It’s an awkward sensation listening to Demi Lovato’s third album, Unbroken, knowing that eight months ago she was released from rehabilitation after being treated for various traumas — bipolar disorder, anorexia and self-mutilation.
Though it is inevitable that some people will see her album and immediately write it off, Lovato has more in common with us than most would like to admit.
USC paints a pretty picture of college youth: bubbly sorority girls and fit frat guys wasting away in the California sunshine. But it’s nothing new that a lot of personal issues boil up when students go away to school. Problems with alcohol, eating disorders and emotional traumas run rampant in our generation. Most would like to ignore these issues, but when they are addressed, emotions explode.
Unbroken has a lot to say about these coming-of-age issues.
Demi Lovato struggles through the opening tracks on Unbroken. She faces the challenge of catering to her Disney fans while owning up to her adult issues. So she does both, to little success, pulling influence from artists like Keri Hilson and Rihanna.
Unbroken fires off with the Timbaland-produced “All Night Long,” which surprisingly features rap legend Missy Elliot. With a bumping beat backing lyrics such as I want you in / I want you bad / let’s keep the party going all night long, red flags go up immediately. Lovato is never going back to the sound that made her famous. If her past two albums were childish, welcome to college Demi.
The starlet continues on with the set’s second single, “Who’s That Boy,” featuring electro-pop sensation Dev. The saccharine R&B production on “Boy” is dance-floor ready, and Dev’s contribution adds a grungy club flare to an already-sweet beat.
Lovato rounds out the “club-edit” section of Unbroken with the mindlessly obnoxious “You’re My Only Shorty” featuring Iyaz and “Together,” a mid-tempo ballad featuring Jason Derulo.
These vacuous but catchy dance-pop/R&B hybrids explore sexual discovery and identification, but that’s not what people have been waiting to hear about from Disney’s fallen angel. When the introspective tunes surface, Lovato begins to investigate and confront the personal demons that consumed the majority of her teenage years.
“Lightweight,” “Unbroken,” and “Fix A Heart” are the emotive trifecta of Unbroken. “Lightweight” can be moving when Lovato confesses, Light on my heart / Light on my feet / Light in your eyes / I can’t even speak to angelically pulsing synths. The vulnerable vocals portray a girl who, so easily lost in the attention brought about by young love, becomes an affection-needy parasite.
“Unbroken” offers the trippiest production on the album. Lovato’s robotic disharmonies stun and her caustic vocals attack those who thought her stint in rehab was the end of her career. “Fix A Heart” contributes sweeping strings, booming basses and apocalyptic vocals. Easily one of the strongest tracks on the album, Lovato admits her past struggles will always carry a weight on her shoulders — that You can bandage the damage / You never really can fix a heart.
This is more like it.
Unbroken’s lead single “Skyscraper” is the apex of the record. Lovato could have an award-contending work on her hands. With the breathy vocals, the subtle, emotive cracks in her voice, the tempestuous poetry (Would it make you feel better / to watch me while I bleed?), Lovato has crafted a moving pop opus. The words of inspiration are daunting, but Lovato artistically pulls off this larger-than-life song with ease.
Closing the album with “For The Love Of A Daughter,” Lovato unleashes painfully sincere emotions backed with disconcerting lyricism. Recounting emotional and physical abuse from her father, the singer pains to figure out why she still can’t let him go.
Unbroken has been highly anticipated because of Lovato’s publicized struggles. Critics were wondering if she could get back on her feet. More importantly, fans who have been facing similar emotional and physical issues have been finding solace in her universally appealing recovery story.
For all those looking for heavy advice from a girl the age of most college freshmen: Lovato is our age and does what we do — party, burn bridges, fall in love and fall victim to the pressures of life. If anyone can speak our language, it’s our peer.
Lovato often hits the mark on Unbroken. She can be powerful, moving and healing.