Monday, April 5th, 2021

Demi Lovato – Dancing With the Devil

Easter means rebirth, means recovery, means cross-promotion!


Katie Gill: Demi Lovato, I love ya girl, but oh my God, PLEASE get a diary. I’ve got the same problem with this as I did with “Anyone“: how do you critique a mediocre song that’s someone obviously working through some very personal issues? So much of this song is a direct callback to Lovato’s addiction, her struggles, her very public relapse and overdose… that she also talks about in her upcoming Youtube documentary series, also titled Dancing With the Devil and hey, by the way, does baring your soul to help drum up promotion strike anyone else as deeply cynical or is it just me? The song itself tries to be sultry but ends up being overblown and loud, ending with Lovato’s trademark blowing out her vocal chords because somehow, she/her team has internalizes that loud = powerful and powerful = real. Good therapy, bad art.

Nortey Dowuona: The lilting croon of Demi is dangerous to all of us as it pierces our hears and leaves us with the need to see hole in the heart surgery. But Demi simply slings out the smoothly played piano in a wet, thick form and patiently sculpts the devil out of it and the churning, sandy guitars and lumpen bass, the flat, crashing drums spinning below her. Suddenly Lil Nas X springs up, his ribs full of strings. He gently bows his strings while Demi pleas with us for forgiveness. The chipper pianos, the swinging echoes, the rumbling bass and crashing paper drums surrounding her buoy her up to Lil Nas X. Nas, smiling gently, sends her above, floating all the way back to us.

Michael Hong: Every Demi Lovato album has a handful of tracks that like “Dancing With the Devil” seem present simply to show you that she can sing. And while Demi may think she understands moderation, that final chorus predictably goes overboard, another instance of Demi going louder instead of trusting her background, even if this one feels a little tiresome in its smoky darkness.

Taylor Alatorre: The lyrics tell of trauma, but the sound is that of triumph. That she’s able to recount the frank details of her addiction is a victory in itself, and after all Lovato has been through in recent years, she certainly deserves a victory lap. Her instinct to go big and bold somewhat undermines the song’s attempt to serve as a picture of anguish, and as a result it comes off as more didactic than despairing. Then again, there’s no requirement that every confessional be a tear-stained one.

Juana Giaimo: My favorite part of the Demi Lovato’s documentary is when she talks about the pressure of being a mental health role model. Indeed, after her first recovery, society saw her as the strong woman who was now completely clean, leaving a happy healthy life and encouraging others to be like herself. I’m glad that she changed direction. “Dancing with the Devil” is far from optimistic, instead she is recognizing her weaknesses. In the first verse, she sounds seducing as if she was trying to convince someone of the choices that she already knows aren’t good for her. As the song continues, her voice gets louder and louder, something that I generally don’t like, but that I do here because instead of showing her strength, it shows her fight and vulnerability.

Tim de Reuse: It’s tonally all there, as far as comeback songs go, and the line “Almost made it to heaven/It was closer than you know” is a nice little stab in the chest. Underneath this expertly crafted surface, though, there are precious few features to separate it from any other song about struggling with addiction. Part of this is the lack of specificity; there’s no real insight into her state of mind other than the status of “not okay,” but that needn’t have been a deal-breaker. The bigger problem is that there’s just no room for truly vulnerable moments in a performance so immaculately dramatic.

Alex Clifton: Post-trauma songs are cuttingly personal; however, because the artist is working through their own demons, the song becomes more of a personal therapy session released to the public. “Dancing With the Devil” manages to take something dark and transforms it into something listenable. The story of Demi’s overdose and near-death experience horrified me as a a casual fan; I can’t imagine how difficult it must’ve been to actually go through it, but Demi’s done a fine job translating a lot of that pain and chaos into her music. It feels like a descent into hell, and a gripping one too: those horns grip and pull me through the entire song, and I can’t let go. It’s a harrowing journey to take but a story I want to hear told. “Powerful” doesn’t feel like an adequate enough word, but the message and melody combine into a song that will stick with me for the rest of the year.

Alfred Soto: I’m not a fan of the late Amy Winehouse, but she would’ve applied irony and jumper cables to this ballad. Even if Demi Lovato were suited for the material, the maladroit chorus and middle eight would defeat singers with bigger ranges. The devil is in going off the rails.

Thomas Inskeep: This isn’t the strongest song musically, but combine the very intense lyrics (about Lovato’s struggles with addiction) with a bravura vocal performance and — yowza. My critical brain understands that “Dancing with the Devil” isn’t great; my emotional brain responds to it strongly, however.

Andrew Karpan: A vast improvement over the similarly themed “Sober,” there are truly moments when Demi’s Simone-by way-of-Winehouse delivery here truly transcends the AA-ese of the message. Namely, this occurs in the record’s main verse, which aches in a ripped up way that feels more than any of her recent bouts of piano-soaked or aspiration-pop’d sincerity. 

Al Varela: I think one of the worst things to experience as a critic is to feel unimpressed by a work of art that means something truly deep and personal to the artist. Because in essence, how you feel about it doesn’t matter. The artist made that art for themselves, and if it helps them cope through one of the lowest moments of their life, who the hell are we to judge it? But at the same time, I can recognize the meaning and specialty that a song like this might have to the artist, and maybe even fans who sympathize or, God forbid, have gone through something similar, and still acknowledge it doesn’t work for me at all. It’s mainly in the disconnect between the production and Demi’s vocals, both of which seem at war with each other, not following the right melodies or progressions to make her intense howling at all satisfying or cathartic. I’ve felt this way for a while, but Demi’s voice just isn’t suited for this kind of contemporary ballad style. This is more than proof of that, as while I can feel the emotion coming out of Demi, it doesn’t resonate. I’m watching this at too far of a distance to fully appreciate it. That kinda bums me out. Still, I wish Demi the best, and I’m glad to hear she’s in a healthier place now. You do you, boo.

Reader average: [4.25] (4 votes)

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