Then she live-debuted her new song "Dancing With the Devil," breathing life into the full version of the damning confessional ballad that plays in the background of the trailer. The track vividly recalls her life-threatening heroin overdose in 2018 when she sings in the second verse, "Tin-foil remedy, almost got the best of me/ I keep praying I don’t reach the end of my lifetime."
Following the performance, Ratner previewed a conversation he and Lovato filmed for SXSW, where the docuseries opened last week at the virtual adaptation of the film festival based in Lovato’s home state of Texas. While COVID-19 completely skewed people's personal and professional schedules, the timing of Dancing’s release might’ve been one of the few things that happened at exactly the time it needed to.
"I was doing so much work on myself personally during quarantine. I didn’t want to delay the telling of my story. Seeing this doc come out kind of in real time, matching my personal growth … it’s just really, really cool," she told Ratner in the clip, adding had they waited, "We would’ve lost elements of truth."
The filming of the doc took a total of 14 months, starting in 2018 when a completely separate documentary about the pop superstar’s Tell Me You Love Me Tour in 2018 was shelved due to her heroin overdose, which became the new doc’s focal point. Dancing also documents the beginning and end of her short-lived engagement to Max Ehrich last summer. One minute after the singer breaks the happy news by flashing her diamond ring in an earlier self-taped confessional video, she’s solemnly discussing how they broke off their engagement in another video. That same night, Lovato filmed herself breaking down crying, confessing, "The video I made earlier wasn’t an accurate representation of what I’m going through."
While she notes the confessional clips where she was "actually being vulnerable and letting my guard down to the extent that I did in front of the camera was really challenging for me," Ratner says her emotions in each of her engagement confessionals "sums up our process."
"When you sent me that video, I watched it and I was like, 'Oof.' I knew you were going through it, but I was like, 'All right, this is not it. But she’s not ready yet, she’s not ready yet,'" the director recalls. "And then I think you emailed me like four hours later and I didn’t see it yet and I just didn’t open it. And then I remember you hit me the next day, you’re like, 'Hey, did you see that video?' And I was like, 'Yeah!' 'The second one?' And I was like, 'No.' And then I watched it and I was like, 'Ugh.' And that’s when I realized again: It’s on your clock."
After showing a snippet of her third, tearful confessional clip about the engagement, Ratner added that viewers find this scene "so powerful because sometimes we trick ourselves." Lovato finds more power in the fluidity of her life, from having long, raven locks one day to cropping her hair and dyeing it hot pink the next, and later realizing she’s "too queer" to be engaged to a cisgender man. Because when it comes to living her truth, she’s trying to accomplish it to the fullest extent.
"What’s interesting is that it’s kind of been like a really good example of how I live my life today. When I was honest in the past, I wasn’t fully honest. Then I kinda had to come back and say, 'You know what? I’m going to really be honest.' And that’s what I feel like this doc is fully doing," the singer said. "I was kind of taught over the last seven years of life, 'Stability, stability is the end goal.' And it’s like, OK, but stability doesn’t always have to be the end-all-be-all because there’s not a ton of growth in that. What I would strive for instead of stability is serenity and peace and be content with the person I’ve become through the chaos."
Watch Lovato perform "Dancing With the Devil" and "Anyone" at the premiere below:
Updated March 31 with full performances.