Thursday, July 4th, 2013

Demi Lovato – Made in the USA



Patrick St. Michel: I had a few extra tabs opened when I read the title to Demi Lovato’s newest single. “Oh boy,” I thought as Wikipedia loaded, “gonna need to read this one deeply.” I expected patriotic pandering, so I planned to counter her Disney-sanctioned fireworks with Supreme Court cases and, like, the synopsis of Nickel And Dimed. Turns out “Made In The USA” is just super-lazy pop, a “Party” without any of the hop and a chorus that seems rushed. The only eye-rolling politics comes from the central line “I know that we’ll never break” because… well, you can figure that out. Unless you count the “bite the bullet” bit, which, geez, probably should have edited that out. Just so boring.

Alfred Soto: “Made in a High Fructose Corn Syrup Bottling Company.”

Iain Mew: Listening to this, all I can think of is “No Air”. When not listening to it and trying to recall it, all I can think of for now is “Yeah-eh-eh eh-eh-eh-eh, it’s a… made in the USA”. This is not a memorable song. Demi doesn’t even get to use her voice on full blast until near the end, which is a worst-of-both-worlds situation.

Scott Mildenhall: The best thing about this is the unfortunate, unwitting juxtaposition of wanting “the world” to know about your love while trumpeting its inherent strength, it being American. It’s disappointing that she hasn’t gone to town with the US angle though; the metaphor initiated with a Chevy reference not extended any further than a “west coast” here and an “east coast” there. Given that, why even bring America into it at all, never mind as the title line? 99% of the lyrics are about as specific to America as Denise Welch. Its predecessor had at the very least quite a lot going on production-wise, but “Made in the USA” lacks even that; completely nondescript.

Katherine St Asaph: Jonas Jeberg, the lone credited producer, is Danish. That’s like that scene in Joan Bauer’s Rules of the Road where the Honest Abe Pancake House fills their authentic maple syrup tins with Mrs. Butterworth’s. “Chevy Runs Deep,” the slogan, was retired this year because GM is refocusing their branding from their U.S. bailout to global markets like Russia and India. That’s just hilarious. (And given Lovato’s album timing, wanna bet this was written for a July 4, 2012 release, when the product placement would work?) I’m being cynical as hell because this is also cynical as hell, a “Party in the USA” retread with more oversung vocals, more country harmonies with ever-so-iffy implications (note her stance on Unbroken‘s urban tracks and to which genre she’s patriotically retreated), and the most shameless invocation of musical jingoism since Kristy Lee Cook put the AMERICA! into Idol by picking “God Bless the USA” and praising the flag when her votes flagged. But then again, profiting off jingoism is the American way.

Jonathan Bradley: Demi Lovato doesn’t do subtext, which is why she can be so great. She approaches her metaphors as if they were critically, pressingly literal. If she ever did that, she’d have a heart attack. She will be rising from the ground like a skyscraper. You never really can fix a heart. These aren’t hyperbole; from Lovato’s mouth, they’re very imminent crises. “Made in the USA” is almost, almost, so-close-to not completely ridiculous as a result, because when Lovato says her love is made in the USA then, by gum, she means that it was designed by the most innovative, creative, best-educated minds money can buy and constructed with care in a factory in Cleveland or Detroit by the most committed and hardworking laborers in the whole goddamn world. It rolled off a conveyor belt and was sent to a department store to bring the luxury of Demi Lovato’s love to consumers in all 50 states. It’s a product to be proud of and no one would dare think something built on such strong foundations of liberty and free enterprise could falter. But… then you look at the state of American manufacturing and, well, god, Demi: you’d be better off with an import.

Mallory O’Donnell: …but assembled from parts available just about any-damn-where. Demi’s actually reigned in some of the excess yelling of her last effort but only enough to allow us to see that she clearly has no particular musical personality whatsoever and is compensating by making sure every line is delivered with some sassy vocal tic. Anonymous, plodding, faintly irritating and about as patriotic as an “American Made” sticker hastily slapped onto a Chinese action figure. All told about a thousand times better than “Heart Attack.”

Anthony Easton: Remember the early aughts, when we wrote endlessly about the radical potential of pleasure in teenpop — the last work reclaimed by middle aged critics who didn’t want to be labeled as rockists? Some of the writing was amazing, and some of the writing was silly, and the project of taking these artists seriously had lots of productive side arms (noting the producer, the emergence of new feminism) but it also featured the discovery of obscure edges in categories that were not supposed to be obscure at all. This led to things like O-Town’s Ashley Angel being used as a semi-ironic figure on Clone High, and me writing a long, rave review of 98 Degrees. Listening to Demi’s smart, capable, but really not that interesting pop — and being told that it’s better than it is — reminds me of those difficult times. 

Brad Shoup: Starts with product placement, ends reading a clothing tag in rapture and can’t make up ground in between. But hey, now you can update your YouTube exposé of “Halo”-alikes. The backwards acoustic strum is a nice touch; it’s obviously not groundbreaking, but it implies the track took more than 15 minutes to lay down.

Will Adams: Given how nonsensical the patriotic slant is, it’s almost understandable that “Made In the U.S.A.” begins with a Chevy plug. Divorced from its timely release, I can’t wrap my head around the importance of being American here, and it’s not helped by Demi’s caterwauling.

Jonathan Bogart: It’s unfortunate that she’s matured into a single-purpose voice; even a purportedly celebratory song like this one still has her drawing on her standard wailing-heartbreak vocal technique, so that there’s a massive disconnect between the summery sheen of acoustic guitar and her florid belting. The garbled meaning (to be generous) of the lyric doesn’t help; does love not matter or last if it happens to take hold in any other polity?

Reader average: [4] (6 votes)

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5 Responses to “Demi Lovato – Made in the USA”

  1. sorry, y’all, i didn’t know how to Photoshop a flag into Demi’s hand, so we couldn’t have anything nearly as nice as this. A SAD DAY FOR MY COUNTRY INDEED

  2. Mr Adams with the assist!

  3. Haha, awesome.

  4. some really fantastic writing on this song! I think Jonathan’s blurb is OTM. anybody could have sung this song; nobody makes it sound as anonymous as Demi does.

  5. aaaaand the video’s up. honestly I find it completely baffling, a little bit offensive (reminds me ever-so-slightly of Anjulie’s “Stand Behind The Music” though I’m not so sure the two are comparable in context), a little bit sweet (the relationship at the very least is well-done), and…yeah. fwiw, there’s a lot of references to classic American imagery: the soldier stuck in war, the lovestruck couple running through the rain, the country grrrl leading a bonfire sing-along, and I’m not sure if the disparity between the music and the visuals is a case of intentional ambiguity or complete incompetence.

    but yeah. judge fo yoself!