I grew up loving Demi Lovato: she was right in the middle of my Disney Channel admiration and what seemed to be a sturdy role model for young people across the world. Into my adolescence, I remained a fan. I picked up all her new albums when they dropped and learned the words to most of her songs. Amongst my favourites are ‘Stone Cold’, ‘In Case’, ‘Lightweight’, ‘Quiet’ and ‘La La Land’ – all songs that made me feel like someone understood me.
And then ‘tell me you love me’ dropped. I was so excited. It had been a while since the mesmerising, heart wrenching, magical ‘Confident’ record.
I put in my headphones and got on an hour long bus to Edinburgh and listened to the album, start to finish. I was immediately disappointed. Even more so because the songs actually sound a m a z i n g. However, the lyrics are far from.
Lovato has always been honest about taboo topics such as eating disorders, addiction and mental illness as well as being at the front of feminist movements (even at times having the nerve to call out other famous arists *cough, taylor swift, cough* for not being feminists).
But if Lovato is a feminist, I’m not sure what kind because this album did not make me feel empowered. At all.
It made me feel like there was a small box for women – specifically in sex – in which they are confined. I felt contained. I felt isolated. I felt like I had expectations over me. I did not feel free. I did not feel independent. And like Lovato so encouraged in her previous album, I did not feel confident.
Let’s begin, shall we?
SORRY NOT SORRY
Catchy song, right? Oh, definitely. All Lovato’s songs are. And although this song doesn’t have the worst message on the album, it’s not something I can advocate.
This song, through its profanities and powerful vocals, is encouraging revenge, specifically on an ex-partner because of the way they treated you, by getting out there, looking good and showing them what they’re missing out on. I’ll admit that women do push each other to adopt this attitude after breakups.
“Show them what they’re missing,” we’ll say. “Show them what they’re missing.”
And it’s fun for a while but to hold a grudge like that is both damaging to you and them. I don’t know what Lovato’s ex did to her but for the sake of her own sanity, obsessing over revenge is NOT the way forward. I’ve been in a position where I was dramatically mistreated by a boyfriend and I can’t say that ‘revenge’ was ever something that consumed any of my time. Of course, I wanted to prove that I was worth more than what they priced me at but it was a thought that was quickly overhyped when I realised the amount of effort that I would have to put in to prove this: an appropriate end to the relationship which already consisted of me putting in more effort than them.
This song also shows Lovato as thriving on how superior she is to this ex. She’s ‘on fire and [knows] that it burns’ them. I think if your success in hurting someone else gives you a feeling of exaltation, there’s a problem within you almost as much as in them.
TELL ME YOU LOVE ME
I remember hearing this song and being hooked immediately. Until I heard the lyric, ‘I don’t know who I am without you.’
It’s a common feeling for anyone who has experienced a passionate human relationship whether that’s platonic or romantic. However, going off the basis that Demi Lovato’s album was marketed as empowering, how does this fall under that category?
I am not going to get into this whole argument now because I could write an entire blog post about this but if you do not know who you are without a person, it’s time to reevaluate your identity and the value you see within yourself. You should be able to fall in love with your solitude, in the words of Rupi Kaur.
But – that’s not the only alarming lyric in this song. Her chorus ends with the repeated line, ‘You ain’t nobody ‘til you got somebody.’
I’m sorry – what? What about all those people that don’t have ‘somebody’? I’m assuming you mean romantically since you are wanting them to tell you they love you and you are referring to this person as ‘baby’. Not everybody has or will have a romantic significant other in their life. And guess what? Those people are capable of happiness and are AWESOME. Romance does not shape human value. Thank you. Bye.
SEXY DIRTY LOVE
From the title alone, this is straight up a song that I would not play in the car in front of friends or family (something I used to do with Lovato).
Anyway, let’s break this down.
In the first verse, we have this charming lyric:
Lord knows I am sinning, please forgive me for my lust
Sending pictures back and forth
I think we can all agree that The Lord was not considered in the making of this album so let’s just give him a rest, shall we? Second, prepare for a controversial opinion, she’s openly admitting (in her female empowering album) that she is sending sexual pictures back and forward. I have never heard of a situation on the Hollywood front where that ended up with a women being empowered. Openly sexualising your body and sending it over the world wide web to a person to do what they will with it is fuelling the whole problem with the way that we, as women, are treated. Has keeping sex private become too traditional? Too prudish? All I can see is a lack of street smartness here. You don’t know where this person is, with their friends, alone, or are they saving these as blackmail? Likewise with the sender, of course.
I, personally, think we should unite as women and not give into the photographic sexting idea. As fun as it might be for someone in the moment, it’s dumb. If you’re about to disagree, imagine your current or future daughter participating in this and think about how you might feel then. Sure, Demi is a grown woman who has the right to make her own choices about her body but she is in a position of influence and should consider all the young girls that have and will look up to her.
The next part of the song consists of Lovato comparing her lover to a drug that gets her high. I am 100% over this analogy. Drugs ruin lives, drugs wreck relationships, drugs kill. Why, oh why, is it romantic to feel like you belong to a drug-like relationship with somebody? Can we stop romanticising substances that take such young beautiful lives?
This song, I admit, is interesting. It discusses the way that Lovato acts in a relationship with men in light of the relationship she had with her dad. She explains that because of the unstable relationship she had with her father, she’s attracted to the familiarity of that in other men:
You’re the man of my dreams
‘Cause you know how to leave
Throughout the song, Lovato discusses how “obsessive” and “insatiable” she gets around men like this. While this is real life, I’m sure, for many men and women, isn’t this album meant to empower? Instead of tearing down the stigma and enforcing in a woman that her ‘daddy issues’ shouldn’t define her, she continually tells the guy he is ‘lucky’ because she will put up with whatever he wants her to because of her ‘daddy issues’, therefore romanticising the commitment of a relationship like this.
RUIN THE FRIENDSHIP
This is one song from the album that REALLY bothers me.
Your body’s looking good tonight
I’m thinking we should cross the line
Let’s ruin the friendship, let’s ruin the friendship
Do all the things on our minds
What’s taking us all this time
Let’s ruin the friendship, let’s ruin the friendship
How about… You don’t ruin the friendship?
Friendship is one of the most important relationships we’ll ever experience, especially towards the gender that we are attracted to. For instance, I am straight and I really value the friendships I have with guys. To ruin the friendship because of a little lust one night is not cool, sexy or a good idea. It undermines that importance of, in many cases, a male-female friendship which is viewed in many circles as being impossible and realistic. If we all ruined our friendships with the gender we’re attracted to, what does that say about platonic human relationships? That they’re impossible? Okay to destroy? Of less importance?
Don’t ruin the friendship, people.
There’s not much I need to say. Basically, in this song, Demi talks about how she’ll wait ‘only forever’ for someone who isn’t making their move on her, despite there being tension between them.
Isn’t so empowering for young girls to hear a romantic dark sexy song about waiting forever for someone who isn’t ready for them? I really feel like I got some good advice from this one. *note sarcasm*
To be fair, I think this song is attempting a good message: don’t wait around for someone who is going to play these games. However, Lovato goes into a repetitive whingey chorus when she says:
Yeah, two can play
Yeah, two can play
Yeah, two can play these games
Here’s an empowering tip: don’t play games. It won’t get you anywhere with people. Treating them like a pawn because they’re doing the same with you doesn’t make you even; it shows that you are as immature as they are. Instead, back off, be kind and spend time with friends (but don’t ruin the friendship…)
Oh dear. Here we go.
This song is problematic; you can’t really translate this into anything empowering.
It starts with Lovato explaining that someone has made her feel so drunk (assumingly metaphorically on love/lust) that she can’t make her own decisions and is, therefore, falling for someone even though she doesn’t need to; it’s just what they do to her. I think there’s a word for that: oh yes, emotional manipulation.
Baby, I’ll do anything you want
Lock me down like I’m your slave
‘Cause ooh, when you’re done with me
I can’t even concentrate, concentrate
“Mind-blowing” sexual experiences have been scientifically proven, I’m not going to disregard that but comparing them to slavery and being objectified (‘when you’re done with me’ as opposed to an equal two party relation) is not a good message. I actually am laughing out loud at this point. As soon as you use the word ‘slave’ to describe your sexual feelings, I’m running away. Not only is that not sexy, it’s offensive, considering slavery is still a real thing that kills and degrades people worldwide.
Finally, we’re at the last song. And you guessed it, here’s another song where Lovato submits to her sexual partner! Yay! Empowering! Girl power!
I know that we’re strangers, but I’ll leave it all for you
Go anywhere you wanna go
I don’t really need to know, if my heart is in danger
‘Cause as long as you’re the driver
I’m your hitchhiker
Sounds like so much fun, letting someone else play with your heart. I should try it someday. Oh wait, I have and I was perpetually sad for over two years. Ladies and gentlemen, do not listen to Demi Lovato. She’s wrong. Point blank.
The whole album is a series of songs about Demi Lovato letting someone else play her, use her, leave her, and control her like a puppet. This would be fine if she was explaining something she had gone through and commented on it as terrible, awful, unhealthy and ultimately, over. Insteadad, she claims this album is empowering for, specifically, young girls all over the world. Lovato has described the album as ‘more mature’ and that her songs are ‘lighthearted’ and ‘sexy’. I don’t see anything sexy with being objectified.
Have a listen for the album yourself. It is frustrating because the sound of the music, beats, rhythm, tone, vocals, and style is exceptional, catchy, layered, soulful and it will make you want to dance. But it’s hard to dance to words that are this .