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REVIEW: Demi Lovato Returns to Music Scene Changed, But "Unbroken"

Jenny Chen |
September 22, 2011 | 1:25 p.m. PDT

Associate News Editor

 

Lovato brings a lot of personal issues to light on her latest album. (Creative Commons)
Lovato brings a lot of personal issues to light on her latest album. (Creative Commons)
Teen pop star Demi Lovato released her comeback album on Tuesday, offering up pump-up tracks and a glimpse into her personal life. 

Although the album is slightly disjointed at times, altering between party tracks and emotional ballads, it is apparent that Lovato has changed her sound significantly. 

Fans expecting Lovato's pop-rock, albeit Disney-fied, sounds similar to her second album, "Here We Go Again," might find themselves surprised at this album’s R&B, pop, and electronic influences. 

Still, Lovato's vocals have improved tremendously and she delves into some major personal issues critical to understanding her not only as an artist, but an individual. 

The primary issue with this album is that the first four tracks appear to be on an entirely different album - one that seems unbefitting and unappreciative of Lovato's vocal talents. 

Arguably the most talented singer-actress Disney has produced, Lovato plays into the mainstream pop hits that the music industry churns out. All of them are relatively catchy, but none highlight Lovato’s voice.

On one hand, these tracks show a Lovato that likes to party and dance; the Timbaland-produced and Missy Elliott-assisted track "All Night Long" is a nice track with a guitar riff and some hip-hop beats that is easily a “night out” track for Lovato’s fans.

"Don't make plans, come on with me we'll stay up all night long, I want you when I want you bad, let's keep the party going all night long," Lovato sings. 

But the songs offer nothing new and lack the kind of spark a dance hit should have. In particular, “Who’s That Boy” featuring Dev features lyrics far too immature for this album, such as “Don’t know who you are, but you look like a star” or “You could say that I’m distracted, but you got me so attracted.” 

Out of all the collaborations, "Together" featuring Jason Derulo shows off Lovato the most. The song talks about the ability to change the world if everyone joins together. 

“Look at me and look at you, now look at me again, see, we're not so different," Derulo sings before Lovato joins him in the chorus with, "Can you imagine at all, if we all could get along, then we all could sing this song, together." 

After these tracks, Lovato shakes off her need to be radio-friendly and really starts to open herself up with "Lightweight," a song about feeling vulnerable in a relationship. 

Perhaps a sign of Lovato opening herself up to the idea of new love, Lovato begs her romantic partner to protect her. "I'm a lightweight, better be careful what you say, with every word I'm blown away, you're in control of my heart," Lovato sings in the chorus. 

Lovato follows up with another track, “Fix a Heart,” which is one of the purest, rawest songs on her album. Her vocals soar as she openly admits her weaknesses, including an ability to move on from a broken heart left behind by a former love: “I just ran out of band-aids, I don’t even know where to start, ‘cause you can’t bandage the damage, you never can fix a heart.” 

At times, the latter half of the albums keeps up the more personal lyrics, but delves into an electronic and house sound. “Unbroken” has an underlying beat reminiscent to Britney Spears’ “Hold it Against Me,” possibly an interesting listen for fist-pumping fans à la Jersey Shore. 

“Mistake” seems like it could go in the same direction, but ultimately ends up as an R&B ballad. The song, speaking about leaving a dysfunctional relationship behind, is a one of the more disappointing tracks. 

Lovato made her debut in the Hollywood scene as the star of Disney movie "Camp Rock," before branching out into music and playing the lead role of Disney show "Sonny with a Chance." 

The 19-year-old recently finished a stint in rehab, where she was treated for bulimia and severe depression. 

Her lead single, "Skyscraper," symbolizes her journey of dealing with her personal struggles to her current stance pledging to be a role model for young girls. A song in defiance of people bringing her down (likely including Hollywood paparazzi), Lovato sings: “You can take everything I have, you can break everything I am, like I’m made of glass, like I’m made of paper.” 

However, she proves resilient as she promises “haters” that she will always rise from the ground like a skyscraper. If anyone takes a message away from Lovato’s album, this song is the one to glean it from. 

For an intermission, Lovato brings some old-school Mary J. Blige with "In Real Life" and "My Love is Like a Star.” The grunge sound and distorted chords in "In Real Life" allows Lovato to show off a toughness and sass that other songs don’t.  

She ends her album with a real tear-jerker, begging her father to "put the bottle down" in "For the Love of a Daughter." The track asks her father to make room for their relationship, but it is clear the toll their tortuous relationship has put on her. 

This song is certainly a bit autobiographical as Lovato co-wrote it; she sings, "It's been five years since we've spoken last, and you can't take back what we never had, oh, I can be manipulated only so many times, before even "I love you" starts to sound like a lie." 

Ultimately, "Unbroken" is a solid effort, although decidedly different from Lovato's previous sound. However, as a maturing artist who is moving away from her Disney roots, Lovato appears to be searching for a way to meld the mainstream sounds with her more personal lyrics. 

Although the album isn’t the most cohesive, the tracks that do show off her vocal prowess and reveal her personal journey are worth listening to. 

With a more mature voice, Lovato is bound to evolve as she continues to make music. Whether she decides to expand upon that or experiment with her sound, it’ll be interesting to see what move she makes next. 

For the time being, Lovato’s sound is not yet perfect or defined, but definitely not unbroken. 

Recommended Tracks: "Skyscraper," "Fix a Heart," "Lightweight," "For the Love of a Daughter”  

Follow reporter Jenny Chen here.

Follow reporter Jenny Chen on Twitter.

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