What would you say if Demi Lovato asked you, “What’s wrong with being confident?” For Lovato, the golden answer is simple: nothing.
On Oct. 16, 2015, Lovato released her fifth studio album, Confident. Teased with smash single “Cool for the Summer” last June, Confident is Demi’s musical middle finger to critics, haters and anyone who ever doubted her throughout her career.
From her days as a Barney & Friends child actress to becoming a Disney pop superstar, Demi Lovato always had one consistent role: an incredibly talented vocalist. In fact, I would place Lovato in the same category of vocalists such as Adele, Ariana Grande and Mariah Carey.
Where 2011’s Unbroken and 2013’s self-titled album Demi both dabbled in bubblegum pop, EDM and surface-level personal experiences, Confident breaks ground as Lovato reveals all to her listeners. Ranging from hip-hop inspired tracks like “Kingdom Come” and “Old Ways” to sonically and vocally stunning songs such as “Stone Cold” and “Lionheart,” Confident delivers.
1. Confident (4.5/5)
Immediately upon pressing play, you’ll hear the sound of “confidence” on the title track. The motivational track’s use of trumpets follows the trend of including a strong horn presence (featured in today’s Top 40 singles such as Fifth Harmony’s “Worth It” and Jason DeRulo’s “Wiggle”) closely enough to potentially gain a similar popularity, but stands out enough to be unique. One lyric in the song says it all: “You’ve had me underrated.” Essentially, Lovato is telling the world that she has this impeccable voice and she is tired of being unrecognized. The infectious hook will have you hearing “What’s wrong with being confident?” in your head for weeks — not to mention that “Confident” is the album’s second single.
2. Cool for the Summer (4.5/5)
Released in June 2015, “Cool for the Summer” became one of the biggest songs of the summer (the song’s title may have had an influence on its timely popularity). Similar to “Confident,” “Cool for the Summer” features an incredibly catchy hook that’s kept listeners tuned in for months. “Don’t tell your mother/Kiss one another/Die for each other/We’re cool for the summer,” Lovato exclaims. Upon the track’s release and music video premiere, fans of Lovato immediately gained a sense of the album’s direction — no more teen bops — onto more serious, mature music. The message of the album’s title track carries over to “Cool for the Summer:” Lovato is tired of being underrated. And with this infectious Max Martin-produced hit, she is certainly evolving as an artist.
3. Old Ways (4/5)
In late 2010, Lovato checked herself into a rehabilitation center for substance abuse, an eating disorder and self-harm. Where Unbroken’s “Skyscraper” and Demi’s “Warrior” tell the story of her overcoming her inner demons, “Old Ways” shows a more forceful and driven side of Lovato. “I’m not in the same place that I was/But if somebody tells me I’ll go back to my old ways, I’m gonna say no way,” Lovato sings in the urban-esque beat that serves as the track’s post-chorus. Her drive to stay clean, her motivation and dare I say, “confidence” that she will not return to her “old ways” are evident throughout the entire production.
4. For You (5/5)
“For You” is one of my favorite songs on the album. The opening verse serves as a gentle departure from the intensity of the album’s first three songs, and just as you think the calm sounds will last for the remainder of the song, its unbelievably powerful chorus kicks in. In addition, Lovato’s vocals stand out and her high notes are a force of its own.
5. Stone Cold (5/5)
Throughout her almost decade-long singing career, Lovato has yet to be nominated for or win a Grammy Award — one of her personal goals. “Stone Cold” has such a force to it that it gives me chills upon each and every listen. Lovato describes how she will make it through a breakup, regardless of her emotions. The song’s lyrics are just as powerful as her vocals, which soar more than ever. The high notes, the low notes — every note — show off Lovato’s exceptional vocal range. If there is a pop vocal performance that deserves a Grammy, “Stone Cold” may just be that special song.
6. Kingdom Come (feat. Iggy Azalea) (3.5/5)
“Kingdom Come” (ft. Iggy Azalea) begins what feels like the album’s halftime. To be honest, I enjoy the song’s verses and chorus because they are not like anything else on the radio today. In addition, Lovato dipping into this unique music style is a nice touch; however, the typical Iggy Azalea post-chorus brings this song down a notch. (Maybe I just don’t care for Azalea — actually, I can’t stand her music.) Without Iggy’s verse, “Kingdom Come” would be a solid 4.5 for me. I have a feeling we may be hearing this on the radio sometime in the future (if Azalea’s popularity ever resurfaces).
7. Waitin for You (feat. Sirah) (3.5/5)
The seventh track on Confident is part II of the album’s aforementioned halftime. Not that “Waitin for You” (feat. Sirah) is bad — it just isn’t as strong as the rest of the album. Now, that is not necessarily a complaint. Confident, in its entirety, is a strong pop album and with tracks such as “Cool for the Summer” and “Stone Cold,” “Waitin for You (feat. Sirah)” takes a seat in the background. Sirah adds a nice touch, but, like Azalea’s feature, her verse is ultimately meaningless.
8. Wildfire (5/5)
Now, I need you to stop what you’re doing and plug in your best set of headphones because “Wildfire” is exactly that: FIRE. It is by far my favorite track on the album, and never ceases to disappoint. Produced by Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, “Wildfire” is a mid-tempo track featuring Lovato’s unreal vocals. Ranging from low, sultry moans to high notes, Lovato soars on this one. “We can set the world ablaze/Baby you’re all I need/Come now, set me free/Like a wildfire,” Lovato sings. The song’s shining moment comes in the very last chorus, where you hear Lovato’s high note turn into what’s almost a whistle. The song is so different from everything on Top 40 radio today, and with the minimalist production by Tedder, “Wildfire” is flawless.
9. Lionheart (5/5)
Grab a box of tissues, because this one gets emotional. Earlier this year, Lovato’s dog, Buddy, was violently killed in the singer’s backyard. Lovato said that Buddy was there for the Confident recording sessions, and now, after his passing, she sees “Lionheart” in a different light — Buddy had a lionheart. Again, taking cues from “Wildfire,” the production is minimalistic and lets Lovato’s vocals soar.
10. Yes (3/5)
“Yes” opens with simple snaps and Lovato’s vocals, but comes to transform into an entirely different song. Similar to “Waitin for You,” “Yes” is not a bad song whatsoever. It simply is not as strong as songs like “Wildfire” and “Lionheart.” For me, at this point in the album’s tracklist, songs need to be killer and keep me hooked. “Yes” just is not that. Lovato sings of wanting someone to love her and her promises to this man. After dating boyfriend Wilmer Valderrama for many years, “Yes” almost serves as Lovato’s vows. Maybe we’ll see a wedding in the future?
11. Father (4/5)
“Father” closes out the album’s standard edition, and does so on a great note. The addition of a choir singing with Lovato makes a personal and powerful song even more powerful. Lovato has had a poor relationship with her father due to his mental illness, and here, she is thanking him and attempting to understand his struggles. When considering which other track to close out the album, none compare to the strength of “Father.” It is simply beautiful and a great end to a fantastic album.
Overall, Confident does accurately represent Demi Lovato: she is a powerful female role model who does not take no for an answer, stands for what she believes in, fought her inner demons successfully and dealt with loss. The production on the album is stunning, and Lovato’s vocals never cease to disappoint.
4 out of 5 stars.
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