5 things we learned from HOLY FVCK, Demi Lovato’s raucous return to rock
HOLY FVCK is Demi Lovato's hailed "return" to all things heavy. Thematically, it's possibly their most vulnerable and raw album to date, with guitar-led tracks that instantly transport you back to the early 2000s. In short, Lovato makes her grand return to their beloved roots in alternative music.
There's been a lot of speculation and conversation surrounding HOLY FVCK, from Lovato having a "funeral" for their pop music to singles “SUBSTANCE,” “SKIN OF MY TEETH” and “29” becoming trending topics. There's a lot to digest with their most ambitious release yet, so we're breaking down key highlights from their eighth studio album, HOLY FVCK.
1. Demi Lovato is an OG emo kid
There's a notion among alternative communities that when a mainstream artist indulges in pop punk or emo, they're doing it as a "fad." But Lovato is no poser. A little refresh on their decade-long career will take you back to her first two albums, which were heavily influenced by 2000s pop punk and pop rock: Don’t Forget and Here We Go Again. From playing Warped Tour to jamming to Job For A Cowboy, and their multitude of rainbow hair colors reminiscent of MySpace scene kid days, Lovato is a fan-first musician when it comes to pop punk, emo, rock and anything in the alternative sphere. “I'll always dream of collaborating with Hayley Williams and Paramore,” they tell AP in their digital cover story. “I don't know if they do a lot of collaborations, but I think that's something I’ll always dream of.”
In fact, Lovato named Bring Me The Horizon, Job For A Cowboy and the Academy Is... as some of their favorite artists. "DEAD FRIENDS" and title track "HOLY FVCK" are the truest testament to this, the former being an upbeat, fast-paced anthem that celebrates friends who’ve passed. "HOLY FVCK" is a climaxing rock ballad that you’d hear at the end of a 2000s coming-of-age film where they all ride off into the sunset and finish college. If you thought HOLY FVCK was going to be a pop-punk lite record, you’d be wrong.
2. It’s sometimes easier to regress than it is to heal
The road to recovery isn't a linear one. Sometimes, swerving from the straight and narrow path into a dumpster fire is the easiest option — not the healthiest but certainly the easiest. Lovato has heavily documented their struggles with mental health, drug addiction and overdose across their musical discography, more recently in their documentary series Dancing With The Devil. They consistently create conversations that are open and honest, not one lulling the false hope of “It gets better” or “Keep trying” because sometimes, it doesn’t. Sometimes you have to dangle over the cliffs of hell, the sweltering heat melting off of your feet, before you can willingly advocate for your own self-betterment.
HOLY FVCK encapsulates this sentiment across 16 tracks, from "FEED" (“Some days I’m tired, some days I’m tough/I built a bridge and burned it down”) to "WASTED" (“I’m scared of the comedown/I don't think I'll know how/To live without this now”). But perhaps the most harrowing moment comes during "HAPPY ENDING" (“Am I gonna die trying to find my happy ending?”), where they detail the painstaking struggle of self-healing.
3. They simply don't give a fvck
Lovato may look like a saint, but they spare no mercy for the wicked. Being an unapologetic open book has become something fans love about the musician over the years. In fact, the brash, electrifying sound injected into this album has only amplified the themes of rage and regret. “I can’t spoon-feed you anymore ("EAT ME") and "Thank you for your useless information” ("HELP ME") feel like Lovato’s final bite back at an industry that’s micromanaged how they dress, act and live for a decade, and they’re over it. Beyond the track, the cover art and new edgier look from Lovato signal a detachment from the picture-perfect life laid out for her by others, offering a middle finger in return.
As well, "29" is an unscathed call-out at power dynamics in age-gap relationships between minors and older adults that we see between Hollywood couples more often than not. “Far from innocent, what the fuck’s consent?/Numbers told you not to, but that didn't stop you,” Lovato sings.
4. Self-care isn’t roses and flowers; sometimes it’s crucifixes and masturbation
Religion is a concurrent theme throughout this album. We see this both on the songs and the cover art featuring Lovato laying on a crucifix mattress. The goth-rock track "HEAVEN" emphasizes a Bible verse about masturbation and sexual oppression, with lines like “Someone's to blame, but you can’t blame Jesus” and "Crucified for the life I'm living" being particularly potent. Meanwhile, "BONES" and "FREAK" are two sultry rock songs all about getting it on.
5. The album might've not happened without Dead Sara
HOLY FVCK isn't without its features. Opener “FREAK" (feat. YUNGBLUD) channels the sex and grit of '90s grease-ball rock and grunge. The album swiftly moves onto the raucous “EAT ME" (feat. Royal And The Serpent) and ends with the '80s glam-rock guitar-infused “HELP ME" (feat. Dead Sara). When Lovato saw their friends Dead Sara play shows in LA and NYC, she had an epiphany. “I feel like had I tried to do rock music a few years ago when I wasn't ready, it wouldn't have been authentic, but now it is,” they tell AP.