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In January, Demi Lovato held an impromptu funeral for his pop music. After cleaning up her Instagram feed, the singer posted a single photo: a solemn Lovato serving two majors, surrounded by her all-black-clad crew, the wall behind them adorned with relics of her past musical eras.

What fans didn’t know at the time was that the makeshift memorial marked the start of a new chapter for the two-time GRAMMY nominee, slyly laying the groundwork for her. eighth studio album SAINT-FVCK. The singer — who recently re-adopted the use of female pronouns in addition to the non-binary “they/them” – would officially announce the feature in June, following months of teasing lyrics alongside sultry Instagram photos showing off her freshly shorn brunette haircut.

If the album’s cleverly misspelled title and sacrilegious cover art are any indication, Lovato seems poised to embrace a new level of sexuality and hitherto unexplored subversion. “I wanted to flip the phrase ‘holy f–k.’ in July with SiriusXM Hits 1calling NSFW’s title track “definitely a sex song, but it’s really fun”.

Arrived August 19 via Island Records, SAINT-FVCK promises to decisively — and appropriately — set fire to the pop-star persona that Lovato has so carefully crafted over the past 11 years. This time, Lovato dives headfirst into emo-influenced rock who inspired his debut in 2008 do not forget and its 2009 follow-up Here we go again.

“I came into this album with the intention of separating myself from the music I was making and embarking on a new journey grounded in the roots of where my music began,” she said. Billboard in June. “If you go back to my old catalog – listen to my first album, my second album – [there’s] definitely the pop-rock influence.”

More than influential the combination of electric guitars and bright pop-oriented melodies was in fact the foundation of Lovato’s trademark when she was first catapulted to stardom in camp rockthe 2008 Disney Channel Original Movie which she headlined opposite the Jonas Brothers. Thanks to the star-making power of the Disney machine, her debut album arrived three months later, highlighting her identity as a pop-rock princess with effervescent tracks like lead single “Get Back,” the sassy takedown of Hollywood “La La Land” and fan-favorite emo anthem “Don’t Forget.”

Roles on sonny with a chance – his own Disney show – and 2009 Princess Protection Program with the best friend of the time Selena Gomez soon followed. But it was still Lovato’s magnetic voice and image as the network’s resident rocker that helped her stand out amidst a crowded Disney Channel class that included Miley CyrusGomez, the JoBros, Cole and Dylan Sprouse, Emily Osment, Debby Ryan, and more.

“I’m the new kid on the block, and that’s how I felt when I walked into the Selena-Miley-Jonas Brothers affair,” the then-rising star admitted in a 2009 profile for The New York Times when she was only 16 years old. “Like, OK, where do I come in? How am I different?”

Of course, Lovato’s musical journey from fresh-faced Disney Channel starlet to rebranded rocker is inextricably linked to the life-or-death demons she faces in the spotlight. Over the years, she is fought addiction to drugs and alcohol, struggling very publicly with a eating disorder and Mental Health struggles, and opened up about him painful story sexual and family trauma.

The first time the star entered inpatient treatment was in 2010 after making headlines for punching a backup dancer in the face on the Camp Rock 2 round. Good that she admitted years later, when she began using cocaine at the age of 17, any mention of drugs and alcohol remained decidedly vague as Lovato made the necessary press rounds after rehab.

In September 2011 – eight months after leaving treatment – Lovato launched another cycle of albums for her third studio set, Uninterruptedwhich led her to abandon the pop-rock of her first two records for a sprawling sonic palette rooted in early 2010s R&B, with undertones of electro-pop and soulful ballads.

She channeled the angst and trauma of the previous year into the album’s lead single “Skyscraper,” which became her first solo Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. But though she projected a story of sobriety to his army of Lovatics, the 18-year-old quickly relapsed and fell back into dangerous old patterns. “I wasn’t working my schedule,” she said in her 2017 documentary Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated. “I wasn’t ready to get sober…I was either craving drugs or taking drugs.”

The rest of the singer’s beleaguered history with drug addiction is well-documented at this point — though, at times, the truth about her drug and alcohol abuse came to light much later. In the same documentary, she came clean on the fact that she filmed her 2012 MTV documentary Demi Lovato: Stay Strong under the influence of cocaine, while espousing the virtues of his new sober lifestyle. Soon, an intervention from her management team caused a drastic course correction, and at 19, Lovato began her first real year of sobriety.

The following year, she leaned even more into the pop-centric sound she had begun to explore with Uninterrupted on his fourth album, Half. As its eponymous title suggests, the 2013 effort was to be more personal than its predecessor, which involved reducing the number of guest features and collaborators to offer electro-leaning power pop (first single “Heart Attack”), in-between country-pop (“Made in USA”) and club -dance floors ready (“Neon Lights”).

By 2015, Lovato had fully established herself as an unmistakable pop star with the release of her fifth studio set, Confident. The album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 – its highest chart entry since Here we go again reigned atop the list in July 2009 – and earned the singer her first-ever GRAMMY nomination, for Best Pop Vocal Album.

Looking back, however, Lovato confessed that the bold and seductive persona she projected at the time on singles like “Cool for the Summer” and the Max Martin-the title track produced – as well as the very title of the album itself – was nothing more than a facade.

“I wasn’t confident at all. I had false confidence because I was conforming to everyone’s ideals,” she admitted. Charm for the April 2021 outlet cover story. “I was trying out different identities that felt authentic to me but weren’t me. The super feminine pop star was an identity that sounded like she was going and had l I looked like I was, so I put her on like she was.”

Based on his 2021 documentary series dance with the devilno one in Lovato’s inner circle knew when she secretly relapsed in early 2018 while promoting her sixth album Tell me that You Love Me. Six months later, she was fighting for her life in the intensive care unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after overdosing on a deadly combination of opioids laced with fentanyl.

Lovato’s near-fatal ordeal and subsequent recovery clinging heavily to the unfolding of his seventh studio set, 2021 Dance with the devil… the art of starting over. The standalone single “Sober” – a heartbreaking confessional ballad she released just a month before the overdose – served as a chilling cry for help before the LP arrived, and album tracks like “ICU ( Madison’s Lullabye)” and “Dancing with the Devil” reopened the proverbial wound and forced fans not to look away.

However, cut to a year later and, for now, Lovato seems to have moved past the urge to sit through that same trauma. “Demi Leaves Rehab Again / When Is It Gonna End?” she growls in the front line of SAINT-FVCKthe first single from “SKIN OF MY TEETH”. But rather than triggering a spiral of shame, the world-weary declaration turns into a rebellious yet resolute anthem of survival – indicating that it is celebrating a new lease of life.

The second single “SUBSTANCE” also serves as a flashing double meaning, flipping the script on what listeners may assume for a nobler quest: Lovato happily moans, “So I wonder/am I the only one looking for substance? / I got high, it left me lonely and loveless / I don’t wanna end up in a coffin, head full of maggots / Body full of bullshit, I get plenty of it / Am I the alone looking for substance?”

This does not mean SAINT-FVCK trafficking only in the themes of survival and drug addiction. Prior to the album’s full unveiling, the singer premiered a number of live tracks with an intense performance at the Illinois State Fair.

Whether it’s tearing up a sex tour in Los Angeles (“CITY OF ANGELS”), inviting fans into his rock ‘n’ roll circus (“FREAK”), or demanding they firmly place his role model status at the funeral pyre (“EAT ME”), Lovato screamed like a raging banshee – finally letting go of the rocker she’s seemingly kept locked inside for the past 13 years. It seems that the last F word she had to give was the one she put in the title of her album.

Take, for example, “29,” a scorched-earth indictment of her six-year relationship with actor Wilmer Valderrama, whom she now reviews — as the title suggests — about the same age as her ex at the time. start of their romance.

“Finally 29/ Funny how you were back then/ Thought it was a teenage dream, just a fantasy/ But was it yours or was it mine?” she asks about the chorus. The abrupt turnaround is certainly a shock, given that the singer referenced Valderrama in the Documentary 2017 as “my everything”. But the song’s damning lyrics explicitly reveal that she’s gained a lucid new perspective – a theme that rings true in many SAINT-FVCK16 songs.

While the album turns out to be a major sonic shift, SAINT-FVCK ultimately seems to serve two main purposes for Lovato: to represent the truest version of herself as an artist and to honor how far she has come on her journey.

“I’ve definitely been through a ton,” she said jimmy fallon during a visit in June to “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”. “It’s no secret…I got out of treatment [last year]and I realized that I really wanted to do this for myself and I wanted to make the best album possible – something that really represents who I am.

“I think the best way to do it — the easiest way to do something, the most authentic — is to do it cleanly and soberly,” she continued. “So I made this album clean and understated. I can’t say the same about my last album. But this one I’m really, really proud of.”

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