If “Cool for the Summer” is Demi Lovato’s “I Kissed a Girl,” one—albeit baby—step closer to authentically capturing the trepidation and thrill of questioning one’s sexuality than the glib Katy Perry song did, then the singer’s follow-up, the bold and brassy “Confident,” is what Perry’s meek “Roar” promised to be. Punctuated by perpetual finger-snaps and sustained horn blasts, the track boasts a message of self-empowerment that actually matches its robust production. Lovato and her fans might be tired of the comparisons, but it doesn’t help that the former Disney star’s belting range is strikingly similar to Perry’s, and that both “Cool for the Summer” and “Confident” were produced by Max Martin, the man behind some of Perry’s biggest hits. They’re standouts on the otherwise scattered Confident, the rest of which is dominated by a mix of hip-hop-infused midtempo jams featuring the likes of Iggy Azalea (“Kingdom Come”) and equally misguided rock-tinged power ballads like “For You” and “Lionheart,” a development that doesn’t jibe with Lovato’s claim on the title track that she’s ready to let her freak flag fly. The piano ballad “Stone Cold” aims for Adele, but lands at dull; Lovato can blow, as evidenced by her solid, if not tour-de-force, performance on Saturday Night Live last week, but her vocals hew closer in style to Jessie J. Like that singer, Lovato mistakes the ability to cram as many syllables as possible into each word with virtuosity. And the album likewise mistakes overwrought for confident.
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