Walking On Eggshells With Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato is releasing a new album and it’s making me really uncomfortable. It just seems that after her nervous breakdown at the end of last October and being released from rehab for “emotional and physical issues” this past January, it’s a little… too soon.

Demi Lovato is yet another one of Disney’s preteen queens, but only just. She has always seemed like Disney’s basement baby, outshined by Bieber himself, Selena Gomez, and America’s Trailer Park Sweetheart, Miley Cyrus.  I liken her to the Solange Knowles of the Disney Channel. She’s pretty, talented, but always last in line.

The thing that sets Demi apart from her peers with the mouse ears is that she can truly hold her own as a performer. The girl has a set of pipes, which is what initially landed her a big break with a starring role in the Disney Channel movie Camp Rock alongside The Jonas Brothers. Following the movie, she released her debut album Don’t Forget in fall of 2008. The album debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200, and went on to sell over 500,000 copies, which was surprising coming from an all but unknown artist with such a young demographic. Her sophomore effort, Here We Go Again, released summer 2009, hit #1 on Billboard and was well-received by fans and critics alike. After the two albums, a couple of tours with The Jonas Brothers, and the release of Camp Rock 2, the numbers had cemented her status a successful pop artist, even if most of America was still like “Demi who?

While Miley Cyrus was leaking nude pictures, ripping bongs, and getting more and more famous, Demi was hard at work and behaving herself. Or so it seemed. Rumors of hard partying would pop up every so often, not to mention whispers of an eating disorder. And there were numerous pictures of her on red carpets with visible cuts on her wrists. Uh oh… But no one seemed to pay much attention, because after all, Miley was the one grinding on a stripper pole at the Teen Choice Awards, wasn’t she the problem child?

Cut to October 30th, 2010. While on tour with The JoBros in Columbia, Demi got wind of one of the Jonas backup singers telling her manager about her alleged hard-partying ways and “inappropriate conduct” from the night previous. Not one to take things lying down, while boarding a plane to the next tour destination, Demi was all “bitch BYE” and punched the tattletale right in the face. After being confronted by her team, Demi was carted off to a rehab facility in Chicago for “emotional and physical issues.”

Demi later described this incident as a “nervous breakdown.” But this was no typical Hollywood starlet meltdown, where it’s an obvious, gradual, and very public spiral (see also: Lindsay Lohan). We are so used to watching celebrity downfalls in real-time–as they come stumbling out of clubs, get DUIs, and are carted off to jail–that we are almost desensitized to the “teen star goes to rehab” story. But this was a squeaky clean, often-overlooked Disney star getting sent to rehab before anyone got a chance to see there was a problem. This was different.

While Demi was seeking treatment, it was confirmed that she had been battling an eating disorder and self-mutilating habits for quite some time. While in treatment, it was decided that she would leave the TV show Sonny With A Chance–her starring vehicle on The Disney Channel–because she said that seeing herself on camera would make her anxious and would not be good for her recovery.

After being released in January, she was spotted around LA looking happy and healthy. Though the instances did seem a bit contrived–“Here’s Demi smiling while getting coffee!,” “Here’s Demi smiling while leaving the gym! (SHE’S OKAY WE SWEAR)”–everyone was glad that she was back. Now that her TV show would go on without her, she was free to focus on her recovery and her career in music.

Next Tuesday, her album Unbroken will be released. But I can’t help but wonder–is this a little too soon? Her first single, “Skyscraper,” is a ballad about overcoming personal obstacles… shocker. Didn’t see that one coming. In interviews, she’s stated that she recorded one version of the song before she went into treatment and then rerecorded it after she was released, but in the end, decided to go with the one she recorded pre-rehab. She said “My voice is a lot stronger now that I’m not ruining it by damaging it after every meal, and it just didn’t feel the same, and we kept the original one.” …oh. Really? That almost seems, dare I say it, gimmicky–almost cashing in on the eating disorder. I feel like the whole album is being rushed just to show that “She’s okay!” As if to say, “Look she put out an album! She’s recovered! Everything’s fine!”

I’m not saying that she and her team are trying to sweep the whole incident under the rug though. Surprisingly, she has been very forthright and honest about what she was dealing with and the things she has gone through. Instead of disappearing for months and only vaguely discussing the incident when forced to in interviews (as was the case with Rihanna after the Chris Brown incident) Demi has sat down with numerous media outlets and reporters, such as everyone’s favorite bite-sized reporter Ryan Seacrest (hey gurl!), and put it all out on the table. It was shocking to hear her say the words “eating disorder” and “cutting,” but after everything that has happened to her, it’s refreshing to see her confidently discussing it in hopes that young people will learn from what she’s gone through so they don’t have to.

But I can’t help but wonder, what if she hadn’t gone through all of this in the last year? What would the focus of the album be? Would there have been such a push to get it out so quickly? Demi has never been a top priority for her record label, Hollywood Records, and I just find it odd that she’s thrust back into the spotlight so soon after she’s released from inpatient rehab. I mean, did Lindsay Lohan go straight to the bars after being released from rehab? No. (Well… yes. Okay, bad example, but you get where I’m going with this.) It just seems like this is not only Demi’s recovery album, but her record company’s proof that “Hey, we didn’t fuck her up too badly!”  What if she took a little bit more time off to chill the hell out, and came back with a fun pop record in a year’s time? Wouldn’t that show just as much evidence of recovery?

Eating disorders are another form of addiction, and I can’t help but feel like we’re jumping the gun with all of this, especially when she’s only just started her road to getting well. Is this the best time to put her back in the limelight? Wouldn’t that just make her recovery process that much more risky? Who knows. All I know is that I’m usually really excited for the release of a pop album, but this one is making me nervous. That, and the fact that the album includes a feature from Dev, that gremlin that made us suffer through the hook of “Like a G6” all spring. Oh, and Jason DeRulo makes an appearance. What, was Sisqo busy? But the newly released, Timbaland produced song “All Night Long” featuring Missy Elliott is a fun and energetic R&B track that is a departure from her last album’s very acoustic sound, making me very curious to hear what the rest of the record has in store for us.

Either way, I’m buying the album and am excited to see her come back as an even stronger artist than ever before. #TeamDemi Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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