Demi Lovato needs no introduction. They have been a staple on television for years, from Disney Channel’s hit film Camp Rock to the judge’s seat on The X Factor USA. They’re an outstanding powerhouse vocalist known for dabbling in a variety of genres, such as pop, rock, EDM, and R&B. Their eighth studio album, HOLY FVCK supersedes expectations in the best way possible. Longtime fans who loved Don’t Forget and Here We Go Again will be pleased to hear the star returning to their punk-rock roots.
However, while it may elicit nostalgia, this album stands out among the rest due to its insatiable intensity, clever biblical allusions, and level of emotional transparency that’s unexpected even for Lovato.
Everyone has their own opinions on artists’ lives and how they choose to navigate their fame. Oftentimes these opinions are not only unwarranted, but detrimental to the artist themselves. “EAT ME” featuring Royal & The Serpent starts off strong by mimicking the constant criticism Lovato receives: “Be more predictable / Be less political / Not too original / Keep to tradition, but stay individual.” In other words — be perfect. It’s an impossible feat to reach without sacrificing pieces of themselves bit by bit. Listeners can feel the exasperation radiating from each syllable.
Based on the length of the project, it’s evident that they have a lot to say. Fortunately, it’s all worth hearing! “HAPPY ENDING” is arguably the most tear-jerking song of the sixteen tracks. It concerns the double-edged sword of being perceived as a role model, yet overlooked as a human being. “Sure, I’m sober now / And everybody’s proud / But I miss my vices.”
The pressure to just get better and find happiness as though it’s so easy must weigh heavy on the heart. Especially when people have convinced themselves that they know who you are better than you do. A sentiment even better expressed on “SKIN OF MY TEETH,” an infectious anthem with fierce lyrics: “I don’t need you to keep score / When I’m the one who’s at war.”
“SUBSTANCE” essentially ponders the meaning of life and acknowledges that there is more to it than meets the eye. But where is it? And why is everyone acting oblivious? They address the elephant in the room and ask, “Woah, I know we’re all fucking exhausted / Woah, am I in my head or have we all lost it?” No, Demi, you’re definitely not alone! Truth is, most of us aren’t okay.
Everyday we distract ourselves from reality with celebrity gossip, material superficiality, and the most damaging culprit of them all: money. Especially the go-go-go expectations of the entertainment industry, which demands a person’s worth be outlined by dollar signs. Only for them to be casted aside once a select few are no longer profiting. What will come of us if we continue to live like this? We’re constantly settling for less at the expense of our happiness, sense of community, and the beauty of the present moment.
In “29” they’re candid about the predatory nature of a past relationship: “Finally twenty-nine / Seventeen would never cross my mind.” Traumatic experiences and its consequences are a major theme on this project, which will undoubtedly be relatable to many listeners with similar stories. Another notable track being “DEAD FRIENDS,” a grief-stricken tribute to their friends who have passed, and the survivor’s guilt that remains.
Lovato’s voice is low and pungent on the title track “HOLY FVCK,” where it’s made clear that their power is not to be underestimated. They’re not one-dimensional, but instead a polarizing duality. Both the angel and the devil on your shoulder. Everything to fear and everything to desire. A seducer lying in wait, ready to snap when you least expect it. The sensual aura is intoxicating: “I’m the fruit that was forbidden / But don’t keep my evil hidden.”
A personal favorite along the same lines is “FEED.” The melody is addicting as imagery of their opposing inner forces battling for domination is painted. “I’ve got two wolves inside of me / But I decide which one to feed.” Never completely losing control, they’re both the judge and the jury of their own destiny.
Meanwhile, “HEAVEN,” a dark and zealous ode to self-pleasure, marks a transitional period where we begin to hear more songs about the sweet relief of falling in love. Their usual gritty tone is softened on “COME TOGETHER” as they gush over a fairytale love affair. Similarly, the closing track “4 EVER 4 ME” is quite a satisfying finale after spending so long indulging in the ash of poised fury.
I believe music acts as the soul’s way of communicating who we really are at our core. Demi Lovato in particular, thrives in collaboration with heavy percussion and invigorating electric guitar strings. For years, they’ve graciously shared vulnerable parts of themselves with the world, encouraging us to be authentic regardless of any judgements doused in malice that may come our way.
HOLY FVCK is best described as a deeply personal body of work that embraces the pure, unmitigated beauty of a soul’s vehement journey toward contentment. And knowing Demi Lovato, they’ll only get better and better with time.