“Confident,” released on Oct. 16, is singer Demi Lovato’s third studio album since escaping the clutches of Disney, and with each passing day she seems to reveal more of the assertive personality that was initially held back. Appearing in the star-making Disney Channel film “Camp Rock” seven years ago, her protagonist was shy and insecure. As for Lovato in 2015, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
On the eponymous opening track, Lovato flies out of the gates alongside a stampede of drums, with a forceful horn heralding her entrance, and quickly gets down to business. “I used to hold my freak back/Now I’m letting go,” she sends in the direction of her former employer in the song’s opening verse. The chorus asks whether or not there is something wrong with being confident, and you would have trouble giving Lovato a suitable answer.
The following two tracks are similarly brash statements. The production remains high energy for pop-hit “Cool for the Summer,” which uses a catchy piano loop to soundtrack an artistic curveball. Following that is “Old Ways,” which addresses Lovato’s well-publicized personal struggles early and effectively. “Not goin’ back to my old ways,” Lovato repeats confidently, for lack of a better word.
“Confident” settles into a relaxed groove after that, embarking on a series of similar sounding ballads that move the subject matter into a more romantic territory. After the bombastic opening, this is a disappointment. The production and melodies that appear during this stretch simply are not as compelling.
Luckily for Lovato, she has one of those voices that could elevate anything it touches, and she never gives anything less than full effort. She turns the straightforward “Stone Cold” into something much greater on the power of her notes alone. The same goes for hip-hop influenced “Kingdom Come,” which Lovato raises to great heights before Iggy Azalea appears with an ugly guest verse to drag it all the way back down.
Lovato’s voice is her greatest asset by far, as it lends undeniable muscle to otherwise forgettable songs. This helps to carry the album through its second-half slump to its stunning final track. That track, titled “Father,” uses minimal instrumentation to score a heartbreaking, troubled tribute to Lovato’s recently deceased father. It serves as an extremely effective conclusion to an album shaped by emotion.
That emotion is Lovato’s greatest strength. She is unafraid to lay everything out on a record, hoping to galvanize listeners into a similar state of self-concept. Of course, when you have a voice of her magnitude, it makes sending messages that much easier.
“Confident” is far from perfect, but it knows what it is. That in itself is a huge success for Lovato, who puts maximum effort into imploring listeners to follow that very same mindset. Her album titles have always served as succinct thesis statements, and “Confident” may be the clearest one yet; it nearly makes a full review superfluous. Lovato won’t be listening anyway.
Tyler Keating is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.