Demi Lovato sounds as confident as ever on her aptly titled sixth album, Tell Me You Love Me. She owns her obsessiveness on the infectious “Daddy Issues,” a slice of musical pop-psych filled with one eyebrow-raising lyric after the next: “Don’t know how to commit/But I might want your kid.” She dares a buddy to make a move on the smooth, jazzy “Ruin the Friendship,” and shamelessly declares that “You ain’t nobody ’till you got somebody” on the gospel-infused title track. Lead single “Sorry Not Sorry” is boilerplate anti-hater pablum, but Lovato sells it with gusto, while “Games” finds her giving as good as she gets when her object of affection sends mixed (text) messages.
There’s no shortage of histrionics throughout the album (“All you do is leave me fucking lonely,” Lovato bellows repeatedly on “Lonely”), but the slow jams are sleeker, sexier, and more on trend than the overblown ballads that sank 2015’s Confident. In fact, “Only Forever” might even be understated to a fault, lacking a strong hook compared to songs like the über-melodic “Cry Baby,” whose verses and choruses compete for your attention.
Unfortunately, an excess of downtempo tracks mires Tell Me You Love Me’s momentum in its second half, concluding with a pair of refreshing but nearly identical back-to-back acoustic-driven R&B songs that might as well be a medley. Lovato, however, deserves credit for stretching beyond the dated power ballads and the vocal melisma she flaunted on previous efforts.