Arts, Television, Review

Demi Lovato Reflects on Her Past in ‘Dancing with the Devil’


Even before Demi Lovato released her 2017 documentary, Simply Complicated, the pop singer-songwriter and actress publicized a hefty amount of her journey with mental health and substance abuse. While some of that information stood no chance of being kept secret once media outlets grasped hold of it, Lovato managed to pull the reigns back on her narrative. 

Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil does not just pick up where Simply Complicated left off. In Dancing with the Devil, Lovato reflects on her life’s story, expressing gratitude, disappointment, joy, grief, and a wealth of other feelings. This docuseries premiered on YouTube on March 23 alongside shorter confessional-type mini-videos only available with YouTube Premium.

Similar to Simply Complicated, Dancing with the Devil is paired with an album. The 19-track upcoming album, Dancing with the Devil … the Art of Starting Over, is set to release on April 2. Coupled with the premiere of two of the four parts of the docuseries, three singles have been released from the album—“Anyone,” “What Other People Say” featuring Australian pop-rock artist Sam Fischer, and “Dancing With The Devil.” Lovato’s Apple Music description of the album claims that it “stands to be some of her most vulnerable work yet.”

Still, it almost seems impossible, and almost heroic, that Lovato can be even more vulnerable than she already has been in this docuseries. 

Despite all of the previous rumors surrounding the state of Lovato’s mental health, she proves in Dancing With the Devil that she is more than ready to deliver her unfiltered truth to the world. In the first episode of the YouTube series, “Losing Control,” her narration and confessionals during the episode lay out all of her truths. Only after talking through everything was she then able to figure out what needed to be cut from the footage. 

Each episode is about 20 minutes long, making it easier to pay attention to the gravity of Lovato’s heavy story. The series has already amassed millions of views since its two-episode debut and live premiere. Yet the producers spent a decent amount of time giving context to the events in Lovato’s life that led to her nearly fatal relapse. The purpose of disclosing Lovato’s past before her overdose in the first two episodes seems unclear at first, but when Lovato begins discussing the importance of mental health, the backdrop of her stressful career begins to make more sense. 

According to Lovato, there is still a lot of work to be done to eliminate the stigma around mental health, especially when it comes to conditions that lead to drug abuse. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for many musicians and artists to resort to drugs to cope with the demons of life, but not many have been five minutes away from death after overdosing, survived, and still been willing to share their story. 

In Dancing with the Devil, Lovato’s “devil” takes on many forms, including substance abuse, sexual abuse, an eating disorder, and family and childhood trauma. In the film, Lovato said she is aware of how her music and advocacy inspires others. Now with these truths laid out on the table, Lovato can reach other people who need to hear her story, raising awareness as well as relatability.

Although the individual episodes of Dancing with the Devil can stand on their own, some information gets repeated in the different segments—something that could have been avoided if the docuseries adopted a longer episode format. Interviews span across Lovato’s entire support system, including the neurosurgeon who tended to Lovato after her overdose. But, the film’s ability to piece together each person’s account of events in addition to what Lovato remembers slows the momentum of the film at times. 

Still, viewers are reminded that the themes at hand are to be handled with care. At one point, Lovato says, “I’ve had all these people in and out of my life, and I feel decisions have been made for me, more so than I’ve made decisions for myself.”  In other words, these elements might all go back to Lovato’s ultimate desire to take charge of her own recovery and well-being.

Photo Courtesy of YouTube

March 28, 2021