Pop Chat: Our Critics Discuss Demi Lovato's Unbroken And The Uneasy Transition Away From Radio Disney

demi.jpg
Demi Lovato, not pleased with her advance copy of our thoughts on her new record.

In the span of months, Disney star Demi Lovato, only 19, has gone from ugly tabloid stories—many probably false, but still—about cocaine, eating disorders and regrettable parties to releasing her third solo album, Unbroken, after receiving towering (ahem) acclaim for redemptive lead single "Skyscraper." This is 2011, of course, so her tours include fewer covers of goth metal and more of Lil Wayne, and her album features fewer guitars and more appearances by the likes of Dev, Jason Derulo and Iyaz. Popdust's Katherine St. Asaph and Sound of the City's Nick Murray discuss, via the miracle of GChat, Demi's new record, growing up in public, and the difficult transition from Radio Disney to Z100.

Katherine St. Asaph: The whole Demi Lovato album campaign's come seemingly out of nowhere, going from 0 to "Skyscraper" and then to Unbroken, the new album.

Nick Murray: Yeah, out of nowhere Demi Lovato starts getting critical buzz, while Joe Jonas plays a VIP-only show when Santos Party House takes over Saks Fifth Avenue for Fashion Week. How did we get to this point?

Katherine: Everybody likes redemption. Especially considering how (really, really, really) uncomfortable all the tabloid stories about Demi had gotten.

Nick: I imagine that much of the good press this record has gotten relates to how easy it is to find those stories (or the fallout from them) in the songs. But beyond the lyrical content, those tabloid stories have really determined the direction of the album and at this point, her career. Whereas most artists seem to attempt the transition out of teenpop by showing how edgy they've become (e.g. Miley Cyrus becoming a bird who can't be tamed in the video for "Can't Be Tamed," or Joe Jonas using drunk driving as a metaphor for a night in the club—or is it the other way around?—in "Fast Life"), for Lovato, that wasn't really an option.

Katherine: Yeeeaaaaaah. Or take someone like JoJo, who drops lines like "I've been up for three days / Adderall and Red Bull" on covers of "Marvin's Room." That would be a bad idea for Demi.

Nick: Growing up by hitching your star to Drake, a rapper whose initial selling point was middle-school level punchlines, is certainly a strange move.

Katherine: It's worked for her, though, right? JoJo's been really, really good at making people marvel at how she's not 14. That's sort of what Demi needs to do, except with less drugs. The idea's always to get off Radio Disney and onto pop radio.

Nick: What does Lil Wayne say on "Money to Blow?" Something about how they'll be all set if they keep putting Drake on every hook. So maybe Demi can sing a hook or two on Take Care? Because if there's anything I came away with after listening to Unbroken, it's that HOLY SHIT DEMI LOVATO CAN REALLY SING. But after 15 songs, I got the point.

Katherine: I know, right? She starts off "All Night Long" at about 80% voice, and then things keep going full-throttle for song after song until you get to something like "Lightweight," which is quiet for a verse until the chorus comes in and Demi's powering through words like "I'm a lightweight / better be careful what you say / with every word I'm blown away." A lot of new artists fall into this trap, especially if they think they have something to prove.

Nick: Seriously, when I heard "Lightweight" I began questioning whether I'd be able to finish the album.

Katherine: It's like this song from Once Upon A Mattress called "I'm Shy," where the joke is that you're belting out the I'M SHYYYYYYYYYY! part on the chorus.

Nick: It actually makes "Hold Up," a track that would overpower anything on, say, Selena Gomez's When the Sun Goes Down, sound light. I think it helps that there, the producers take a little air out of her voice by looping it a little and introducing some echo.

Katherine: Ah, "Hold Up" and its metaphor. It doesn't actually mention a balaclava, though, so at least there's that? I wouldn't sayUnbroken is bad, though, by any means. It's solidly midlist, which is about what you can expect for someone like Demi who's trying to a) establish herself again, and b) get onto radio rotation. This was pretty much the only route she had -- her old pop-rock stuff like "Here We Go Again" was great for its time, but women just don't break as readily with pop-rock anymore unless they're in Paramore. Kelly Clarkson's new song sounds like Bruno Mars, Avril Lavigne's gone full Max Martin and even Fefe Dobson gets tracks that sound like "No Air."

Nick: Very true. Though even if the radio were more open to women in pop-rock, I think we'd still see her moving away from the guitar-driven sound of Don't Forget, if only because moving to pop radio tends to require a disavowal of your old Disney persona. Like Joe Jonas, she was going to need to leave Camp Rock sooner or later. (Ironic, of course, because the records are still coming out on Disney's Hollywood imprint.)

Katherine: It's probably telling that only a few tracks are produced by people like Bleu (other credits: Hanson, Selena Gomez, Jonases) and Rock Mafia (Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Hudgens, etc.) and more have names attached like Ryan Tedder or Toby Gad or Timbaland. Who sounds nothing like Timbaland, by the way, ever. The closest he gets is probably "All Night Long," and even that's obviously trying to emulate "Toxic."



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12 comments
nisf
nisf

Correction: The second youtube link says Demi Lovato on the title but that is most definitely a Katy B song that is playing. As much as I love that song, you guys might want to fix that.

Jeff Ting
Jeff Ting

'KatherineSt. Asaph: Thewhole Demi Lovato album campaign's come seemingly out of nowhere,going from 0 to "Skyscraper" and then to Unbroken,the new album.

NickMurray: Yeah,out of nowhere Demi Lovato starts getting critical buzz, while JoeJonas plays a VIP-only show when Santos Party House takes over SaksFifth Avenue for Fashion Week. How did we get to this point?”

Okfirst off, why is everything that Demi or Joe does have to be tied toeach other? Can't they just have their careers without a group oflight weight intellectuals with no knowledge of music but into theirprofessional lives? I mean come on. Seriously what up with that? Andis it so hard that Demi is getting critical buzz for her album? Imean despite what the lot of the morons have to say, people like hermusic and they like her new CD. You can't hate on someone for beingsuccessful. Seems like a bias note of idiot JoBro fans here to behonest.

“Nick: Iimagine that much of the good press this record has gotten relates tohow easy it is to find those stories (or the fallout from them) inthe songs. But beyond the lyrical content, those tabloid stories havereally determined the direction of the album and at this point, hercareer. Whereas most artists seem to attempt the transition out ofteenpop by showing how edgy they've become (e.g. Miley Cyrus becominga bird who can't be tamed in the video for "Can't Be Tamed,"or Joe Jonas using drunk driving as a metaphor for a night in theclub—or is it the other way around?—in "Fast Life"),for Lovato, that wasn't really an option.”

Wait,so you think that her singing about her estranged father who was analcoholic by trade and a man who abandoned his family isn't “edgy”to you? Again I use your definition of the word edgy which seems tobe more so CONTROVERSIAL. Not that anyone in the right mind wouldconsider Miley Cyrus Edgy. She comes off more like a little girlplaying dress up with her big sister's clothing, rather than anartist of “edgy” decent. And Joe Jonas is about as Edgy as a 14year old emo boy wearing tight jeans. Wouldn't her new provactivesound (if you can call it that” would be considered “edgy” inyour ears then? Seems like a lot of bull crap biasness is going onhere. And you ever think that Miley LOST her fans because she becameedgy WAY to fast? I mean it's one thing to do it at 21 but another todo it at 17? Yeah common sense people. Common sense.

“Katherine:It's worked for her, though, right? JoJo's been really, really goodat making people marvel at how she's not 14. That's sort of what Demineeds to do, except with less drugs. The idea's always to get offRadio Disney and onto pop radio.”

JoJo?Really? Haven't heard anything from her as of late. In fact, the lastsingle I heard from here didn't even make any huge Radio play at all.Also I guess you don't have something called a radio or anything likethat but I;m new york and we have little ole radio station calledZ100, that actually had her songs ON said radio station a few timesat their live at 9 segment. You might have heard of it, I think z100is considered pop radio and seeing as how her music actually getsPLAYED on it, yeah you really should do your research Nick and Kat.You're sounding like a bunch of morons. Oh and I like that littleDrug reference there. As if you guys are so perfect right? Stick toyour day job fellas. Whatever that is.

“Nick:What does Lil Wayne say on "Money to Blow?" Something abouthow they'll be all set if they keep putting Drake on every hook. Somaybe Demi can sing a hook or two onTakeCare?Because if there's anything I came away with after listeningto Unbroken,it's that HOLY SHIT DEMI LOVATO CAN REALLY SING. But after 15 songs,I got the point.”

I'msorry....was this a complaint? I ask because it's hard for me to telldue to the sheer stupidity of this statement. I mean I assume youwere aware of the fact that she's a singer right? So Why would youexpect anything else out of this? After 15 songs you got the point? Iwould hope so. She's an entertainer after all and she uses her VOICEto entertain. You really need a manual for that? Yeah your logic ishard to follow here.

“Katherine:I know, right? She starts off "All Night Long" at about 80%voice, and then things keep going full-throttle for song after songuntil you get to something like "Lightweight," which isquiet for a verse until the chorus comes in and Demi's poweringthrough words like "I'm a lightweight / better be careful whatyou say / with every word I'm blown away." A lot of new artistsfall into this trap, especially if they think they have something toprove.“

Yeahit's called singing capabilities. Singers with good voices usually dothat when they sing BALLADS. Ballads tend to showcase powerfulvoices. Also you're really gonna compare All Night Long, a Pop songto a ballad song? Really Kat? I think you need to enroll yourselfinto a workshop about comparisons because it's not really workinghere. Also why are you switching from talking about her Pop song to aballad song without even completing your thought on said pop song? Isthis first time you guys had a discussion? I assume the boring convosyou had with your wallpaper kind of got old right? Pro tip, you guysneed to practice your conversing skills more thoroughly before youpost this bull crap on the internet.

“Nick:Seriously, when I heard "Lightweight" I began questioningwhether I'd be able to finish the album.“

Apparentlyyou did. So your complaint was irrelevant. Congrats nick. You suck athumor :)

“Katherine:It's probably telling that only a few tracks are produced by peoplelike Bleu (other credits: Hanson, Selena Gomez, Jonases) and RockMafia (Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Hudgens, etc.) and more have namesattached like Ryan Tedder or Toby Gad or Timbaland. Who soundsnothing like Timbaland, by the way, ever. The closest he gets isprobably "All Night Long," and even that's obviously tryingto emulate "Toxic."“

Kat,apparently you also have a hearing impediment. Really? All Night Longis trying to emulate Toxic? They're not even about the samething. Nordo they even sound the same. Why are indie bloggers so stupid? Itmakes me lose hope for humanity. It really does.

“Nick:As far as the Selena comparison goes, Unbroken soundsto my ears closer to AYear Without Rain,which was also mired too often in sub-RedOne production (although Ithink RedOne actually had a role in one track), than the new one,which I actually quite like. We were supposed to give out a starrating, right? In that case, I'd probably go with a mostly arbitrary2 out of 5, even though I agree that the album isn't bad. I get whatshe's doing with it and how she's positioning herself, but I reallydon't see myself willfully listening to it ever again.“

AllI will say is that This album sounds nothing like a Year WithoutRain. I won't talk about your pathetically stated rating system whichis honestly the most mentally asinine system I have seen anyone use,but I'll leave it at that and say yeah. You're stupid.

“Katherine:It's definitely a singles album. Listening to it is like going down achecklist: ballad time! slow jam o'clock! song-about-your-dad break!("For the Love of a Daughter," which is no "Unforgiven"but no Lindsay Lohan either.) But I'd say 3/5. This is basically areboot; Demi's entitled to some filler.”

Asingles album? What the hell does that even mean? That's the mostidiotic term I have heard anyone on the net use. And I've surfed thenet plenty o times. And was that a Lindsay Lohan reference to hersong? Really? Please just stop talking katherine. Those with a doubleX chromosome are collectively face palming themselves atyour...tomfoolery.

Ineed a beer after reading this mess of a convo. 

Mark A. Horowitz
Mark A. Horowitz

I am so loving the metamorphosis of your Music section into Idolator. Only what the hell were you thinking hiring that Maura Whatsername? BO-RING. More tweeniez, pleeze!!!!!! BIEBER FOR PREZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

nick
nick

oh weird, thanks

C4
C4

Oooh, you guys got owned at your own "judge everyone else" game...#gettingpopcorn. Why can't you guys just note that she's had problems (who hasn't), give her props for her voice (it's the best around today of all the singers in her age group), and wish her luck on her album (it's awesome). You're doing a critique on Demi Lovato, you saw fit to mention parties and JoJo (where did that come from?), but you spent barely 60 characters actually talking about her voice, which is her most outstanding feature. I mean, really, how often do you see a 19 year old with vocals rivaling those of Christina and Kelly Clarkson, and a stunning ability to bring it on every live performance?

Anonymous
Anonymous

I need a beer after reading your mess of a comment. Are you addicted to the enter key or something?

maura
maura

(And thanks for the click!)

maura
maura

You remember the name of a site I haven't worked on in two years but you can't remember my last name? Wow, rage blackouts sure are weird.

Jeff
Jeff

You can't even get the song right? And you two idiots have your own blog? Wow

Jeff
Jeff

Actually I typed this in word and it when copied it, it auto formatted. Not very tech savvy are you?

Nicole K.
Nicole K.

It's almost cute to see a hater that devoted after two years.

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