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Demi showcases vocal chops, R&B stylings on new LP | The Triangle
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Demi showcases vocal chops, R&B stylings on new LP

After breaking fame as a child star, it can be hard to redefine yourself. Especially when you have some very public gaffes. Demi Lovato has been in the process of redefining herself for some time now. It seems within the past couple of years she has started to settle into her own.

Lovato has spent this time establishing herself as a powerhouse vocalist. From viral videos of her covering Adele on tour to tribute performances during the Grammy Awards, she has showcased her voice in various settings.

But in her own music, that vocal ability was often masked in over-production. Excluding her raw delivery on “Stone Cold” from her last album, “Confident,” it’s easy to lose her performance in the various production distractions. Her new album “Tell Me You Love Me” seeks to right that wrong.

Stripping back her pop tendencies for a swing at soulful R&B, she puts forth her vocals at the center of the album and builds the music around it. Full of swelling belted choruses and clean runs, the album gives Lovato’s cords an impressive workout.

The opening track and lead single “Sorry Not Sorry” is one of the more poppy cuts from the album. It’s an empowering anthem that is sure to be played at a couple house parties this season. It’s sassy and fierce, and ready for some unapologetic body rolls.The song also is a great introduction to the album. Demi isn’t aiming to please on this album. She wants you to hear what she wants to say, not give you what you want to hear.

The title track is a pleading ballad with some gospel flavors. It is one of the strongest songs on the album for sure. “Sexy Dirty Love” is a frivolous flirtation. It’s fun and has a slick two step groove that anyone can get down to.

“You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore” sounds like a scathing breakup song upon first listen, but Demi has revealed that it is actually a song about her sobriety. The lyrics are piercing and her voice glides through the belting chorus.

“Daddy Issues” sounds like the anthem for the girl that Barney Stinson is most likely to pick up at a bar. (If you don’t get that reference, watch “How I Met Your Mother.” I swear it’s worth it.) The song is really catchy, and the way the synths reinforce the melody in the chorus is the key.

“Ruin the Friendship” is meant to be a sultry invitation to become friends with benefits. The instrumental is smokey and slinking, with a solid brass post-chorus. However, the lyrics fall flat. The heavy breathing and laugh are a nice touch though.

“Only Forever” is a song about that person you just can’t seem to give up on. “I’ll give you one more chance, but it only lasts / Only forever” she sings. Lovato conveys the hurt, anger and love in her delivery.

The only feature on the album comes in the form of a verse from Lil Wayne. Appearing on “Lonely,” Lil Tunechi raps over this slow jam about unrequited love. Again, Lovato’s voice is stunning belting out the melismatic hook.

“Cry Baby” and “Games” are both songs about toxic relationships. Where “Cry Baby” goes for a more soulful classic take, “Games” goes for a modern pop angle. Both are good songs, but not as strong as the rest of the album.

The last two tracks are skippable. “Concentrate” is a lusty song, and probably the first time I’ve heard someone namecheck Coldplay in a song. “Hitchhiker” is about falling in love with a stranger. The two songs are sonically too similar to be placed right next to each other. They end up blurring together a bit.

All in all, “Tell Me You Love Me” is a strong offering from the former Disney starlet. It is easily one of her best full-length releases. The work is sonically cohesive and the songwriting is consistent. Most importantly, the album feels genuine. It’s like Demi Lovato is trying to tell us “this is real, this is me.”