Youth Culture Window
Demi Lovato’s comeback is undeniable. Recently, she’s released her sixth album, sang at the World Series, and gave a live performance on American Idol. She’s even dropped another single.
And this new song paints a very clear picture of the new image Demi is trying to forge….
The Rise, Fall, and Re-Rise of Lovato
To fully understand why Demi Lovato is so influential on her devout fans, you need to understand the roller coaster this uber-talented young woman has ridden for the past few years. She gained fame on Disney’s Sonny With A Chance which led to her starring in two Camp Rock movies (on Disney Channel) and a singing career, as well.
Life was definitely going her way, but in late 2010, Lovato’s tour and career was interrupted when she sought treatment for a number of “emotional and physical” issues (self-mutilation, eating disorders, etc.) she’d been facing for some time. Her fans stuck with her, and after she completed her therapy, she returned to music, releasing a powerful anthem entitled Skyscraper. (In fact, the song was so positive we wrote a MUSIC DISCUSSION resource based on it.) In 2012, she released Stay Strong and we developed a great resource around that one, as well.
It looked like Demi was going to overcome her trials with poise and sensibility.
But there’s been a noticeable shift in Lovato’s music as of late…and it seems to be coinciding with her newfound comfort of her body. For example, in her 2015 hit Cool for the Summer, she prances around the music video (which has been seen more than 230 million times on YouTube) in skin tight leather singing about her desire to have sex with another girl. Though Demi won’t confirm or deny the meaning of her song, a simple reading of the explicit and provocative lyrics clears up any doubt.
Now the world is getting its first taste of Lovato’s latest single, Body Say…and there’s absolutely no doubt about this song’s meaning. Here are a few excerpts from the song’s lyrics:
You can touch me with slow hands
Speed it up, baby, make me sweat
Dreamland, take me there cause I want your sex
If my body had a say, I wouldn't turn away
Touch, make love, taste you
If my body told the truth, baby I would do
Just what I want to
If I had it my way, I would take the lead
And if I had it my way, I would take you deep
If my body had a say, I'd get it off my chest
Show you all the red lace underneath this dress
You can easily see why TIME Magazine calls Body Say an “ode to the bedroom.” And if the promotional artwork for the song’s forthcoming music video is any indication, we’re in for a racy one.
So, the question for youth workers and parents who are helping teenagers navigate today’s culture is, “In a world that constantly shifts its image, how do we help them choose their entertainment influencers?”
Deciding on Demi (And Others)
In no way am I picking on Demi Lovato. As he grew up, our young son loved watching her perform on Disney’s television shows and movies. She was the quintessential “good guy” in every setting. I grieve for her – and the millions of other girls – who are told their self-worth hinges on their outward appearance. That vicious lie negatively affects young ladies on both ends of the spectrum. Girls who lack the physical image of magazine covers (that are usually retouched and unrealistic) don’t feel as though they measure up, and girls who do possess tremendous beauty are told they must flaunt it to be significant.
Sadly, Demi has felt the sting on both ends.
Here are a couple of ideas to help the teens in your life who may be questioning the changes taking place in Demi’s life – or the lives of other beloved celebrities.
- Help your teens realize that all Disney stars eventually get older. (Notice I didn’t say that all Disney stars “grow up.”) As they get older, with more money and less accountability, some begin to try to carve an identity that’s anything but kid-friendly. They tend to shed the Mickey Mouse ears for something less wholesome. Everyone knows the very public and painful path that Miley, Britney, and Lindsay have taken since leaving Disney in the dust – but they weren’t the only ones who’ve had their troubles. No, you don’t have to be the prophet wildly trying to predict the next downfall of a young celebrity, but don’t let your teenagers be taken by surprise, either.
- Engage your teenagers in conversations about their entertainment choices. Do you know who their favorite musical artist is? Do you know who their celeb crush is? Do you know where their favorite celebrities land on values such as abortion, marriage equality, and more? You won’t if you don’t engage your kids in conversations. The best way to start – and sustain – a conversation is by asking questions. If you notice your kids talking about the song, or if they hear the song on the radio (because honestly- it's not doing well on the charts at the moment, so they might have not even heard of it yet), here are a few Q's you could use if Demi comes up:
In what ways has Demi changed since her days on Disney Channel?
Why do you think she has shifted her image and music so greatly?
How will the message of Body Say impact the hearts of your generation?
Do you think Demi is happier now? How can you tell?
If you could speak with Demi, what would you say to her or ask her?
I don’t know where Demi’s future will take her. But her public soul-searching doesn’t have to negatively impact the teenagers in your life. Demi is not the first celebrity to struggle as she finds her way out of adolescence and into adulthood in front of millions of fans…and haters. Neither will she be the last. In no way is this a call to condemn Demi. Instead, use your voice to pray for her.
David R. Smith
is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth
workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the
gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year,
Ministry By Teenagers
. David provides free
resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org
David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.
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