This isn’t “Give Your Heart a Break” Demi Lovato — and it shouldn’t be.
They shed their doll skin to cry through the pain.
For years, Lovato’s life – complicated, messy, traumatic – has been put on public display. Fans walked them through drug overdose (detailed in the intense 2021 “Dancing With the Devil” documentary) and applauded their decision to use their pronouns to indicate gender fluidity (Lovato also recently reintroduced she/her in their identity pronouns).
While Lovato’s eighth studio album, “Holy Fv–,” might be seen as a continuation of 2021’s “Dancing With the Devil… The Art of Starting Over,” it’s even more candid and visceral. Lovato not only digs up demons, but does so through bold, guitar-heavy rockers to channel her fickle emotions.
Here’s a look at the 16 songs, all co-written by Lovato:
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‘Freak’ (with Yungblud)
Squeaky guitars combined with an interpolation of the familiar circus theme (officially called “Entry of the Gladiators”, in case you were wondering), results in a blistering entry in “Holy Fv–“. “Came for the trauma, stayed for the drama,” Lovato thunders. She’s probably not the only one.
‘Skin of my teeth’
Courtney Love and Hole’s influence pops through several tracks on the album, but the bulldozer feel of ’90s grunge rock is most apparent here when Lovato bluntly declares, “I can’t believe I’m not dead.” Her brutal honesty goes even deeper when she sings “I just want to be free, but I can’t / Because it’s an (expletive) disease.”
Death is never far from Lovato’s mind (“Don’t want to end up in a coffin/head full of maggots”), even when she uses her sweeter tones in a hard pop rendition. Her constant desire to be heard (“Am I talking to myself?” she wonders) is tinged with sadness that is belied by a caffeinated drum beat.
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‘Eat Me’ (with Royal & The Serpent)
Call it Nine Inch Nails-lite, as Lovato and Royal & The Serpent (aka Ryan Santiago) tiptoe into an eerie gothic vibe before the song explodes into a fireball of fury. “Would you rather like me if I was still hurt?” asks Lovato, her intention clearly more of a foregone conclusion than a sincere question.
Over a slippery groove, Lovato’s voice swings from snarl and dizzy to unleashed fury in the first 30 seconds of the efficient rocker. Scorching guitars and a symphony of pounding cymbals color a story filled with serpents, angels, demons, sinners and saints.
The song’s name refers to Lovato’s age at the time they wrote it (they’ll be 30 Saturday), giving listeners a blunt view of abuse by an older admirer (“Numbers didn’t tell you that / But that didn’t stop you” ), which fans suspect is about her relationship with actor Wilmer Valderrama. “I see you’re quite a collector/Yeah, you’re 12 years older than her,” Lovato sneezes, referring to “17…29,” the ages she and Valderrama were, respectively, when they got together in 2010. went on a date.
A milder pop-rocker who finds Lovato brooding: “Will I ever know what it’s like to be fine / My demons are calling and tearing me to shreds.” A scratchy guitar riff builds into a mountain chorus while a pensive Lovato offers even more truth. “Of course I’m sober now and everyone is proud,” she sings. “But I miss my vices.”
The Nine Inch Nails effect is predominant here too, with bits of guitar and husky vocal effects culminating in a rocker’s middle finger. After asking for forgiveness and admitting that she will always be a “heathen,” Lovato cackles as the song concludes with a chorus of angels.
‘City of Angels’
Jumpy drums provide restlessness that fits perfectly with Lovato’s quest for sexual adventures in Los Angeles (the Viper Room, the Roxy and Disneyland are cited as locations for her libidinous action). The spirit of Avril Lavigne looms large over this sassy romper.
A pumping disco beat with teeth and a killer guitar groove that Nile Rodgers would be proud of serve as a backdrop for Lovato’s utterly unsubtle lustful aims (“Let me jump your bones”). It’s impressive that she’s made both a call to the dance floor and a sassy headthrasher in one song.
What begins as a ballad quickly escalates into a thunderous chorus as Lovato explains how she substitutes love for drugs (“I’m afraid of the comedown…being wasted on you”). It’s definitely an addiction, albeit a healthier one.
Clean guitar lines and a thumping bass drum anchor an updated version of Madonna’s “Borderline” with the same theme (“Have me closer to the edge than ever / We both want it, but we’re not surrendering”). Lovato’s powerful vocals get a powerful workout at the end of the song.
When Lovato sings “I made it through hell and I don’t know why / How am I different … it doesn’t feel right,” her survivor’s guilt is palpable. And when she says, “I miss my dead friends,” that’s not a soft bit of introspection, but a candid confession, injected with the kind of adrenaline that can be found throughout the album.
‘Help Me’ (with Dead Sara)
A combination of sarcastic sentiments (“I’m gonna take your opinion, shove ’em back in your face”) and a quirky lyrical insert from Dead Sara guest Emily Armstrong culminates in the album’s most unusual track.
As this power ballad intensifies, Lovato struggles with things that will never leave her — like her demons “hunting” — but now also realizes that “my angels taught me how to run.” She also loads one of her most compelling lyrics onto an album filled with it: “I found my soul just to loss my mind.”
‘4 Ever 4 Me’
Closing this rousing yet emotionally exhausting album with an introspective summary might sound simplistic. But Lovato’s hopes of finding love (“I think this is for me forever”) and unwavering fearlessness make it easy for her to succeed.
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