On its face, an empowerment anthem with a chorus that goes, “What’s wrong with being confident?” being sung by a self-possessed young woman who came to the Democratic National Convention to speak on her struggle with mental illness should be a home run. But Lovato’s performance of “Confident,” with its upbeat pop hooks and lyrics like “I used to hold my freak back, now I’m letting go,” hardly felt wild and carefree in front of a crowd of stuffy, buttoned-up politicos at the DNC:
Demi’s not totally to blame for failing to put the party back in the Democratic Party — but if you were wondering why the video above made you feel so uncomfortable, perhaps it’s because you’ve got the song’s not-so-subtle sexual subtext and leather-laden music video on your mind. Behold, a side-by-side comparison of both performances:
As the music builds, DNC Demi looks out at a tepid crowd, while extraordinarily renditioned prisoner Demi gets clapped in irons. This visual does not inspire confidence.
As Demi sings, “I used to hold my freak back, now I’m letting go,” she is in no way able to unleash the freak within her. At least her backup singers are doing their best.
These moms are bobbing up and down while Demi gets emotionally branded.
“It’s time to get the chains out. Is your tongue tied up?” All Demi can do is tap her chest when she should be in the middle of a choreographed fight scene onstage at a major political party’s nominating convention. Michelle Rodriguez is and should be disappointed.
When the bridge kicks in, we should be seeing Demi careen through the windshield of a moving car, but instead we get one kindly older gentleman clapping, and a woman throwing up a party hand while the rest of the audience looks down at their phones. Give her something, Democrats!
Okay, this woman is almost as good as M.Rod sending Demi back through the windshield she already broke, but that is being rebroken by the intensity of this scene in the video. This woman, a lone fan swimming in a sea of indifference, is truly confident.
Then the emotional crescendo of the song arrives! Demi wails into the final chorus with a soaring high note, reclaiming her power and her autonomy, and uniting with Michelle Rodriguez to topple their common enemy Jeff Fahey. Fahey has pitted them against one another, and they know they can only be truly free if they unite to bring him down. This moment actually makes sense as a political parallel. Is Hillary Michelle? Is Bernie Demi? Is Jeff Fahey Donald Trump? The metaphor works in this scene, but without being able to drive a truck through the back wall of the stage and actually take down a facsimile of Trump, Demi is forced to do some halfhearted mic work in her taupe dress.
With LGBT rights and representation becoming such a major topic this election cycle, maybe it would have been better if Demi had just blown up the DNC with her ode to bicuriosity, “Cool for the Summer.” It would have really underscored the Democrats’ message of inclusivity, especially in contrast to the aggressive exclusivity of the GOP, and it would have been a lot more fun to watch people sing the words, “I got a taste for the cherry I just need to take a bite” in the middle of a political convention. Hopefully Demi is saving that one for the inauguration party.