Photo Credit: Angelo Kritikos
Demi Lovato has alternately tried on, and shed, many musical identities over the years – from the Disney-fied pop-punk of Don’t Forget, the self-described “generic” pop of Unbroken, the pop-meets-power-ballads of Confident, and the R&B-infused Tell Me You Love Me. Last year, she embarked on her most successful metamorphosis yet – leaning into the metal and hard rock sounds she grew up listening to. On Holy Fvck, she spoke plainly about imbalanced power dynamics in a relationship (“29”), addiction recovery (“Skin of My Teeth”), and grief (“Dead Friends”). Finally, it seemed as though Lovato had found a sound as bold as she is, and as interesting as her story is.
Her newest LP Revamped promises another offering of Rock-Lovato, as she sharpens the sound of her past hits. Ironically, there are no songs here from her most recent, and most unapologetically rock LP. Maybe this is because the 10-song-strong tracklist is largely reserved for Lovato’s biggest hits (Holy Fvck’s most commercially successful song, “29,” only reached #96 on the Billboard Hot 100). But, it might also be because all 16 songs on that album are far more propulsive and sharp-edged than anything on the Revamped collection.
On Revamped’s opening mission statement, an updated version of the power-ballad “Heart Attack,” Lovato embraces EDM more than she does rock – the odd heavy guitar lick and classic rock-inspired riff sound like afterthoughts. In the end, the revamped version of the song feels more skeletal than the original. “Tell Me You Love Me” demonstrates more commitment to Lovato’s new sound, but the leap from tasteful R&B-inflected pop to rock simply proves too great to be a success.
The revamped “Tell Me You Love Me” ultimately proves indicative of Revamped’s most fatal flaw – it has one foot in the past and one in the present. If the LP simply presented these songs in their original form, it would prove a fascinating career retrospective and compelling greatest hits compilation – a reminder that despite often getting overshadowed by fellow Disney alums Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez, Lovato is every bit as arresting an artist in her own right. Instead, Revamped too often deprives the originals of their initial charm.
If Lovato wanted to create more than a greatest hits compilation, but less than a new artistic era in its own right, I wonder if she would have been better off making a covers album of the rock and metal songs she grew up listening to. Cyrus has gained traction in recent years thanks to covers of everyone from The Cranberries to Blondie, and Lovato has a similarly fantastic vocal and stylistic range. If Lovato’s 2022 single “Skin of My Teeth” directly borrowed the riff of “Celebrity Skin,” why not hear her cover the Hole classic itself?
Fittingly, Revamped’s best moments arise when the album channels the spirit of a covers album – unafraid to be unserious, and unabashed in its reverence to the nostalgic sounds of old. On the revamp of “Neon Lights,” Lovato recruits The Maine for a breezy and fun pop-rock sing-a-long that leans fully into the sound of late-00s pop-rock. Listening to it has the same charm as hearing an old favorite song play in a club for the first time in years. In the end, Lovato can still make compelling music that is fun and irreverent, rather than deathly serious. In “Neon Lights,” we have the proof.