These are uniquely high-pressure times for female pop stars. Over the past couple of years, A-list women have answered the expectations of supposedly youth-obsessed fans by reinventing themselves, with mixed commercial and critical results: the bad-girl-gone-good (Miley Cyrus); the party-starter turned woke-tivist (Katy Perry); the stark stylistic 180 (“The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now... ’cause she’s dead”). Selena Gomez, meanwhile, cannily dropped boundary-testing singles instead of a full album in 2017. And then there’s Demi Lovato, who, at just 25, has spent a decade steadily maintaining a massive career based on total transparency.
Indeed, it’s that Demi who meets me on a February afternoon in her sprawling home above Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon, curled up on a cream-colored couch, her face still flushed from a morning workout. "I’m not a runner, but I ran this morning. I was exhausted," confesses Lovato as she hands me a bottle of pH-balanced water. "Are you sweating? It’s hot in here. Let me make sure the air is on." Despite the heat, she’s wearing a Run-D.M.C. sweatshirt from Barneys -- though when I ask if she’s a fan, she shakes her head and laughs: "I’m totally the type of person who only wears band tees because they look cute."
In a few hours, Lovato will leave for Sacramento, Calif., where she’s rehearsing for her new headlining arena tour, promoting her album Tell Me You Love Me, which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 following its release last September. (Even now it’s at No. 31.) Today, the house -- with its expansive views of downtown Los Angeles, recording studio and the kind of fabulous pool you’d see on The Bachelor -- feels a bit like Noah’s Ark for a pop star, with personal assistants, security guards and house cleaners passing through two by two. Getting upstairs to the atrium where Lovato and I are chatting required navigating a staff in battle mode, packing guitars, suitcases and pre-portioned meals.