The independent news organization of Duke University

Demi Lovato gets personal on 'Tell Me You Love Me'

music review

Demi Lovato, pictured on tour last year, released her sixth album "Tell Me You Love Me" Friday.
Demi Lovato, pictured on tour last year, released her sixth album "Tell Me You Love Me" Friday.

With her newest album “Tell Me You Love Me,” Demi Lovato proved that she isn’t just the sweet, smiley girl from “Camp Rock” or “Sonny With a Chance” anymore.

While Lovato has always been a powerful vocalist, her sixth album highlights her personal growth and maturity. Lovato delves into sexual themes in several songs, while examining intensely private emotions in others. She also doesn’t hesitate to use explicit lyrics, which she has avoided before.

The album comes after a brief hiatus — indeed, Lovato announced via Twitter Oct. 2016 that her sixth album wouldn’t come out until 2018, if it happened at all. However, she later said in several interviews that her Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album for “Confident” spurred her to return to music and overcome the negativity she felt from the media business.

The style of her sixth album as a whole tends more toward R&B than her earlier music, but the songs each have their own style and tone. Some, like the lead song “Sorry Not Sorry” and later tracks “Sexy Dirty Love” and “Games” have lively, prominent beats with a bit of sass that make them easy to dance to. Others are slower and softer but still make use of Lovato’s range. These songs, which include “You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore” and “Lonely,” purposefully contrast strong, belted notes with quieter, sweeter phrases.

“Tell Me You Love Me,” the album’s titular song, is one of those softer, somewhat sweeter songs, with lyrics pleading for affection, such as “I need someone” and “I don’t know who I am without you.” The actual tone, though, isn’t quite pleading — it still carries the edgy characteristics of Lovato’s voice.

This particular song, the second in the album’s line-up, also sets the stage for other songs examining heavier emotional subjects, like “Daddy Issues” and “Only Forever.” However, Lovato attempts to keep these songs lighter than their subjects.

For instance, with “Daddy Issues,” Lovato sings about how her relationship with her late father affects her current relationships. She admits her attraction to those who are “unavailable,” singing, “I’m going crazy when I’m with you / Forget all the therapy that I’ve been through.” But the song’s tone and snappy beat create lighter, brighter vibes than the topic suggests. In this, Lovato is successful in keeping the song upbeat. Even when singing the lines “Yeah, I get a little obsessive / A little aggressive, a little bit too invested,” Lovato doesn’t express these emotions. Listeners then lose the impact of these words. This tone also contrasts with Lovato’s previous songs about her father, such as “Father” and “Shouldn’t Come Back,” both of which tug at the listener’s heart.

“Ruin the Friendship” comes right after “Daddy Issues” in the album’s line-up and delves into a different aspect of relationships altogether. Lovato addresses her song to a long-time friend for whom she had developed feelings but never acted on. Her low, sultry tone throughout the song intends to persuade this person to take the next step, and the song provides another snapshot of Lovato’s personal experiences.

The album’s final track, “Hitchhiker,” explores one of the most imposing sides of romance: losing control. With the lyrics, “I know that we’re strangers, but I’ll leave it all for you,” Lovato sings of the first leap into a relationship. Interestingly, this step generally comes at the beginning, but Lovato chose to incorporate the song at the end of her album.

Taken together, the songs don’t create a single narrative, but they do share a common theme of relationship difficulties. Lovato sings from the heart, with lyrics that reveal her vulnerabilities, touching on sensitive and personal subjects. She captures the painful and intimidating moments in relationships and the bounce back from those times.


Share and discuss “Demi Lovato gets personal on 'Tell Me You Love Me'” on social media.