It seems bizarre to call an artist with a ten-year music career, millions of record sales and over four billion video views “underrated” but, oddly, that seems to be the case for Lovato – a serial hitmaker with a voice that deserves the same amount of acclaim as the likes of Adele and Kelly Clarkson. Even if a casual music listener knows who she is, they probably don’t know just how much of a talent she possesses.
She’s getting there, though. Ten years after the release of Camp Rock, the movie that set her on her current trajectory, she’s still on the ascent; and at The O2 she hits the stage as a reigning chart-topper: Solo, her collaboration with Clean Bandit, currently sits at the top of the country’s singles chart, and last year’s Sorry Not Sorry gave her a career-best performance on the Billboard Hot 100. The arena bursts with energy when she performs both of them; and the feel-good atmosphere runs through the likes of Instruction, Sexy Dirty Love and album highlight Daddy Issues, too. She’s not the world’s most natural dancer but the show barely suffers for it.
Of course the focus is more on the current album than her back catalogue, but there’s still room for the classics: Cool For The Summer, Heart Attack and Give Your Heart A Break – three of the best pop songs of the decade – all get a turn to shine, and there’s even room for emotional 2013 album track Warrior; a powerful piano ballad about hard times and resilience.
But it’s the newer stuff that gives her a chance to really show off her vocal prowess: the likes of Concentrate, Cry Baby and Lonely not only flaunt an impressive technical ability, but emotional range, too. When she declares “Now I’m f**king lonely, and you didn’t want me” in the refrain of the latter, it’s absolutely dripping with hurt and heartbreak. Truly she’s come a long way from the giddy Disney pop-rock of This Is Me.
Despite all her current successes, however, it’s a difficult time for Demi: a new song last week saw her appearing to announce that she relapsed after six years of sobriety, and it’s something that gives opener You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore – thought to be about her struggles with issues including addiction – all the more emotional heft. And when that same new song, Sober, is performed at the end of the night, there’s barely a dry eye in the house – because underneath the bravado and the vocal acrobatics is a woman who’s been in the public eye since a very young age, battling a string of unimaginable demons the whole way. Now this leg of the tour is winding down, let’s hope she takes the time – if she hasn’t already – to take care of herself and seek the support and help she needs.
Because judging by her current upward momentum, after more than decade she still hasn’t hit her peak.