Earlier this year Demi Lovato posted a picture on Instagram captioned: “A funeral for my pop music”. Flanked by their team all dressed in black, Lovato is seen raising both middle fingers, defiantly staring down the camera. This picture was later revealed to be a breadcrumb for their eighth studio album ‘Holy Fvck’, one which sees the star swap epic pop balladry and earworm summer smashes for head-banging guitar solos, ferocious riffs and roaring vocals.
It’s by no means an entirely new sonic palette for Lovato: their debut album ‘Don’t Forget’ – released in 2008 when the star was still a Disney Channel staple, and largely co-written by the Jonas Brothers – was a sugar-rush pop-rock record. ‘Holy Fvck’ dials this up a notch, further delving into her rockier roots and fusing these sounds with candid lyrics that detail the artist’s own experiences.
For example, album opener ‘Freak’, a growling team-up with pop-punk disruptor Yungblud, sees Lovato swipe at the public’s obsession with celebrity culture (“Get your tickets to the freak show, baby / Step right up to watch the freak go crazy”). Meanwhile the ‘Celebrity Skin’-evoking ‘Skin of My Teeth’ honestly addresses addiction, the track opening with the powerhouse couplet: “Demi leaves rehab again / When is this shit gonna end”. Later, Lovato bravely reveals: “Goddamn it, I just wanna be free / But I can’t ’cause it’s a fucking disease”.
Throughout the album, Lovato plays with the heavier sounds: ‘Substance’ and the saucy ‘City of Angels’ are cantering pop-punk moments, ‘Eat Me’ a Bring Me The Horizon-style smasher. ‘Heaven’, meanwhile, answers the question: “what would happen if Queens of the Stone Age collaborated with Billie Eilish?”
It’s in these high-octane moments that ‘Holy Fvck’ soars, but slower, saccharine cuts such as ‘Happy Ending’, ‘4 Ever 4 Me’ and ‘Wasted’ strip away this verve, padding out the record’s bloated 16-song track-list. Of course, Lovato’s powerhouse vocals shine throughout, dripping with emotion and demonstrating impressive gymnastics, but even they can’t fully lift the U2 sway of ‘Come Together’. Yet all is forgiven when you have a tune like the sultry ‘Bones’ in your back pocket. With its throbbing Royal Blood riffs and Lovato’s purred chorus that begins with the no-nonsense declaration “Let me jump your bones”, it’s a mosh-pit inducing mating call.
If ‘Holy Fvck’ is a funeral for Lovato’s pop music, it also marks a new beginning, with an artist reborn. As the musician explores this ferocious sonic world and celebrating her musical roots, it’s the start of a bold new era.
Release date: August 19
Record label: Island