Looking back at her teenage days through an adult lens, Lovato has compassion. “In hindsight, I don’t blame my 17-year-old me for being so miserable,” she said. “When I’m angry, it means that I’m actually hurt,” she added. “Young women in the industry who are classified as ‘hard to work with’ – hey, maybe just for a second, just remember that I’m not a bad person. It’s just that nobody listens to me and I’m hungry. Tired and overworked, I’m doing my best for a non-drug 17 year old. “
Exposing their imperfections to the world, however, did little to alleviate internal pressures. Behind the scenes, Lovato pushed herself into the idealized version of a successful pop star over the course of her career. Her first two albums from 2008 and 2009 were, in the style of Ashlee Simpson and Avril Lavigne, filled with spunky pop-punk. Their third LP “Unbroken” which included the hit ballad “Skyscraper” and the irresistible “Give Your Heart a Break” was a creative leap that added more R&B influences and serious subjects.
She said she avoided revisiting her two following albums, “Demi” (2013) and “Confident” (2015). “I don’t know if it’s because it reminds me of the people who were in my life at the time or if it just doesn’t feel that authentic to me,” she said. “I really believed in myself after putting out ‘Skyscraper’ for the Grammys. I thought I could have a shot now! And then I put out another album – nothing. “
Discouraged by the reaction, she recalibrated. “So I got down to the formula for a pop star who’s at the top of the charts.” She counted the criteria on her right hand: “She shows her skin, she is much fitter and she wears jerseys on stage. So I played that role for a minute. And that didn’t satisfy me at all. “
Horrified, she continued: “It’s strange to think that as a 15- or 16-year-old I had a greater sense of identity than as a 23-year-old.”
A song from that dark time in 2015 traced back to Lovato’s previous work, whose disco-punk chorus was driven by gritty guitars. “Cool for the summer” spoke most of the truth about dating girls. Lovato heard his beat in producer Max Martin’s studio and was immediately fascinated: “I thought we had to write on it. That’s so [expletive] hard.”