The chorus for the title track of Ms Lovato’s fifth album goes as follows: “You say I’m complicated / You think I’m outta my mind / You had me underrated / What’s wrong with being confident”. While the horn-and-military drum calls to mind Destiny’s Child’s ‘Lose My Breath’ or Madonna’s ‘4 Minutes’, and pushes the song into a bit of a banger that pretty much any pop princess could’ve knocked out and had a bit of a hit with, those lyrics do seem a little Demi-specific. Wearing her demons proudly on her sleeve for all the public to see, it’s fair to say that the masses did consider the former Disney TV star as complicated and/or potentially out of her mind.
As far as being underrated, yeah, that’s also pretty accurate: even with four albums previous to this, and despite Lovato’s impressive, Kelly Clarkson-esque set of pipes, could you name three of her songs? Well, let’s see, there was ‘Skyscraper’, and there was ‘Heart Attack’, and there was… hmmm… Nope. And as for being confident? No, nothing wrong with that, especially when you’ve come equipped with one of the best pop songs of the year.
Seven years since Katy Perry told us she liked having a bit of a ladies-only lip-locking sesh, and Demi is revelling in her bi-curiosity with ‘Cool For The Summer’. Feeling a bit predatory for the females in her company, there’s just so much to love about this song; her whisper-y delivery of the final words in each lyric line, her rollercoaster ride on “Don’t be scared cos I’m your body-tyyyyyyyype!”, that Royal Blood-ish guitar fuelled chorus perfectly playing off against the ’80s-synth verses. It’s the kind of pop song that only comes along once or twice a year, and there’s nothing else on Confident that comes close to it.
After the knock-out one-two punch of ‘Confident’ and ‘Cool For The Summer’, producer Max Martin runs out of steam himself on his third contribution to the album, ‘For You’, a bit of EDM-fused power-ballad that gives Demi a bit of a vocal work-out but doesn’t do much for the listener. We have to turn to the likes of ‘Kingdom Come’, the album’s trap-inspired answer to Katy Perry’s ‘Dark Horse’ or Iggy Azalea’s ‘Black Widow’, the latter of which turns up to almost ruin the song with a supremely lazy rap: “Gather round now I’m back from holiday / Long live the queen that’s what the people say.” Weak sauce, Iggz.
There are a few other minor highlights throughout – Lovato’s vocals a perfect match for Ryan Tedder’s pounding, soaring brand of ballads which is what makes ‘Wildfire’ a bit of a delight, while Skrillex-approved Sirah appears on the icy, hip-hop tinged ‘Waitin For You’ for some above average results – but if there’s one thing that Confident could’ve used, it was a bit of humility. When the songs aren’t being out and out forgettable – gun to our head, we couldn’t tell you how the melody to ‘You’ goes, or spot the difference between ‘Stone Cold’ and ‘Lionheart’ aside from the titles – they’re just plain bad. The cringey, gospel-backed ‘Father’ (“You did your best / Or did you? / Sometimes I think I hate you / I’m sorry Dad for feeling this”) is completely out of step with the rest of the album, while trying to make a dance record about mental anguish and attempted suicide, as is attempted on ‘Old Ways’, just seems painfully misguided.
Between her impressive vocal range, emotional openness and line-up of top-tier producers (Martin, specifically), Demi Lovato could be filling the gap of smart, catchy, emotionally relevant pop left abandoned since Pink’s disappearance from chart-friendly music back in 2012. While at times it feels like she’s overshared a tad with Confident, and subsequently bummed us all out a little, it’s unlikely anyone will be underrating her going forward from this.