Fav Tracks: ICU (Madison’s Lullabye), The Art Of Starting Over, The Way You Don’t Look At Me, My Girlfriends Are My Boyfriend
Least Fav: 15 Minutes, California Sober
It’s been 4 years since Demi’s last album release and a lot has transpired since 2017. Most people probably know about Demi’s past, and if you don’t her new album Dancing With The Devil…The Art of Starting Over covers this topic pretty well. The vulnerability displayed on this record is something that I definitely give Demi props for, as she faces the aftermath of her overdose. It seems as if Dancing With The Devil…The Art of Starting Over is supposed run like this album is separated into two different concepts. One being the obstacles she was dealing with in her past and the other being her current state of mind. Over the 19 tracks 57 minute runtime this display doesn’t really add as much as you would hope. Maybe it’s the way the track list is ordered but, something doesn’t flow in the fashion that suites this concept best.
We get this odd 3 track opener that features the songs “Anyone”, “Dancing With The Devil”, and “ICU (Madison’s Lullabye)”. These songs run like a before, during, and after of Demi’s stuggle with addiction. My favorite of these tracks being the piano ballad “ICU (Madison’s Lullabye)”. You can just hear Demi’s pain and strength all in one on this heartfelt track where she is reassuring her little sister moments after she’s awaken from her overdose.
The other two tracks in this section aren’t my favorites. “Anyone” is another piano ballad and Demi’s vocals are incredibly strong as she cries out asking for help. The piano instrumentation just isn’t all that interesting and Demi’s voice carries all the weight. “Dancing With the Devil” features a lot of Demi belting and really showcasing her vocals. To me it comes across as a little over the top and doesn’t hit as strong.
After the first 3 tracks we’ve already moved onto the second concept on this album which is showcased in the track “The Art of Starting Over”. This is a nice groovy track with softer vocals and actually does feel like a new day in Demi’s life. The lines
New beginnings can be lonely / Thank God I got me to hold me
are so reassuring where Demi seems to be able to love herself. I get Dua Lipa or even Ariana Grande vibes off this track. There is a corny ass bridge but, whatever, I can ignore that.
This album opens up to more poppy tracks at this point starting with “Lonely People”. Its a repetitive track that features some group like singing on the hook to lift spirits almost like a stadium chant.
“The Way You Don’t Look At Me” is another one of my favorites. The very pop acoustic guitar instrumentation feels Taylor Swifty in a way. The song also has some heavy lyrics such as
Cause when you say nothing
It’s much worse than things I’ve overcome and
This hurts harder than my time in heaven
The next track “Melon Cake” immediately reminded me of Katy Perry. I know I keep comparing Demi to a lot of different female pop artists but, that’s kind of my issue. I’m not sure if she has her own unique sound yet.
Our first feature on the album is Ariana Grande on the song “Met Him Last Night”. I think there are some really cool synths on the production here and I really want to like this track. Something just feels off, and parts of the production seem kind of messy creating a odd flow. Its not bad, just wanted it to be cleaner I guess.
After this point I think this record hits its ceiling. Whether its the stale instrumentation on tracks like “What Other People Say” and “Carefully” or below average writing on “The Kind Of Lover I Am” Demi seems to of hit a wall and certain melodies are just all sounding like something I’ve heard before. She’s not creating bad tracks there’s just no flare, nothing to get excited about. Even on the song “Easy” featuring Noah Cyrus, while there is some added orchestral arrangements, I feel like I’m not experiencing something new.
The worst song on the album might be “15 Minutes” that comes across as a mess. It’s as if Beyonce’s song “Irreplaceable” had no style or smoothness to it. This song isn’t much of an R&B track anyways but, I think the theme is somewhat similar. The drums aren’t all that great and there’s this damn click or clap thing going on that’s just incredibly annoying.
After this huge lull in the record it picks back up with the fun track “My Girlfriends Are My Boyfriend”. The production on the hook sounds so cool along with Demi’s vocals and the Saweeti feature fits in well enough.
Coming down the final stretch of the record we get a cover of Gary Jules’ “Mad World” where Demi holds her own. Just not sure if it was necessary in this album, could’ve just been a fun little one off instead.
The song “Butterfly” is a pretty anti climatic track and to close us out the song “Good Place” doesn’t stray to far away from how this album played out as a whole.
Looking at this album, Demi, clearly has a unique and difficult story to tell. I, again, commend her on her vulnerability throughout this record. Dancing With the Devil…The Art of Starting Over, while the story is so powerful, the music almost can’t live up to it. Demi, has her own story and how she wants to tell it, she just doesn’t have her own sound to embody it all. This record has a ceiling and about halfway through we see that. Demi’s cover of “Mad World” does a better job at encapsulating some of the overall themes going on here then a lot of her own tracks. Her voice can only do so much paired with some lackluster instrumentation. Maybe a more trimmed down project would’ve highlighted some of the powerful moments and insightful themes being discussed here.