The best Pop Music strikes a balance between the personal and the populist. We turn to our favorite Pop Stars for escape and reckless abandon, when we just want to turn the stereo up, roll the windows down, and let the world slip away for a few moments. It's the soundtrack for getting ready to go nightclubbing, for making out, for cooking with our friends. 

Pop Music with no message quickly becomes just so much plastic product, however - the auditory version of the Barbie aisle, an endless sea of identical pink plastic. It might be enjoyable, but it's also forgettable. For someone to cross over and truly become legendary we must connect with them in some way. 

The truly great Pop Artist speaks truly from themselves, situated at the center of creation. They're speaking in the singular, but they're speaking for all of us in a way. They become iconic, in their vulnerable humanity. 

We find Demi Lovato, whom some have called "the most under-rated singer in the business," in this intimate, revealing space on "Sober," an emotional piano-driven ballad about Lovato's struggles with addiction and relapse. 


So much of what we hear about Pop Star's battles with addiction are of the sensationalist variety, like Lindsey Lohan coming-of-age and going off the rails. It can seem almost exciting when seen through 32-point headlines. You don't hear as much about the stained carpets, the ruined relationships, the regret, and the shame. And that's not even to mention the hells of physical withdrawal, which Lovato delves into in painful detail. 

"Sober" is a sparse, simple track, built mainly around some plaintiff piano chords and Lovato's gorgeous, emotional vocals. The barest hints of futuristic sub-bass dance around the edges, giving some heft to the emotional narrative, like the claws of addiction just waiting to pull you back under. The spaciousness is much-appreciated, however, as Lovato's lyrics are among some of her best. You're able to reflect on the depth and weight of her lyrical poetry, slamming into your chest like hypodermic needles. 

"Sober" has an intimate, acoustic Adele-like quality, thanks to the singer/songwriter structuring and the reliance on a simple piano backdrop. Considering how "Sober" shows off Lovato's vocal strengths - warmth, soul, intonation, and phrasing - it's not hard to imagine a future generation of talent show contestants auditioning with this track. Adele's music frequently shudders into histrionics, however, the vocal equivalent of typing in all caps, sometimes coming across as that person we all know on social media who's just a bit too hinged on other people's opinions. "Sober" doesn't have that exhibitionist quality. It's quieter, shadowy, and more subdued. You can feel the real pain, regret, and disappointment in Lovato's voice. Instead of being a backhanded humble-brag, Lovato's new single is the type of post that leaves you genuinely concerned when you see it. 

We Are: The Guard cannot applaud and recommend Demi Lovato's honesty, candor, and lack of BS, as well as her heartfelt vocals and unsinkable musical instincts. More Pop Music like "Sober," please! (But don't hurt yourselves while chasing your next Top 10 single.)