Although pop singer Demi Lovato has only released two studio albums not associated with the Walt Disney Company, she has long since transcended the teeny-bopper image with which she came to prominence in the late aughts on Disney Channel. Indeed, her remarkable vocal ability was displayed immediately through the teen projects, propelling her forward in the music industry. Moreover, an early departure from her Disney Channel contract following a rehab stint in 2011 helped immensely in distancing herself from the youth-oriented acting ventures in which most of her peers at the time remained.
Since then, Demi Lovato has amassed an impressive discography for a musician her age, aided by her openness and advocacy based on her struggles with mental illness and addiction. When an entire generation spends their formative years watching and consuming an entertainer like Lovato, it creates bonds between an artist and their fanbase. Consequently, it leads to a great deal of pressure. When the singer publicly admitted to breaking her sobriety through a standalone single in 2018, a mere month later, she made worldwide headlines due to an opioid overdose. “I wanna be a role model, but I’m only human,” she sang then.
But what Demi Lovato and perhaps her management at the time failed to consider is that she became a much stronger role model due to her public falls from grace. When she returned to the limelight with a comeback album in 2021, it was both sassy and peaceful. But Lovato got her message across last year with her pop punk and hard rock-inspired LP Holy Fvck, where she fully harnesses the anger she’s been choking down for years — whether it be about herself, those she’s loved or an industry that still belittles women. “Dinner’s served, it’s on the floor / I can’t spoon-feed you anymore,” she yells.
That’s the role model that her young and old listeners need the most, the one being her unabashed self, everything else be damned. If you need some of that energy right now, these are 25 songs to make you a “Lovatic”.
25. “Confident” – Confident (2015)
The title single from Demi Lovato’s fifth studio album, Confident, saw her collaborating with pop music powerhouses like Max Martin in an attempt to be the quintessential feminine pop star that Western culture so desperately craves. But the singer has since admitted that she felt the least confident during that time. “I was excited that I was in a comfortable place in my body to show more skin, but what I was doing to myself was so unhealthy,” she said in 2021. “It was from a place of, ‘I’ve worked really fucking hard on starving and following this diet, and I’m going to show off my body in this photo shoot because I deserve it.’ [But] I wasn’t confident at all. I had false confidence because I was conforming to everybody else’s ideals.”
As a result, it’s a bit difficult to enjoy “Confident” as the exercise-friendly pump-up song that it was back in 2015. But in an interesting twist, Lovato included the track on the setlist from her latest world tour, suggesting that perhaps she’s since tried to reclaim the confident lyrics from the better place she’s in now. Nonetheless, it’s a good song. Is it her best work? No. But will it make you want to harness some of your inner power upon first listening? Yes.
24. “Unbroken” – Unbroken (2011)
A common fact among modern pop albums from the 2010s is that the fewer singles released from the record, the more underrated it is. This is undoubtedly the case with Demi Lovato’s third studio album, Unbroken, arguably her first so-called comeback album following her choice to leave Disney Channel after spending time in rehab for emotional issues and an eating disorder. Unbroken experiments with more elements of R&B than her previous pop-rock-infused work. Contrary to popular belief, Lovato is strongest when leaning into soul and R&B influences.
But this title track, in particular, is more dance-pop than anything else: she laments to being locked up tight in some kind of love prison, and now she’s able to feel everything she couldn’t before, so she’s going to love you like she’s never been broken. But the “broken” she’s referring to here is not necessarily from a relationship, but rather her fractured relationship with herself and the public that occurred due to her punching a backup dancer during a tour with the Jonas Brothers in late 2010. As a result, “Unbroken” is peppy and motivational, urging its listener to take back some or all of what’s been taken from them.
23. “Heart Attack” – Demi (2013)
Although Demi Lovato had more than displayed her vocal prowess during her earlier pop-rock records, the release of “Heart Attack” as the lead single from her eponymous fourth album Demi genuinely cemented her as one of the most talented vocalists of her generation. Venturing into a bit more commercially viable pop after Unbroken, “Heart Attack” is the quintessential pop anthem from an ex-Disney star, satisfying all of the boxes. It might not look like much when examined under a critical lens, but it’s still one of her best songs based on the vocals alone.
The song had neared overplayed status, whether on pop radio or Lovato’s setlists until the singer recently released a new rerecorded version of the single for its tenth anniversary—with a punk/hard rock twist. “Heart Attack (Rock Version)” breathes new life into an otherwise tired track, once again reminding the general public that despite all of her quirks, Lovato is, first and foremost, a vocalist and a damn good one at that.
22. “Daddy Issues” – Tell Me You Love Me (2017)
Fun fact: “For the Love of a Daughter”, a track included on the Unbroken album, was written and first recorded to be included on Demi Lovato’s second studio album, Here We Go Again, while she was still on Disney Channel. Its lyrics lament her broken relationship with her biological father, a recurring theme in her later music. But her management discouraged its inclusion on Here We Go Again, thinking it might be too heavy for her young fanbase. This is why I find it almost comical that Lovato reached a place in her career where she could record and release an up-tempo pop song called “Daddy Issues” about, well, just that.
Rather than the overemotional pleas to put the bottle down for the love of a daughter, this track pokes fun at Lovato’s commitment and emotional issues. “You’re the man of my dreams ’cause you know how to leave,” she sings. Not to mention all the therapy she’s been through—a powerful admission, even for a sassy, fun-loving track. “Daddy Issues” is a defining moment of Lovato’s Tell Me You Love Me album, a record that tried its best to get at the core of who the singer thought she was at that time.
21. “Cool For the Summer” – Confident (2015)
I honestly hated this song when it was first released. The lead single from the Confident album, its manic production, was in stark contrast to the Demi Lovato I listened to alone at my computer, silently attaching my emotional issues to every ballad’s lyrics. It makes sense now that Lovato was trying to be something she was not during this era because Confident is undoubtedly one of her weakest albums. But once I could hear “Cool For the Summer” objectively and outside my bias, it’s one of her strongest singles.
Not only because it’s an earworm but because it so obviously deals with queerness and same-sex experimentation in its lyrics. Everything weak about Confident aside, “Cool For the Summer” is the closest Lovato could have come to the feminine pop star ideal she was trying to accomplish during that time. It’s a great single, and it’s very gay, so we can enjoy it for what it is.
20. “Here We Go Again” – Here We Go Again (2009)
It’s no mystery why Demi Lovato felt compelled to return to her pop-rock roots with her latest album Holy Fvck because despite reaching new heights in other areas of pop in the years to follow, she knows just how cathartic a good 2000s-esque pop-rock anthem can be. “Here We Go Again” is one of them. Similar to the vocal skill she would later display on “Heart Attack”, this song is different in that it never really gets old. Perhaps there’s a factor of nostalgia in the songs from Lovato’s first two albums, but “Here We Go Again” was proof that the singer was in a league of her own as a vocalist, more in line with Kelly Clarkson or Pink rather than Hilary Duff or Selena Gomez. It might’ve been clear during her first record, Don’t Forget, but it became obvious with the release of Here We Go Again and its title single that Lovato excelled more in music than in any other area she was attempting to stretch herself.
19. “My Love Is Like a Star” – Unbroken (2011)
Another underrated offering from Unbroken, “My Love Is Like a Star”, reads as a love letter from Demi Lovato to her fanbase that did not leave her side during her first stint in rehab. The singer was far from the first teeny-bopper, so to speak: there was Hilary Duff before her and Annette Funicello long before that. So Lovato did not invent the concept of a female teen star talking directly to her fans, primarily impressionable teenagers who would support her, personally and commercially, no matter what. But she perfected this technique for the modern era. As she reminds her listeners in “My Love Is Like a Star”, you can’t always see her, but you know she’s always there.
This was a powerful message for young fans who might have also been struggling with many of the same issues Lovato had faced up until that time, including but not limited to bullying and self-harm. It means a lot to have a public figure you look up to suffering from some of the same struggles as you, especially as a teenage girl. Even I was a teenage boy and felt the same attachment to Lovato due to the song. Among its most powerful lyrics are, “Oh look at how far we’ve come.” It binds the artist and listener in one of the most intimate ways possible.
18. “Catch Me” – Here We Go Again (2009)
Members of Demi Lovato’s fanbase are quick to proclaim Here We Go Again as her best album, primarily because of her strength in pop-rock. Opinions vary, but it’s generally unanimous that “Catch Me” is among the album’s best work, given that it was entirely self-written by Lovato. The fanbase loves it because of its intimate and comforting sound, but its real strength lies in the lyrics: she pleads with a lover that she doesn’t want to be caught if she falls; she’s able to pick herself up.
But by the song’s end, she gives in and tells them to catch her. It’s just a metaphor for falling in love, but it also refers to how we must find our places in the world. At first, we’re most likely shy and standoffish, not wanting to let anybody get close. But sooner or later, we release that we can’t have life without relying on others occasionally, so we must let ourselves fall and be caught sometimes. I’m sure Lovato was writing about love when she wrote “Catch Me”, but it’s always struck me as a more profound offering than it’s given credit for.