Demi Lovato’s ‘Tell Me You Love Me:’ Album Review

Demi Lovato bares her heart on sixth studio album, Tell Me You Love Me. Billed as the pop star’s most revealing project to date, it’s also one of the most highly-anticipated releases of the year. Now that the project has finally dropped, it is clear that it was well worth the wait.

In the past, the 25-year-old has arguably been the most uneven ex-act as evidenced by 2015’s disappointing Confident. Leading with the massive pop explosion “Cool for the Summer,” the rest of the album was a mix of muddled productions and over-emoted vocals. Alternating between soulful ballads and cheap, cheesy pop, it was clear she hadn’t found her rhythm yet. That has finally changed.

Introducing the album with “Sorry Not Sorry,” the former Disney star takes a fierce stance. As her peers were slowing things down on alt-pop mid-tempos or country-infused numbers, Demi stayed true to her roots and added a dash of soul to compliment her larger-than-life voice. She cashed in again on her slinky buzz track “Sexy Dirty Love,” a slick electro-fuzz anthem that would be at home on Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds.

She may be “the baddest” and a savage-in-the-making, but buzz tracks “Tell Me You Love Me” and “You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore” prove that the diva still has a heart. The striding title track features a plea for affection, while the latter sees her moving on from a past version of herself. “A love like ours just wouldn’t last” she boldly announces in an attempt to find closure. At least you can count on her for an honest opinion and fire-hot taste this time around.

Demi gets a little cheeky with a sexy double feature on “Daddy Issues” and “Ruin the Friendship.” The former is an electro-kissed romp for friends with benefits. “You’re the man of my dreams, ’cause you know when to leave,” she chants over an explosion of synths that build to a climax on the massive chorus. The hitmaker is hooked on some good loving, and she is content to keep things casual on the endearingly sloppy bop. In comparison, the latter is about taking a friendship to the next level. It is also one of the best songs to make the album.

“Your body’s looking good tonight. I’m thinking we should cross the line; let’s ruin the friendship,” she teases on the slow burn. Demi is getting a little naughty, and it works for her. The diva’s vocal delivery is particularly enthralling over the throbbing production as she irresistibly moves from throaty commands to breathy pleas. Toss in some rumors that the cut is about long-time best friend (and equally dreamy) Nick Jonas, and it just gets sexier.

When the sensual seduction doesn’t pay off, “Only Forever” offers a different take on how to handle unrequited feelings. “I’ve been waiting, and I’ll keep waiting, only forever,” she longingly declares. Production from Oak Felder (one half of Pop & Oak) is raw and focuses on the standout vocal delivery. Doing so allows for some multi-dimensional emoting. Despite the unreturned feelings, a sense of hope penetrates the melancholic promises as her voice echoes out into the void.

“Lonely,” the album’s sole feature, comes in the back half of the tracklist. DJ Mustard delivers a typically moody, verging on overused production with sparse synths over murky bass for the barbed ode to unrequited love. “He felt just like you. His arms, his lips. His promises were just as smooth. His grip, it fit though I’ll admit that only you could make me feel the way you do,” she laments of a flame stuck on her mind. Lil Wayne’s rapped verse is succinct but unnecessary. With an impassioned performance from Demi, his monotonous delivery feels too removed. It is difficult to believe him when he declares “I’m fucking lonely.”

“Cry Baby” and “Games” could be another thematic duo with both serving as dramatic kiss-offs. The former boasts a tight production and an earworm-worthy chorus that could make for a respectable radio hit, while the latter feels just a little stale. The jaw-dropping beat drop and growling trap influences are not enough to salvage the release, which doesn’t quite match the caliber of her definitive hit “Really Don’t Care.”

Lust is a recurring theme on Tell Me You Love Me, but the cooed runs on “Concentrate” make for one of Demi’s most captivating vocals ever. Opening as another atmospheric bedroom bop, the track evolves into a full-fledged lover’s anthem. “Make music when you’re moanin’. From night until the morning. Just tell me when you’re ready, and Imma paint your body with my lips,” she purrs. Lyrically, she straddles the line between explicit and almost spiritual, but she manages to make the effort all about making love instead of rolling around in the sack with a fling.

Closing out on a high note, the 25-year-old serenades a lover on the endearing “Hitchhiker.” After struggling with feelings, hunting for a casual fling and enduring some soul searching, the closer is an optimistic love song that sees her offering up her heart without reservation. There’s a level of trust to the song, and it is potentially the most revealing to make the tracklist. It also perfectly encapsulates Demi’s brand. She soldiers on through heartache and disappointment, and nothing will ever get in her way.

With Tell Me You Love Me Demi finally hits her stride. Instead of sprinkling one or two hits among a lot of filler, the hitmaker has finally recruited the right team and found her voice over sparkling mid-tempos and frenetic bangers. The album has the distinction of being her most cohesive and is one of the strongest to drop in 2017.

It is bound to draw comparisons to Christina Aguilera’s Stripped and JT’s FutureSex/LoveSounds. That is partly because she is making them herself, but it is also because the honest lyricism and experimental productions harken back to the pair’s career-defining releases. It took Demi a little longer to reach the pinnacle, but hopefully she can ride it out just as successfully as her predecessors did.

Score: 4/5

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