Though Demi Lovato’s new single “SKIN OF MY TEETH” offers a refreshing take on their pop-rock roots, the lyricism largely sums up and restates what their previous album ‘Dancing With the Devil’ said.
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Stream: “SKIN OF MY TEETH” – Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato’s seventh studio album, Dancing With the Devil… The Art of Starting Over is a largely transformative work.
Their first album after their 2018 overdose and rehabilitation visit, the album and corresponding documentary, is part explanation, part apology, and part update. “It’s just a little white line, I’ll be fine / But soon, that little white line is a little glass pipe,” they sing on “Dancing With the Devil,” explaining the overdose, and go into the emotional aftermath on the following song, dedicated to their sister.
A little more than a year after the album, Lovato released “SKIN OF MY TEETH,” a harsh departure from the atmospheric, breezy tones of Dancing With the Devil. Immediately, one can tell it was a return to her more rock-oriented songs that were featured on early albums like Don’t Forget or Here We Go Again. “Demi leaves rehab again / When is this shit gonna end?” the song starts, a callback and reference to the multiple memes and jokes people made about their recovery journey.
Demi leaves rehab’ again
When is this shit gonna end?
Sounds like the voice in my head
I can’t believe I’m not dead
I’m alive by the skin of my teeth
I survived, but it got harder to breathe
Asking why doesn’t make it easier
Go easier on me
God, damn it, I just wanna be free
But I can’t ’cause it’s a fucking disease
I’m alive by the skin of my
The production is clean, concise, and pulse-pounding drums and gritty guitar loops dominate the track. When they sing, “Goddamn it, I just wanna be free,” you can hear the desperation in their voice. As with “Anyone,” on the last album, a clear advantage Lovato has over other singers and writers is that they mean every word they write. This authenticity is similar to artists like Taylor Swift, whose entirely self-written Speak Now was successful in part because of this.
Though Lovato’s honesty and willingness to talk about these rough periods in their life, it’s really nothing new. Dancing With the Devil had 20 tracks to go through their addiction, overdose, and rehab, and did so frequently. “Anyone” and “What Other People Say” talks about their loneliness, “Dancing With the Devil” and “Met Him Last Night” personify Demi’s addiction, “The Art of Starting Over” and “ICU (Madison’s Lullaby)” detail the aftermath, and “The Kind of Lover I Am,” “My Girlfriends Are my Boyfriend,” and “Good Place” mention the better mindset and healthy relationships they have with themselves and the people around them. It results in a highly personal and diary-like album, but with “SKIN OF MY TEETH” largely rehashing the past, it begs the question: Will the upcoming HOLY FVCK be made of the same material, but with a pop-rock gloss over it?
“SKIN OF MY TEETH” reads like a re-try: While the album hit No. 2 on the Billboard 200, none of its singles even cracked the top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100. “Anyone,” its highest charting song, peaked at #34. “Dancing With the Devil” and “Met Him Last Night” peaked at No. 56 and 61 respectively, despite the latter having assistance from pop heavyweight Ariana Grande. Lovato’s overdose and rehab made a bigger media splash than the actual songs stemming from their experience — in trying to re-write it with “SKIN OF MY TEETH,” its ideas seem similar (the single didn’t chart on the Billboard Hot 100).
It makes sense that this harsher, angrier type of rock music pairs well with what Lovato went through. They have a right to be angry — not only at themselves for the overdose, but the constant jokes made about them when this really is a life-threatening condition. The psychology of addiction is also at play, and it’s a harsh cycle to get out of. “I just wanna be free,” they sing, “But I can’t ‘cuz it’s a fucking disease.” Even though songs from the previous album like “Dancing With the Devil” have some edge to them, the instrumentation of “SKIN OF MY TEETH” certainly pairs better with the lyrics.
It’s almost like, after the peaceful Dancing With the Devil, Lovato took a step back and said, “Hey, that really sucked!” With the small turnaround time between that album and HOLY FVCK’s release, it makes sense that there’s some overlap between lyrical ideas.
It also could be true that Lovato looked at the success of their fellow Disney ex-actor, Miley Cyrus, and her recent releases. After 2020’s successful “Midnight Sky,” people urged Cyrus to continue down this rock-influenced path, especially after the performance of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” at the iHeart Music Festival and The Cranberries’ “Zombie” from the NIVA Save Our Stages Festival. Her resulting album, Plastic Hearts, did well with fans and critics alike, and even hit No. 2 on the Billboard 200, but sold a lower-than-average 45K first-week units. For comparison, Dancing With the Devil sold a bit less than 80K units.
There’s still 15 unheard of tracks on HOLY FVCK — whether Lovato will continue down this route is yet to be determined. The rock instrumentation suits their voice, which strongly commands, but it’s unsure whether fans will be receptive to an album filled with material they’ve heard of before. “SKIN OF MY TEETH” is a promising start, and a sample of the more personal lyricism and rock palette the album will contain, but Lovato needs to be careful not to dip too far into what their audience has already heard about in their songs or read about in the news.
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Stream: “SKIN OF MY TEETH” – Demi Lovato
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