Dancing With The Devil... The Art Of Starting Over (originally titled The Art of Starting Over) is the seventh studio album by Demi Lovato. It was released on April 2, 2021 through Island Records and was recorded alongside a docu-series by YouTube Originals, titled Dancing With The Devil, which documents their recovery and self-discovery. The album follows a reformative period in Lovato's life and career, after being hospitalized for a drug overdose in 2018. It includes a collaboration with Ariana Grande, Sam Fischer, Noah Cyrus and Saweetie on the standard version of the album, while Sam Smith and Marshmello are featured on the digital expanded edition of the album.
Background and development
Following the release of Lovato's previous studio album Tell Me You Love Me (2017), they took a hiatus from their career following their 2018 hospitalization and subsequent treatment for a drug overdose. In May 2019, Lovato revealed they had signed with a new manager, Scooter Braun, and confirmed to Teen Vogue the following November that new music was coming, stating "I didn't say when — now I'm just teasing you. It's important to remember that I am so cautious this time around of jumping back into things. I've really decided to take my time with things. When the time is right, I will put it out there. I am dying to release new music ... but everything in due time." Lovato made their first musical appearance since their hiatus with a performance of single "Anyone" at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards in January 2020. Through 2020 Lovato released further stand-alone solo singles "I Love Me" and "Still Have Me" and collaborations "I'm Ready" with Sam Smith and "OK Not To Be OK" with Marshmello. Lovato also released "Commander In Chief" as a political ballad ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Planned for release in 2020, Lovato's seventh studio album was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lovato's first music release of 2021 was the single "What Other People Say" in collaboration with Australian singer Sam Fischer. The release and title of Dancing with the Devil... the Art of Starting Over was subsequently announced on March 16, 2021. Lovato explained that the original title was just The Art of Starting Over, but they then decided to give it a double title to reflect the importance of "the darker opening songs" on the album. During a livestream on the audio-chat app Clubhouse, Lovato explained about the album, "If you listen to it track by track, if you follow the track listing, it's kind of actually like the non-official soundtrack to the documentary. Because it really does follow my life over the past couple of years. When we went through the track listing and kind of mapped out how it kind of coincided with my life's story, it made sense to add the more emotional stuff in the beginning and then transition into 'The Art of Starting Over'". Lovato also revealed three collaborations with female artists on the album: Ariana Grande, Saweetie, and Noah Cyrus.
A promotional website was launched for the album, where its artwork and pre-save link was released on March 16, 2021. The album serves as a companion piece to Dancing With The Devil, a YouTube Originals docu series, which began release on March 23, 2021. Both projects focus on Lovato's near fatal 2018 overdose for the first time, while also exploring their life and path to healing in the time since.
- "Anyone" was released on January 26, 2020, as the album's lead single.
- "What Other People Say" was released on February 4, 2021, as the album's second single.
- "Dancing With The Devil" was released on March 26, 2021, as the album's third single.
- "Met Him Last Night" was released on April 1, 2021 and was listed as a separate single on Spotify pages. It was serviced to contemporary hit radio in the United States on April 13, 2021.
- "I Love Me" was released on March 6, 2020. The song was included on the expanded edition.
- "I'm Ready" was released on April 16, 2020. The song was included on the expanded edition
- "OK Not To Be OK" was released on September 10, 2020. The song was included on the expanded edition.
Primarily a pop record, Dancing with the Devil... the Art of Starting Over also includes pop rock, country pop, folk-pop and R&B elements. At the premiere event for the documentary, Lovato described the album as their "most cohesive project" ever made. Lovato described the songs as a mashup of genres, including R&B, country, and pop. Vulture references rock songs on the album, describing "Lonely People" and "Melon Cake" as "anthemic '80s pop-rock", while "The Art Of Starting Over" and "The Kind Of Lover I Am" are described as "yacht rock". "My Girlfriends Are My Boyfriend" and "Met Him Last Night]" are described as having a contemporary R&B flair. Lastly, some songs on the album, such as "15 Minutes", "The Way You Don't Look At Me", and "What Other People Say" are described as "pop-country" and "folk-pop" with guitar-driven instrumentals and earnest oversharing. The first three tracks of Dancing With The Devil... The Art Of Starting Over are listed as "Prelude", and consist of "power ballads chronicling Lovato's darkest days" before moving into their recovery.
The opening track and lead single "Anyone" was compared by Olivia Truffaut-Wong of Bustle with Lovato's 2011 single "Skyscraper", which was also deemed as their musical comeback following their stint at a treatment center in 2010 for issues with bulimia and self-harm. Bryan Rolli of Forbes opined the lyrics talk about the singer's "feelings of isolation and anguish", as exemplified in the chorus, "Anyone, please send me anyone / Lord, is there anyone? / I need someone". The second track and third single "Dancing With The Devil" was described by Billboard as "powerful" and "confessional". Entertainment Weekly opined that it "evokes Adele's "Skyfall" theme. The third track, "ICU (Madison's Lullabye)", is a "stark piano ballad" which "echoes a key scene in her documentary in which Lovato wakes up post-overdose, temporarily blind, and can't recognize her sister sitting at her bedside". Playing the song privately for their younger sister was "a really emotional and personal experience" for Lovato.
Following the spoken-word interlude "Intro", the fifth track "The Art Of Starting Over" was compared by Entertainment Weekly to "early Stevie Nicks", with Lovato describing it as "the perfect driving song", while adding, "There's been so many times in my life where I've had to start over once again, whether I felt like I've hit rock bottom, or after a breakup. We can pull ourselves back up and keep fighting the good fight." The "guitar driven" Oak Felder-produced sixth track "Lonely People" was inspired by "a text from [Lovato] about how even if they were happier single, it could still be lonely", while the seventh track "The Way You Don't Look At Me" was described by Entertainment Weekly as a "standout track with a swirling, melodic hook" with Lovato singing, "I've lost 10 pounds in two weeks, 'cause I told me I shouldn't eat" and "I'm so scared if I undress that you won't love me after". Co-writer Justin Tranter stated that "it's this very intimate, raw, heartbreaking song, but there's this beauty to it, because of how it sounds and it feels, and Demi's vocal performance on that really destroys me". The eighth track "Melon Cake" contains lyrics referring to Lovato's struggles with eating disorders; described as "punchy" and a "plinky-plunky bop about the bad old days when Lovato struggled with pressure 'to make me Barbie-sized'". The Ariana Grande collaboration "Met Him Last Night" was referred to by NME as a "dark and atmospheric electro bop".
The tenth track and second single "What Other People Say" is a collaboration with Australian singer-songwriter Sam Fischer, and is about the "feeling of being alone and not wanting to let people down". Lovato said, "This song is a reflection on what it's like to lose who you truly are in an effort to please other people and society. It's why I wanted to make this song with Sam – ultimately it's about two humans coming together to connect and find solutions to their problems". Fischer described that the song as "about the pressures of society and how getting caught up with the wrong things can change you". Eleventh track "Carefully" "combines acoustic guitar and a Nineties electro-pulse" with the lyrics "approach with caution/ I can get overwhelming... Cause I'm strong in a way that I'm able to show my fragile". The twelfth track "The Kind Of Lover I Am", a "lightly funky number", was compared with Harry Styles' 2019 single "Watermelon Sugar" and features the lyrics "Doesn't matter if you're a woman or a man, that's the kind of lover I am", with Lovato elaborating that "I'm a very fluid person when it comes to sexuality, so I wanted to write a song about that. That's something that I hadn't written about since 'Cool for the Summer'. But this isn't about bi-curiosity anymore. It's a part of who I am and I feel very secure in that". The "savagely upbeat" track "15 Minutes", features Lovato "neatly turn[ing] claims from her ex-fiancé that she was trading on their breakup for clout right back around" with the lyric "Good riddance — you got your 15 minutes".
"My Girlfriends Are My Boyfriend", featuring Saweetie, includes "Billie Eilish-esque close-mic'd vocals and staccato electronics". "California Sober" is a "strummy mid-tempo" which "explains where Lovato is at with her recovery today". "Butterfly" discusses "the complicated relationship" they had with their biological father, who passed away in 2013. "Good Place", the last track of the standard edition of the album, "makes further use of acoustic guitar balladry to celebrate her recovery".
|Consequence of Sound||B|
|The Daily Telegraph|||
|The Line of Best Fit||7/10|
Dancing with the Devil... the Art of Starting Over received generally positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from publications, the album received a weighted average score of 73, based on 13 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
In positive reviews, Robin Murray of Clash hailed Dancing with the Devil... the Art of Starting Over "an ambitious and hugely revealing journey into pop redemption", and praised the combination of darkness with lightness. He noted that the album, after the first three tracks, progresses into a more uplifting direction. Jeffrey Davies of PopMatters described the album as "Demi Lovato like we have never heard before". He added that the singer is "sassy and carefree" yet "serious about her identity and personhood" and praised the creative freedom on display. Awarding the album a perfect score, Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph lauded Dancing with the Devil... The Art of Starting Over, calling it "the perfect contemporary pop artefact" that mixes intimate ballads with upbeat club tracks, and admired the progression of its tracks. Nick Levine of NME wrote that the album is Lovato's "definitive artistic statement to date", further describing the album as "musically varied and lyrically unvarnished: an album of 'take me as I am' jams that to an extent", recalling Pink's 2001 album Wikipedia:Missundaztood.
Dubbing it an album about "death that is full of life", Kate Solomon from I declared that Lovato had achieved a cohesiveness to the album not present on previous efforts, "by echoing the peaks and troughs of recovery, the moments of pure relief and joy at being alive elevating even the minor swings and misses". Helen Brown, writing for The Independent, stated that the Lovato "embraces independence" on the album, through confessional themes, emotional authenticity and powerful delivery. Mark Richardson of The Wall Street Journal wrote that, while Lovato's previous album Tell Me You Love Me (2017) "found her embracing R&B and club-ready electronic pop", Dancing with the Devil ... the Art of Starting Over "is much more subdued" and that it is "certainly a recovery narrative, but the details of her story, many of which make it into these songs, are almost unbearably harrowing." Reviewing for The Line of Best Fit, Rachel Saywitz remarked that there are more "gems than duds" in the album, in which Lovato experiments more than their past releases, both musically and vocally.
A few reviews expressed mixed feelings. Alexis Petridis of The Guardian commented that the album is "simultaneously shocking, laudable" but thought it was "a little underwhelming". Evening Standard 's David Smyth felt that Lovato "reaches too easily for cliches" in the album, as the "polished pop inhibits her power". Consequence of Sound critic Mary Siroky appreciated Lovato's vocals, but found the latter half of the record "forgettable". Questioning whether the album "is a work of art, an exhale, and a reclamation, rather than an opportunity to profit", Siroky asserted that it is powerful to see Lovato continue making music inspired by their bravery, however, "it would be nice to see a day when she doesn't have to be so brave anymore and can instead create joyfully and freely". Rolling Stone's Keith Harris concluded that Dancing with the Devil… The Art of Starting Over "delivers" what it suggests in the first half of its title, while skimping on the second half. He explained that Lovato's hurdles are efficiently portrayed in the album, but is unclear "how she wants to begin again." Chris Willman of Variety complimented Lovato's vocals, though was concerned over the "overtly autobiographical" numbers, some of which are "pretty good" while few others are "not-so-hot", resulting in an "unevenness". He picked "The Way You Don't Look at Me", "Melon Cake" and "California Sober" as the highlights and dismissed the Ariana Grande and Saweetie collaborations as letdowns.
In the United States, Dancing with the Devil... the Art of Starting Over opened at number two on the Billboard 200 with 74,000 album-equivalent units, which included 38,000 pure sales, making it the highest-selling album of that week and their seventh in a row to reach the country's top five. The album also debuted at number two on the UK Albums Chart with sales of 20,183 album-equivalent units (of which 2,849 were streaming sales), becoming Lovato's highest-charting album in the country. In Australia, it entered at number 8 on the ARIA Albums Chart and is their third album to reach the nation's top 10 after Confident and Tell Me You Love Me.
|1.||"Anyone"||Demi Lovato, Bibi Bourelly, Eyelar Mirzazadeh, Jay Mooncie, Sam Roman, Dayyon Alexander||Alexander||3:48|
|2.||"Dancing With The Devil"||Lovato, Mitch Allan, Bianca Atterberry, John Ho||Allan||4:03|
|3.||"ICU (Madison's Lullabye)"||Lovato, Atterberry, Philip Cornish||Cornish||3:16|
|5.||"The Art Of Starting Over"||Lovato, Caroline Pennell, Oak Felder, Trevor Brown, William Simmons||Felder, Tr. Brown, Zaire Koalo||2:47|
|6.||"Lonely People"||Lovato, Pennell, Justin Tranter, Billy Walsh, Felder, Tr. Brown, Simmons||Felder, Tr. Brown, Koalo||2:40|
|7.||"The Way You Don't Look At Me"||Lovato, Julia Michaels, Pennell, Tranter, Jussifer, Eren Cannata||Jussifer, Cannata||2:28|
|8.||"Melon Cake"||Lovato, Michaels, Tranter, Cannata||Cannata||3:32|
|9.||"Met Him Last Night" (featuring Ariana Grande)||Grande, Albert Stanaj, Tommy Brown, Xavier Herrera||Brown, Herrera||3:24|
|10.||"What Other People Say" (with Sam Fischer)||Lovato, Geoff Warburton, Ryan Williamson, Fischer||Williamson||3:14|
|11.||"Carefully"||Pennell, Lauren Aquilina, Marcus Andersson||Aquilina, Andersson||3:11|
|12.||"The Kind Of Lover I Am"||Lovato, Michaels, Pennell, Tranter, Felder, Tr. Brown, Simmons||Felder, Tr. Brown, Koalo||3:09|
|13.||"Easy" (with Noah Cyrus)||Taylor Goldsmith, Madison Love, Simon Wilcox, Matthew Koma||Koma||3:28|
|14.||"15 Minutes"||Lovato, Tranter, Atterberry, Gregory Hein, Felder, Tr. Brown, Simmons||Felder, Tr. Brown, Koalo||2:51|
|15.||"My Girlfriends Are My Boyfriend" (featuring Saweetie)||Lovato, Saweetie, Love, Michael Pollack, Andrew Wansel, Felder||Pop & Oak||3:07|
|16.||"California Sober"||Lovato, Pennell, Aquilina, Andersson, Felder, Alex Niceforo, Sam Homaee, Jon Wienner, Keith Sorrells||Oak, Alex Nice, The Roommates, Sorrells||3:05|
|17.||"Mad World"||Roland Orzabal||Allan||3:02|
|18.||"Butterfly"||Pennell, Aquilina, Andersson||Aquilina, Andersson||2:37|
|19.||"Good Place"||Lovato, Michaels, Tranter, Cannata||Cannata||3:04|
|Alternate cover and UK release bonus track|
|20.||"Gray"||Lovato, Felder, Brown, Simmons, Caroline Ailin, Tranter||Oak, Downtown, Koalo||3:11|
|Target edition bonus tracks and international physical deluxe edition|
|20.||"I'm Sorry"||Ryan Vojtesak, Chloe Angelides,||Charlie Handsome, Allan||3:37|
|21.||"Change You"||Michael Woods, Kevin White, Angelides||Rice N' Peas, Allan||3:09|
|Expanded digital edition|
|20.||"I Love Me"||Lovato, Anne-Marie, Jennifer Decilveo, Niceforo, Sean Douglas, Sorrells, Felder||Niceforo, Sorrells, Felder||3:23|
|21.||"I'm Ready"||Lovato, Sam Smith, Ilya Salmanzadeh, Savan Kotecha, Peter Svensson||Ilya||3:20|
|22.||"OK Not To Be OK"||Lovato, Gregory Hein, James Gutch, James Nicholas Bailey, Marshmello||Marshmello||2:39|
|Deluxe edition track listing|
|20.||"Sunset"||Lovato, Atterberry, Pollack, Tr. Brown, Simmons||Tr. Brown||4:04|
|21.||"Anyone" (Live Acoustic)||Lovato, Bourelly, Roman, Mirzazadeh, Mooncie, Alexander||Alexander, D'Elia||3:42|
|22.||"Dancing With The Devil" (live acoustic)||Lovato, Atterberry, Ho, Allan||Allan, Ho||4:10|
|23.||"ICU (Madison's Lullabye)" (live acoustic)||Lovato, Atterberry, Cornish||Phil the Keys, Allan||3:29|
- "Anyone", "Dancing With The Devil", and "ICU (Madison's Lullabye)" are listed as Prelude.
- The rest of the tracks on the album are listed as "The Art of Starting Over"
- "Mad World" is a cover of the song of the same name, as written by Roland Orzabal and originally performed by Tears for Fears.
- "I Love Me" was originally intended to be the lead single off of the album, but it was removed from the final tracklist. The song was later included on the expanded edition.
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Dancing With The Devil... The Art Of Starting Over
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