Brazen from the word go, Confident is the bare-it-all fifth album from twenty-three-year-old Demi Lovato. Like others from her Disney Channel cohort (Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez), Lovato has turned her back on the squeaky-clean image, displaying a frank engagement with questioning sexuality, broken relationships and mental health issues. The album initially blares with attitude; “What’s wrong with being confident?” Lovato purrs on the title track amid raunchy brass and percussion. Likewise the grinding guitars and cheeky “ooOOooOOoo’s” that form the lynchpin of hit Cool For The Summer’s Sapphic sex appeal demonstrate all the makings of a bona fide pop star. But Wait! A mere two tracks in and the façade crumbles revealing a fragile and emotionally fraught soul beneath. Confident nosedives from its arrogant beginnings into the murky world of anxiety, packaged as stirring pop music.
Despite Lovato’s self-assuredness that the record demonstrates exactly who she wants to be, there is a distinct lack of cohesiveness to Confident. From track to track, Demi’s vocals are a bit all over the place. The sloppy ballad Stone Cold exhibits a raspy warble that loses composure as she strains to be Aguilerian, rendering it more irritating than it ought to be. Yet on the previous song For You, Lovato opts for an ethereally auto-tuned breathiness. Only when she finally lets loose at the end of Old Ways – borrowing heavily from Katy Perry’s Dark Horse – does she reach the anguish-filled high notes found on the likes of 2013’s Heart Attack. Ironically, it’s up in these vocal rafters where Lovato appears most comfortable and showcases a more personal sense of artistry.
Keen to appeal to an edgier audience, Kingdom Come and Waitin’ For You feature guest rappers Iggy Azalea and Sirah respectively. The former rehashes Azalea’s hit Black Widow, and while Iggy’s verse showcases her most imaginative wordplay yet, it remains lazy and lacklustre – a true testimonial to her talent. Sonically, Kingdom Come swims through languid trap beats, rife with auto-tune and the same orgasmic gasps your mates make behind your back when on the phone to your mum. No prizes for figuring out what the meaning behind “So sit me on your throne” is…
The remainder of the record stews in its own pseudo-sultriness. Winning the award for Confident’s biggest misnomer, Wildfire is more dying ember than roaring inferno as it plods along. Indeed, gloopy power ballad Lionheart is a similar snooze-fest; so overwrought, the lyrics melt into incomprehensible sound. I found myself begging what happened to the bravado the record opened with. Indeed, closing number Father is so polar-opposite to Confident that I had little empathy for the pain stricken lyrics regarding the passing of Lovato’s estranged dad as it came across a tad ridiculous.
I’ll give Demi her dues, Confident contains flickers of alluring pop magic that revel in a sexiness I expected to percolate through the entire album. Unfortunately these are bundled into the first ten minutes and have disappeared entirely by the end. For an artist five albums in, on a record displaying a high degree of autobiographical lyrical content, I still left Confident not knowing who Demi Lovato actually is. There seemed to be a disconnect between her intentions and what message was actually being received by the listener. I applaud her confidence to air her mistakes and the process of personal growth, but what else the album brings to the table, I’m not sure.