Demi Lovato comes full circle on her new album, Dancing With the Devil … The Art of Starting Over. The first half of the album, beginning with her 2020 comeback single, “Anyone,” relives her devastating overdose in 2019, which led to a heart attack, multiple strokes, and temporary blindness. In the second half, she doesn’t reject her past but lets it inform the star she is today. She bounces back from years of control in “Melon Cake” and embraces who she is in “The Kind of Lover I Am.” Lovato reclaims headlines, like her messy public breakup with ex-fiancé Max Ehrich, in “15 Minutes” and celebrates her life of triumph in “Good Place.” “It’s not about future tripping,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “And it’s not about dwelling on the past.” Her latest documentary and album have brought us closer to the star than ever before. Here, nine revelations Lovato shares with us on Dancing With the Devil … The Art of Starting Over.
“Dancing With the Devil”
The album’s first title track re-creates Lovato’s near-fatal overdose in 2018. It started when she had “a little red wine” and called someone with drugs. The song goes into details like a “little white line” leading her to a “glass pipe” and “tinfoil.” The music video takes it even further, retracing the night from a hospital bed. “If I’m painting a picture as an artist, telling my truth is so important to me,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “I don’t censor my substance use in ‘Dancing With the Devil.’ I don’t hold back from that, so I don’t want to hold back from any other place in my authenticity, you know? While I desperately hope that it doesn’t trigger anybody, I also know how important it is for people that are going through those things to have an outlet to be able to listen to. I want to make sure that people know that I’m not glamorizing anything. That’s the sad reality of how lonely it can be when you’re in that position.”
“ICU (Madison’s Lullabye)”
At a virtual premiere party, Lovato explained why “ICU (Madison’s Lullabye)” was the hardest song on the album to write. “I wrote it for my little sister, Madison. We didn’t know how bad my brain damage would be [after my overdose],” Lovato recalled. “When I woke up in the hospital, I couldn’t see her, and that’s what this song is about: not being able to see her. But at the same time, I use the lyrics, ‘I was blind, but now I see, and I see you.’ I’m talking about, no matter what, always being able to see my little sister.” At the end, you can hear Madison say, “I love you, Demi.” “I love you too,” Lovato replies.
“The Way You Don’t Look at Me”
Here, Lovato softly sings about the pressure she felt from romantic partners to lose “ten pounds.” “This hurts harder than my time in heaven / You don’t think I see the way you don’t look at me,” she sings in the chorus.
A big ol’ F-U to her former management team, which would only allow her to have watermelon and whipped cream for birthday cake. Lovato reveals how far the team would go to keep her “Barbie-size,” singing, “People out here getting fired for chocolate in the back seat (true story).” “Now I’m saying no more melon cakes on birthdays / No more carrot cakes in doorways / Finally get to do things my way,” she says, celebrating her independence.
“Met Him Last Night,” Featuring Ariana Grande
Look, Scooter Braun is good for something. His clients Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato have finally blessed us with a collab. Grande was one of the people who was there for Lovato through it all. After hearing a preview of Dancing With the Devil …, Grande wrote “Met Him Last Night” with Lovato in mind. At first, Grande wasn’t going to feature on the track. “She was like, ‘No, no. I’ll be, like, mystery harmony lady,’” Lovato recalled on SiriusXM’s The Morning Mash Up. “And I was like, ‘I feel like the world would love to hear us together — like, we should do that.’ And she was like, ‘Are you sure?’ And I was like, ‘Yes.’ And so she added her vocals, and she’s just so — she’s so talented, so great. I’m so grateful to have a friend like her.”
“The Kind of Lover I Am”
Embracing her queer identity, Lovato supplies a track for letting people know you’re simply DTF. “Doesn’t matter, you’re a woman or a man / That’s the kind of lover I am / You can safely put your heart in my hand,” she sings. At the end of the track, she includes a distorted monologue further explaining her approach to this whole “love” thing. “I’m feeling good by myself, but if somebody comes along and they just look at me the right way and they tell the right joke, I don’t care if you have a dick,” she laughs. “I don’t care if you have a WAP.”
Congratulations to Ehrich, who doesn’t deserve the banger Lovato wrote for him. “15 Minutes” hits her ex-fiancé of two months right where it hurts: in the ego. “This is where the sand in the hourglass ends / ’Cause you were looking for 15 minutes / Now you got 15 minutes / Pack your stuff, you can come and get it / Ain’t good-bye, but it’s good riddance,” she sings, perhaps throwing in a subtle dig about the soap-opera actor. On the bridge, she directly calls him out with “Praying in Malibu, how could you, how could you? / Crying in Malibu, while you were looking for 15 minutes.” Clearly, she thought the same thing we all did when we saw those photos of Ehrich on the beach where he proposed after the breakup. Do we even have to say it? Thank u, next, and thank goodness “My Girlfriends Are My Boyfriend,” featuring Saweetie, comes on next.
In this uplifting ballad, Lovato shares her experience of no longer being wholly sober. She drinks in moderation and smokes marijuana (hence “California”). “Cashing in my chips for forgiveness / Trading in my shame for perspective / Tired of being known for my sickness / It didn’t work, I’m trying something different,” she opens the track, before belting on the chorus, “History was always repeating — not anymore.” “I haven’t been by-the-book sober since the summer of 2019,” she told the New York Times. “I realized if I don’t allow myself some wiggle room, I go to the hard [expletive]. And that will be the death of me.”
On the penultimate track, the 28-year-old contends with the complicated feelings surrounding her late father, an addict himself who died in 2013. “Used to dread the month of June / ’Cause it reminded me of you,” she begins the song. But “this year, something happened,” Lovato wrote in a September 2020 letter published by Vogue. “I wrote a gratitude letter to him, thanking him for all the things that I got from him,” she said. “It was this beautiful release of all the resentments I had towards him. I realized, for the first time, that I wasn’t going to have daddy issues for the rest of my life.” “Oh, it was painful, it was needed,” she sings on “Butterfly.”