You have to feel for Demi Lovato. Currently one of the most ubiquitous pop stars in the biz, her new track is unlikely to generate much buzz when it’s up against what is probably the biggest release of the year so far – Taylor Swift’s ‘Look What You Made Me Do’. Still, that shouldn’t get one of pop’s most hardworking stars down, not least because her latest single isn’t half bad.
Now, I was no fan of Lovato’s previous release, the messy ‘Sorry Not Sorry’, and despite hearing it on the radio multiple times, my opinion hasn’t changed. But new single ‘Tell Me You Love Me’ makes a much better first impression.
A mid-tempo ballad, ‘Tell Me You Love Me’ positions Lovato as a needy love-pest, desperate for a morsel of affection to raise her spirits. It’s a fairly by-the-numbers love song, but some persuasive drumming and a third act key change give it an added oomph that makes for a worthwhile listen. Not only that, but a brassy accompaniment gives the track a hint of something classic, not quite Bond-esque, but a nice touch to an otherwise fairly sparse set-up.
At the moment, it feels as though female-led love songs are drawn to one of two extremes. The first is the more modern-day feminist approach of shrugging off the fuck boi in question in an assertion of independence, the woman insisting she’s better off without anyway. The second relies on a more traditional route that sees the woman take on a role of lovelorn victim, pining after a man who often shows her little attention, begging for his love. Lovato falls into the second category here, making the track quite an opposition to the care-free shrug-off of ‘Sorry Not Sorry’.
“I don’t know who I am without you,” Lovato declares, going on to insist “You ain’t nobody ‘til you got somebody.” And it’s like, are you sure, Demi? Fair enough if that’s how you feel but is that really your message here? That a person can never really be anything until they’ve got someone to hold their hand? It’s not exactly the empowerment anthem we’ve come to expect from our modern pop stars.
While Lovato has no problem hitting the notes, there’s still something about her voice that keeps the listener at arm’s length. It’s not that it’s anonymous or indistinct, but more that it becomes lost during the most dramatic moments. The same was true on ‘Sorry Not Sorry’. But this is more a criticism of the production than Lovato herself. Her vocals become semi-swallowed by a messy backing track that makes for a disconnect between Lovato and the listener.
‘Tell Me You Love Me’ is a decent please-like-me pop song, but one that leaves you thinking Lovato is still looking for the track that will truly propel her into the pop stratosphere. Surely it’s only a matter of time before she finds it, but for all its merits, ‘Tell Me You Love Me’ isn’t it.