Months prior to the release of “Skyscraper,” Lovato entered an inpatient treatment center; she admitted to self-harming and suffering from bulimia, as well as using drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms. A piano ballad in which the notes seem to fade in and out of view, “Skyscraper” finds Lovato summoning personal strength against all odds, her voice transforming from frail to ferocious -- “All my windows still are broken, but I'm standing on my feet,” she asserts, before defiantly singing on the chorus, “Go on and try to tear me down/ I will be rising from the ground/ Like a skyscraper.”
“Skyscraper” registers as devastatingly personal, especially considering the timing of its release. Yet the song was actually not created for Lovato: originally written by Toby Gad, Lindy Robbins and Estonian singer Kerli for the latter to use, “Skyscraper” was then passed to and recorded by Jordin Sparks. “It was going to be a bonus cut and then it fell out of the record,” Gad says, referring to Sparks’ 2009 album Battlefield.
According to Gad, the song then made its way to Jon Lind, who was serving as Lovato’s A&R rep at Hollywood Records at the time, and Lind fell in love with it. “He convinced everyone around that this would be Demi Lovato's first single off the album, which is really unusual, because usually ballads are never for singles,” says Gad, who at that point had already scored hits with Beyoncé and Fergie. “In the session when we recorded this song, there were lots of tears. She cried and we cried. It was very emotional, and the performance was just incredible.”
“It was like this song was written for her and everything that she had gone through with rehab,” says Robbins, who has also co-written hits for Jason Derulo and David Guetta. “When I heard that performance, I was like, ‘This was what it always had to be.’”
“Skyscraper” did indeed serve as the lead single to Lovato’s 2011 album Unbroken, and hit No. 10 on the Hot 100 upon its release. Unbroken also included “Give Your Heart a Break,” which became one of Lovato’s more durable radio hits and a preview of the romance-focused pop singles that would be included on future albums Demi, Confident and Tell Me You Love Me. Yet “Skyscraper” established Lovato as both a nuanced performer with a spectacular vocal range, and a pop artist unafraid to address her personal issues head-on.