** (out of four)
We gravitate toward pop stars for many reasons: They provide unmistakable glamor, a worldview so unique it offers an escape and, sometimes, large-scale public drama. Perhaps most fundamentally, pop music gives us the illusion that its creator has tapped into some great cosmic secret only expressible in song.
Former child star and current grown-up star Demi Lovato offers none of these things. She doesn't provide a concrete idea we can all latch onto, nor does she even give us a blank slate onto which we can project. Instead, she's like the person who always posts pictures of inspirational quotes on Facebook, giving us something obvious that we could have found somewhere else.
So it's odd that her fourth album is called “Demi”: There's no revelation about who Demi is, no essential Demi-ness that would distinguish this music from an album called “Rihanna” or “Katy,” other than the fact that those artists would be instantly recognizable. Does the world need another pulsing, synth-driven dance track with processed vocals like “Neon Lights”? Are we going to gain anything from the guitars predictably welling into a four-on-the-floor chorus about being unpredictable, as on “Fire Starter”? Will we be uplifted by the paint-by-numbers, overcoming-the-struggle piano ballad of “Warrior”? Maybe. They're all well-made songs, but they're indistinct and lifeless. Over the course of the album, the material becomes hard to tell apart.
The highlights – the dismissive, Taylor-Swift-goes-pop-punk anthem “Something That We're Not”; the frustrated, swollen rock of “Without The Love”; and lead single “Heart Attack” – might be solid fifth or sixth singles from a more distinct pop star's album. Here, without something to tie them to, they are almost cynically straightforward, revealing nothing special.
Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor. @redeyechimusic
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