. As a whole, “Cool for the Summer” is disjointed (hat spoken word bridge? No, thanks) but the highs certainly stick around.

Jonathan Bogart: This sounds like summer as I learned it in the Southwest, and as I still think of it, no matter how muggy, drizzly, or brief it gets in Chicago: bone-dry, scalding to the touch, and all-consuming. Demi may never top, or even approach, the shattering catharsis she achieved with “Skyscraper,” but that only means that hearing her express joy, however equivocally, is a greater rush.

Scott Mildenhall: Lord knows if Demi is supposed to be alluring or threatening or both here (in practice they cancel each other out), but treating the words as predominantly ancillary leaves exemplary apocalyptic, sparks-fly-while-rain-falls guitar-heavy electro. But! The words are not ancillary. They seem intended to make people have Opinions, in effect rendering any suggestion that they’re about breaking down or disregarding barriers redundant. It’s good to compare and contrast with Beatrice Eli’s “Girls”. Both have arresting, brash sounds, but lyrically only Eli didn’t pussyfoot. Her song may have played up to society in its own way, but it wasn’t a nudge and a wink. Simultaneously bowdlerising and exoticising, “Cool for the Summer” is regressive bobbins. Not being as bad as Katy Perry is not a success.

Megan Harrington: Someday we’ll be able to have sex on Mars. 

Brad Shoup: This is — forgive me, everyone — fierce. The piano bit starts off like “Young, Wild & Free,” but the track ends up burning the beach down. There’s not much coy about Lovato’s curiosity; it is corny as hell, though. I can understand why she calls the guitars and synths down from the heavens because “tell me if I won/if I did/what’s my prize” probably doesn’t have a great batting average.

Rebecca A. Gowns: Too many weird reverberations of Katy Perry (the shouty belt and flat pronunciation!) and suffering from more than a few awkward phrasings, but damn it all to hell I love bi-curious anthems.

Crystal Leww: I like Demi, and I’m always rooting for her, but sometimes I worry that people are more interested in what she stands for than her actual music. This is kinda boring even though it’s trying to be interesting. 

Nina Lea Oishi: Ex-Disney stars don’t always convince when they try to prove that their pop-culture worth is more than a mid-2000s tween sitcom about wizards, or rock stars, or both. And God knows Demi Lovato hasn’t always been convincing. The concept of “Cool for the Summer” is, indeed, blatantly edgy. Not that a song about a girl-girl relationship should necessarily be so jarring in this day and age, but any ex-Disney star (male or female) singing “Got a taste for the cherry” is at least a little bit transgressive. (I won’t discuss the gender-sexuality politics of these songs because I’m sure someone on the Internet already has.) But “Cool for the Summer” feels like more than just a play for shock value — and not because of Lovato’s rumored love life, but because of the way Lovato sells it. Her powerhouse of a voice has always been a little rougher and smokier around the edges, and here she puts it to use: the way she sighs the words “too,” “you,” that yowling “body tyyyyyype,” that fierce shout right before the chorus. The production helps her out, with its high-octane guitars rocketing along. This is rebellion, but not in that contrived way against, say, a family-media conglomerate, but in that teenage way, that summer way. This is a pop rebellion I can get behind.

Cédric Le Merrer: The lyrics are Piranhas 3-D but the performance takes it up into Spring Breakers territory. And that guitar sound is pure Fury Road.

Ramzi Awn: The first time “Cool for the Summer” came on the radio, it sounded like a Katy Perry B-side, and it still does. Oh, Demi. Hopefully one of these days you’ll realize just how talented you really are.

Reader average: [8.27] (68 votes)

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15 Responses to “Demi Lovato – Cool for the Summer”

  1. A great song.

  2. still on pins and needles waiting for ‘run away with me’ to hit TSJ.

  3. Props to Megan for my favorite blurb this year. Great job all around guys.

  4. keep sitting on them ;)

  5. wait, how does that sentence not make sense

  6. Demi definitely has one of those really malleable voices, too. She has that quality where she sounds like a bunch of different, distinct singers on the same track, which feel refreshing.

  7. And she’s got a lot more control than Katy Perry; for the most part she’s able to belt without yowling.

  8. this is essentially a Becky G song

  9. ^ Yes! I agree with you Ramzi!

    I also am not really comprehending the differing responses to this song and the Hayley Kiyoko song. This one feels WAY more pandering than the other one, using way more cliche wording (“taste for the cherry” ay yi yi), and the chorus is much more leaden.

    I gave this song a 7 but in hindsight I threw a couple more points on this than I wanted to because I was feeling so positive after sitting on the “Girls Like Girls” song for a while!

  10. word!

  11. i’ve seen a lot of promo for this and yet had no desire to ever check it out until reading these blurbs, and as is so common with tsj it’s unsurprisingly great. thanks again.

  12. Hoping that Cee-Lo Green and Carly Rae Jepsen’s songs are reviewed at TSJ on the same day, just to get the lowest and highest scores of the year simultaneously.

  13. One day Demi will find her niché

  14. Hearing this on the radio doesn’t really do it justice; the mix is so jam-packed that any kind of low-quality transmission sounds noisy and cluttered. Still: exciting to hear this on radio.

  15. i love how i still hear this on the radio