A BRIEF OVERVIEW
It's no doubt people love a comeback story, and Demi Lovato
plans to make her return one for the history books.
Ever since her first triumphant lead role in Camp Rock, Demi sought to not only showcase her admirable acting skills, but primarily revolutionize the Disney music machine. With the aid of the Jonas Brothers
, her debut album Don't Forget
(released in late 2008) entered the Billboard 200 chart at #2, shipping 89,000 copies in its first week of release. The album was eventually certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), for shipments in excess of 500,000. Musically, Don't Forget
focused heavily on pop rock and power pop, with lyrics versing upon teenage topics, appropriate for a young Disney starlet.
The following year saw the release of her follow-up Here We Go Again
, an album that explored a more acoustic/synthpop side of pop rock/power pop, due to new contributing songwriters, such as John Mayer
(on World of Chances
). It marked Lovato's first #1 album on the Billboard 200, with sales of 108,000 in its debut week (and has sold 450,000 copies so far).
However, not everything was a bed of roses. Demi gradually felt the consuming pressure of her personal problems. In October of 2010, they hit breaking point, which caused her to drop out of the Jonas tour. Social media were quickly abuzz with stories of her mental issues: bulimia, low self-esteem, which had led to self-harming over the course of years. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it led to her checking into a rehabilitation facility shortly after, for 3 months, until late January.
Quick to satisfy and give back to her supportive fans, the former Sonny With A Chance star hit the studios as soon as March, to work on her third studio album, Unbroken
. The first single, Skyscraper
, verses upon personal struggles in a very dark phase of Demi's life which recently came to light. It rapidly became a anthem representing strength and overcoming of personal battles, by selling over 400,000 units within the first two months of release (the fastest selling single in Demi's career to date).
As for Unbroken
, let's take into account that she has ultimately changed her game from a pop/rock sweetheart to a soulful R&B vocalist. The 180 degree-turn she has taken in terms of genre and subject material make this album a shot in the dark, a place where even Demi herself had never explored. That being said, life changes people, and Demi has had her fair share of turmoils along the years. Therefore, it's natural that she would want to close a chapter on pop/rock and venture into something new for her return. Although, debatably, two questions linger: how does Unbroken fare in this urban, more mainstream environment? And can it be used as a launchpad for bigger, greater things? Let's find out.INDIVIDUAL TRACK REVIEWS1. All Night Long (feat. Missy Elliott & Timbaland)
There's really no underestimating the power and influence of a great album opener. Right from the get-go, Demi gives us a taste of the new world she has dived headfirst into, with her first of four continuous collaborations. This one features veteran singer Missy Elliot and producer Timbaland. Even though they are both twice her age, Demi holds nothing back as she insistently vocalizes the urge to stay up all night long with a special boy.
The track features an heavy R&B beat, characteristic from Timbaland's unorthodox production, which adds catchiness to Demi's repetitive lyrics. Missy adds the final touch by singing the bridge that leads to Timbaland taking a background presence, as Demi once again conducts the song to its conclusion.
Lyrically, All Night Long offers nothing extremely worthwhile, but that's not the focus here. This is a song that is more than appropriate for mainstream radio, and would clearly be a huge hit - it stays in your head, is fabulously repetitive, the overall production is terrific, and vocals are spot on.2. Who's That Boy (feat. Dev)
Just when you thought All Night Long was catchy enough, along comes this track and promptly steals that award.
Dev takes over the intro, although it's Demi that really adds a sensual flair with her dynamic vocals, asking 'Who's That Boy' repeatedly. While we might never find out who he really is, truth is that this is another song appropriate for mainstream hip-hop/Top 40 radios. The beats are fresh and pop perfectly. Dev's rap just adds the cherry on top, making the song extremely seductive and appealing to an older audience.3. You're My Only Shorty (feat. Iyaz)
A genius collaboration. You're My Only Shorty" is a pure earworm from start to finish, and this is primarily due to the fact that Iyaz takes over the chorus, while Demi is in charge of wowing everybody with her terrific vocals - killing those high notes and providing effective background support. It mixes lots of synth effects, but they pan out exceptionally well.
Another potential radio hit which would stay on their playlists for a long time - and ultimately in your head.5. Together (feat. Jason Derulo)
This is the last collaboration on the album, and what a stunner! Jason Derulo was dubbed as the impossible to get collaboration
, and you can see exactly why. This is a slightly less upbeat track than any of the previous ones, but that holds nothing back for both.
Singing fervently on how the power of love can bring people together, this provides an excellent bridge song between Demi's more radio/club-worthy features and her personal material to follow.
As far as lyrics are concerned, this is clearly the best collaboration and the closest to R&B. The musical chemistry between both is simply staggering, as they soulfully chant together on an easily relatable song - the remembrance of love and its necessity to the world, which unfortunately many seem oblivious to.5. Lightweight
As we jump out of four opening collaborations, we are blown away by Demi's solo voice at the start of her solo songs, and Lightweight is nothing short of brilliantly mesmerizing.
It verses upon an ethereal trait and how how simple words can completely take over someone fragile, filling them with promises that could eventually break them. Thus, Demi begs: handle with care, say you'll be there (...) keep me from falling apart
, laying her vulnerability on the line for the world to hear.
Production for this track was assured by Timbaland, and it delivers, adding composition to Demi's flawless vocals. This is arguably the paramount track on Unbroken and one of the best in her catalog - full of raw, genuine emotions and outstanding lyrics being delivered by her first-class set of pipes.6. Unbroken
Contrary to popular belief and early speculation, the album title song is not actually a ballad, but indeed a club-banging track (which undoubtedly comes as a surprise). Instead of versing upon struggles and personal demons like Skyscraper, it takes a very different approach: the full confidence in love, almost to the point of despair: stuck in some kind of love prison, and threw away the key
It features a sick beat, and a great electric mid-tempo that really adds some flair to the song. The chorus buildup is great, and when it is reached, Demi determinately repeats the lyrics Tonight, tonight, I'm letting go, go, go, go...
at the end of each verse. Pleasantly unpredictable overall.7. Fix a Heart
This is yet another personal and emotional ballad, rapidly becoming a fan favorite and easily one of the most quotable and relatable songs on the album.
Demi appears painstakingly vulnerable: It's like you're pouring salt in my cuts
, and reaching toward a very creative metaphor involving band-aids and fixing of hearts: emotional pain caused by love can be patched up - hence the band-aid reference, as a temporary heal
- but never forgotten.
Her cries are delivered with impeccable sensibility, making the listener really feel the sheer amount of her anguish, and the song ends on a soft, yet lingering verse.8. Hold Up
The song initiates with a fast driven lyric and ends as it started: If the weapon is your love, I got my hands up!
Extremely charismatic, it sets the tone for the rest of the track: upbeat gold, filled with Lovato comparing the force of someone's love to a hold up. She begs them to leave her alone, even though she's simultaneously aroused by the danger of it all.
The lyrics aren't groundbreaking, but they're fantastically witty. Coupled with a contagious beat (frequent on this album), it makes for a very enjoyable song.9. Mistake
With the same beautiful melody of Korean girl group SNSD
's BORN TO BE A LADY
(the producer legally sold the melody to both), many could raise a (valid) point that this is the English version of their song. Regarding Demi's, however, her vocals are the thing that really sets this one apart (disregarding the obvious language barrier).
This isn't your typical breakup-you-blew-it song, it's much, much more than that. It arguably features one of the best lyrical displays of the album, flowing naturally with Demi's harmonious, yet powerful vocals. The bridge is fast paced, building up to a dramatic pause, and resulting in pre-chorus of I hope you ache, ache, ache
. That isn't the end though, as Demi concludes by taking it a notch higher for a truly epic chorus rendition.10. Give Your Heart a Break
Quite possibly Demi's most catchy solo song - ever! The lyrics regard someone scared to fall in love, to avoid having their heart broken. Yet, Demi assures that she's not like the rest
, inciting the relationship.
Lovato's vocals are, once more, irreproachable. She takes it to new heights during the chorus, delivering several absolute belters that sets it apart from anything we've heard on this album. When you join the extremely epidemic melody, truth is we really do fall in love
, with Demi and
This is a song that enters your soul, and makes you want to jump around like a maniac. There's simply no other way to put it.11. Skyscraper
In modern culture, a skyscraper is a tall, sturdy building rising toward the sky. For Demi Lovato, it represents an anthem of courage and fearlessness.
The lead single verses upon Demi's very dark and troubled past and how she managed to stay strong, defining her comeback as rising from the ground like a skyscraper
. It puts everything on the line as Demi's exposed voice illustrates her troubled self, with just an angelic piano instrumental in the background.
This ballad is the definition of Unbroken
's solemn side - raw emotion and almighty vocals.
You can read my full, extensive review of the single Skyscraper here
.12. In Real Life
The shortest track on Unbroken
, but no less of a contender. With an intro similar to a less intense version of Avril's What The Hell, this song stands out amongst all the others not by vocals or melody (although they are equally praiseful), but overall ingenious lyrical production.
The harsh battle between expectation vs reality pans out idealistically as Lovato imagines waking up to roses, champagne, kisses
...but then she realizes this is real life
. A bit of a clichéd, predictable "happy" ending lowers the overall appreciation slightly, although this isn't reason enough to outweigh the massive fun this song provides.13. My Love Is Like a Star
Soulful from the get-go, this track is finger-clickable material to its full extent.
The melody features amazing 90's R&B style, pure and flowing at its core. One of the most important things in a singer of this music style is the ability to transmit the emotion and rhythm to the listener. And Demi holds nothing back as her vocals are timed perfectly with the melody.
The lyrics are beautiful and expressive - the association between love and a star is creatively stimulating, typical of this style. Production is fantastic overall, and the vocals are passionate.
Natural and flawless.14. For the Love of a Daughter
As we move into the penultimate song of the album, we encounter a track that was previously scheduled to be present on Here We Go Again
's track listing, but later removed, as Demi considered fans weren't prepared for this early emotional chapter of her life.
It finally made the cut on Unbroken
, and it's perfect for the theme of this album. HWGA versed upon teen subjects - certainly not the place for a deep, meaningful song about the painful experiences of Demi's childhood.
It's not expected that newcomers or casual listeners fully understand the meaning behind this song and the sensitive nature it verses upon.
Being a very special track for Demi's fans (designated Lovatics) ever since it was announced, two years ago, For The Love Of A Daughter starts off with a melancholic piano intro. Throughout the course of the song, Demi's vocals increase in power, but also grief. The climax initiates at 2:55 and carries on for 45 raw, woeful seconds as she begs at her merciless father: Oh father, please father, put the bottle down, for the love of a daughter
Lovato crashes through everything with shock waves of emotion in unprecedented happenings. This is a song that is raw and real to its core and needs emotional versatility to fully deliver a mesmerizing performance.
In its essence, a song that would make a full grown man cry buckets.15. Skyscraper [Wizz Dumb Remix]
When I hear the word remix, I expect something fresh and innovative, while not ruining the original song. While the Wizz Dumb remix of Skyscraper doesn't exactly violate the latter, less could be said about the former. The vocals remain the same, the only thing that was added were a couple of continuous (and monotonous) beats that don't really add anything worthwhile.
This should be considered more of a bonus track than an album closer per se
- an insult to the extremely heartfelt For The Love Of A Daughter, the true album ender.
As I usually say to remixes - the original proves better.FINAL APPRECIATION & RATING
A year ago, if anyone betted me Demi Lovato would change her style to R&B and succeed at it, I would have laughed in their faces - she had talent, but was notoriously infused a pop/rock world. Well, it's a good thing I didn't make any bets, or I would certainly be bankrupt by now!Unbroken
displays a magnitude of remarkable talent
from this promising ex-Disney starlet. Pure R&B is not a cosy world like pop - you either have talent at something or you go home.
With tracks such as All Night Long, Together and the notorious My Love Is Like A Star, Lovato not only proves her ability at singing this genre, but passes with flying colors
There is little to dislike or fault on Unbroken
apart from some lyrical downgrades from previous album Here We Go Again
. However, she makes up for it with better vocals, which is ultimately a big advantage. While the collaborations are clearly meant for airplay and recognition
in her new world, the solo tracks bring her back to what she really is - a raw, mature, emotional artist
. Having the best of both worlds on one album - power-singing through problems and simply dancing your butt off - is something very pleasant.
This is also by far her best album
As for the fans reception, most will be over the moon with this album. The change to R&B will undoubtedly bring in new, older, more mature fans - something Demi is trying to appeal to as she gains influence. Of course, you can't please everyone, and some pop/rock lovers will be sad to see her leaving the environment which started her career and that produced amazing songs, such as World of Chances
, Believe in Me
, Don't Forget
, just to name a few.
Overall, her voice is leaps and bounds ahead any current teen star, and with a jaw-dropping vocal range at such a young age of 19, you can see why. While some of the tracks employ the use of auto-tune (the collaborations), all the rest of her solo tracks remain raw and natural. She doesn't need any vocal correctors at all, her vocals are a natural talent. She has the potential to become the next Christina Aguilera/Kelly Clarkson..or even better. Whitney Houston
dominated the 80s, Mariah Carey
shone in the 90s, Christina Aguilera
wow'ed the 00s....could the 10s belong to Demi Lovato? That remains to be seen as she matures into a full-blown artist. This album is just the start of her metamorphosis.
Without rehab and facing her personal issues head-on, this album wouldn't have been possible - Demi has changed as a person (by staying strong), which reflects her style as an artist. It is said that good always comes out of something bad - but Unbroken
isn't just good, it's stunning!All in all, a new R&B star is born - and she's shining brighter than the sun.FINAL RATING: Recommended Tracks:
All Night Long, Together, Lightweight, Fix A Heart, Mistake, Give Your Heart A Break, Skyscraper, In Real Life, My Love Is Like A Star, For The Love Of A Daughter The bottom line: Featuring huge potential radio/club collaborations, and solo gems, Unbroken is a highly enjoyable voyage between Demi Lovato's personal, vulnerable, emotional side, and the other that just wants to have a good time, all night long.