Music is a mysterious art form. Understanding it is a little like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. You cannot really define or categorize it. Labelling something as pop, jazz or rock is rather silly as subjective, isn’t it? Music just exists. Exists with the purposes of to be listened to, enjoyed and communicate. That is why being a critic of music or concerts is rather a tricky thing. Film can be studied, understood and judged. Whereas music really is the relationship between the singer and the listener. You don’t even have to be a technically strong singer to have your music form an attachment with the person listening to it. Which is why singers like Bob Dylan, Gwen Stefani and Raine Maida can be popular without possessing great voices.
All this aside, you can go to a concert and enjoy it without really being a fan of the music or performer. Such is the case with me and Demi Lovato. As a fan of pop music I was familiar with her music and had acknowledged the fact that she possesses a strong voice. More accurately a true cannon of a voice. The girl can sing!
The Tell Me You Love Me tour is happening to support the release of her sixth album of the same title. Lovato is out on the road with DJ Khaled and young female R&B singer, Kehlani.
Not willing to be another one of the cookie cutter Disney music products, Lovato has always had an edge to her. Her addiction and mental health issues have been written about time and time again. This is because she has taken on the mantle of transparency and allowing herself to be vulnerable to her fans. She, while she sat at the piano before singing “Warrior”, spoke of how she wants more than just a music career. Wanting to have a positive effect upon her fans, she wants to talk about mental health and encourage those out there who are suffering to seek help. That she is a perfect example of someone who has and is now living a happy, healthy life.
It is that type of maturity which I wish would seep into her music. For the most part, it is still your typical pop tripe. About boys and sex. That is what most of her songs are about. Since her debut album in 2008, Lovato has tried on almost all of the pop or pop adjacent musical genres. Dance, R&B, latin, pop rock. They have all been donned like the numerous costumes she changes into during her 90-odd minute set. While her songs like the bi-curious (this was a very LGBTQ+ friendly show) “Cool for the Summer”, “Confident” and “Sorry Not Sorry” are all plenty of fun, I spend the show wondering if she will ever find music that befits her voice. Meaning the largely throw away pop songs are not up to the standards of her pipes.
That being said, the young woman has certainly made an impression and left a mark on many. Sitting (though she was rarely sitting) beside me was a female fan who was most certainly a Demi devotee. She knew all the lyrics and was up dancing along for most of the show. When Demi, in a quieter moment, talked about her difficult/estranged relationship with her father (suffered from mental illness and alcohol addiction) and how she wrote the song after he died as an attempt to reconcile with him, the female fan beside me was in tears. Demi’s words and the sentiment of the song obviously struck a chord. That is the sign of a true artist. No matter what you think of her music or pop music in general, the depth of connection was all over the fan’s face to be seen by anyone willing to look. The connection with the crowd was in evidence all night long. So much so, that when Demi was trying to speak she had to hush a few a couple of times. It was bigger than them.
During the show she did slow it down on occasion, moving out into the back of the crowd on a small circular stage with a bed (?) on it for a trio of slower songs and again when she sat down at the piano to sing “Warrior” and “Father”. Her voice with all its colour and range is perfectly suited for ballads. Unlike many of her contemporaries ballads do not seem out of place or just for show in her arsenal. Within these five songs there were a couple of booming vocal moments to be enjoyed. Nary a false note was hit here or on the entire evening.
Though she does possess a belter of a voice, she is wise enough not to dip into that bag of tricks too often. Yes, there were demos of long held notes and runs, but also she just allowed her voice to communicate the songs. Showing she is more than her voice. Lovato, though still only 25-years-old, is mature and sensible enough to know what she does well. Unlike many female artists today (yes, I am looking at you Katy Perry) she does not pretend to be a dancer during her shows. She moves around, but leaves most of the high level dancing to her bevy of back up dancers. Thank you, Demi. Thank you for realizing that you don’t have to engage in choreography in order to entertain during a big arena tour. Move around as you wish and as the music moves you.
Songs like “Confident” and “Sorry Not Sorry” make us think that Demi Lovato is a put together and strong woman and then at the next turn songs like “Tell Me You Love Me” and “Lonely” show one who is vulnerable and sometimes feels alone. Demi showing her true colours. She is one moment an insecure girl on a therapists couch and the next a sexy temptress mixing it up with a female dancer. Possessing the strength to illustrate how challenging it is to be a young woman today.
Yes, the woman is complicated, but, hey, that’s okay. That is kinda what we like in our divas, no?
You Don’t Do It for Me Anymore
Cool for the Summer
Sexy Dirty Love
Give Your Heart a Break
12. No Promises (Cheat Codes cover)
13. Échame La Culpa (duet with Luis Fonsi)
16. Smoke & Mirrors
17. Sorry Not Sorry
18. Tell Me You Love Me