At this point, Demi Lovato's story of success is well-known and does not need to be further dissected. In 2012, the 20-year-old scored her biggest hit to date with the sumptuously simple "Give Your Heart a Break," headlined a well-received summer tour to support her 2011 album "Unbroken" and increased her national profile by sitting on "The X Factor" judges panel; Lovato was a musical star to those who didn't know the details of her prior personal struggles, and many of those who did viewed the singer as a source of inspiration. As anticipation mounted for her next full-length, pop fans didn't wonder if the album was going to be a success, but whether or not it would bring the singer to the upper echelon of the genre, to a place reserved for vocalists with a deep catalogue of hits and a magnetism that makes them empirically unavoidable.
"Demi," her fourth album, could have been a victory lap for Lovato, but it's far more than a paint-by-numbers pop album engineered to produce three radio singles and not much else. To be sure, this album contains uptempo tracks that could rule the dog days of summer once lead single "Heart Attack" presumably ceases making its hay in the spring; "Made in the USA," "Really Don't Care" and especially the fantastic "Something That We're Not" all find the right combination of bubblegum fun and Lovato's overpowering pipes. And fans of "Skyscraper" should latch onto ballads like "In Case" and "Warrior," the latter of which lets Lovato reiterate everything that she's overcome to get to such an envious career and personal position.
Most impressively, however, "Demi" takes risks. Some of them don't work out too well -- the most glaring example being the misguided dance stunt "Neon Lights" -- but it's more entertaining to hear Lovato take a few sonic detours, on songs like the pensive "Shouldn't Come Back" and prodding "Without The Love," than exist in one immobile position. The singer has a strong grip on her skills as a performer, but is still chiseling away at the formula that works best for her as an artist, and is unwittingly putting that self-discovery on display here. "Demi" may or may not launch Lovato to a new level of stardom, but it demands attention for fully capturing a singer's personality at a fascinating moment in her career. It's an imperfect album, but it's better that way.