CMA Awards 2018

Demi Lovato's 10 Best Songs: Critic's Picks

Though Demi Lovato’s just 25 years old, it’s easy to forget that she’s been in the spotlight for over a decade. From her breakout role in Disney’s TV movie Camp Rock, to her 2017 album Tell Me You Love Me, Lovato’s weathered the transition from teen idol to adult popstar with more grace and candor than most manage.

Through the years, she’s never been tied to any one musical trend. There’s only one constant, that unmistakable voice: sharp, powerful, surprisingly versatile, but not effortless -- because it’s hard to sing like she does.

Across six studio albums, Lovato’s amassed a consistent, underrated catalog, but she’s never felt more relevant than she is now. Who knows what’s yet to come? In the meantime, here’s the best of Demi Lovato’s decade in pop, from now-vintage teen pop classics to more risqué anthems.

10. "Something That We're Not" 

Directed at a hookup who wants to get a little too close, this album cut from 2013's DEMI is a throwback to sassy early-'00s bubblegum pop. The best part: Demi’s exasperated “not gonna happen, dude," squeezed into the end of the bridge, right before the vocal fireworks start.

9. "Remember December" 

Demi's second album, 2009's Here We Go Again, heightened the stakes. “Remember December” is pop-punk via electroclash, played at a frantic tempo. Lovato's anxious yelp has never sounded more at home -- in another life, she’d be fronting a band like Paramore or Metric full-time.  

8. "Heart Attack"

Only a voice like Demi Lovato's could pull off “Heart Attack”, a track so chaotic it threatens to fall apart with every beat shift. The chorus’s hook turns her voice into a weapon, leaping into her upper register mid-phrase, as if that’s a move singers pull off all the time (it’s not!). As the lead single from 2013's DEMI, “Heart Attack” marked Lovato’s final step out of teen pop’s shadow: “But you make me wanna act like a girl/ Paint my nails and wear perfume for you/ Make me so nervous that I just can’t hold your hand," she sings, refusing to be typecast.

7. "Daddy Issues"

2017's “Daddy Issues” is a song no one expected from Demi Lovato. It takes a source of genuine trauma -- Lovato's strained relationship with her late biological father -- and spins it into a tongue-in-cheek come-on to an older male lover. “Lucky for you/ I got all these daddy issues.” On first listen, it seems ridiculous, but it’s supposed to be! “Forget all the therapy that I’ve been through”, sings Lovato, because learning to laugh at your problems is the best medicine. And “Daddy Issues” is the funniest arena-synth-pop anthem since… well, ever?

6. "Don't Forget"

The title track of Lovato’s 2008 debut album, “Don't Forget” is a teen pop ballad with a crucial life lesson: Don’t forget your mistakes, lest you end up repeating them. Over a slow build of clean guitars, the then-16-year-old Lovato narrates a relationship gone wrong… until the song suddenly explodes into a series of distorted power-pop guitar harmonies. Then just as soon, they’re gone -- a joyful memory, faded. Co-written with the Jonas Brothers, “Don’t Forget” was the first sign that Lovato possessed a maturity beyond her years. A voice like hers was never long for Disney.

5. "Skyscraper" 

In late 2010, at just 18, Lovato checked into rehab citing emotional and physical issues. She recorded “Skyscraper” twice, before and after entering treatment, but ultimately chose to release the original. Even with her voice obviously frayed, Lovato delivers a performance of heroic physical and emotional strength, climaxing in a glass-shattering high G note.

“Skyscraper” embodies the radical honesty that’s made Lovato a role model for her fans. It was the centerpiece of 2011's Unbroken album, and the catalyst for the second act of her career. Demi's sung many ballads since, but wisely never attempted to top “Skyscraper” -- how could she? 

4. "Sorry Not Sorry"

No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, 309 million YouTube views, personally endorsed by Jay-Z -- “Sorry Not Sorry” is a true crossover hit. It’s opened new doors for Lovato, including a co-headlining tour with DJ Khaled, a pairing that wouldn’t have made sense even 12 months ago. But “Sorry Not Sorry” is a weird pop song: over hip-hop drums and an unusual gospel chord progression, Demi belts the catchiest chorus of her career, in a register so high no mere mortal can sing along. And yeah, it’s a kiss-off to the haters, but it’s also the happiest she’s ever sounded on record.

3. "Confident"

“I am confident, but I still have my moments”, begins “La La Land”, the first song on Demi Lovato’s 2008 debut album. Seven years later, she comes full circle with “Confident” -- no longer a teenager, but a one-woman army. “What’s wrong with being confident?” Lovato asks over and over, turning a question into a mantra, a murmur into a roar. A trained martial artist, if Demi ever fights in the UFC – it could happen! – you know what song she’s walking out to.

2. "Cool for The Summer"

“Cool for the Summer” may not have been 2015’s official Song of the Summer, but it should have been: With chilly piano riffs and hair-metal guitars, producers Max Martin and Ali Payami capture the exact aural sensation of ice melting on a sweltering hot day. And in her best music video to that point, Lovato struts her way through a neon-pink paradise.

Commanding, seductive, and more than a little bi-curious, is this the best song Katy Perry never wrote? Regardless, unlike “I Kissed a Girl," Lovato wasn’t going through a phase: “Cool for the Summer” is forever. 

1. "Give Your Heart A Break"

“Give Your Heart a Break” has pedigree – it was co-written and produced by Billy Steinberg, one of the songwriters behind '80s pop classics like “Like a Virgin," “True Colors," “Eternal Flame” and countless others. Every element of “Give Your Heart a Break” moves elegantly, from its Brill Building melodies to the sparkling piano, strings and gated-reverb drums. But Lovato sings against the song's grain, refusing to smooth out the cracks in her voice.

Through Demi’s voice, it’s more than a love song -- it’s the story of a woman who’s lived through the worst, and emerged with unshakeable faith. In 2012, it became her biggest radio hit to date, cementing her place as a Top 40 fixture. Demi Lovato is a thoroughly modern pop star, but “Give Your Heart a Break” is timeless.