Ah, Demi Lovato. Undoubtedly an immensely gifted vocalist and songwriter, Demi has made some puzzling decisions this year. Although she veered onto the right track with “Anyone” and “Still Have Me,” she nearly crashed the car with shoddy singles by the names of “I Love Me” and “I’m Ready.” It’s been about three years since the release of her terrific Tell Me You Love Me album and Demi has been through a lot since then.
Ahead of her performance at tonight’s Billboard Music Awards, Demi has released her latest single: a confusing and downright lousy ballad titled “Commander In Chief.” Co-written by Eren Cannata, Justin Tranter (“fake smile”; “911”), Julia Michaels (“Issues”; “Look At Her Now”), Finneas O’Connell (“my future”; “Lose You To Love Me”), and Demi herself, the song is a waste of all of their talents. “Commander In Chief” sees Demi attempting a straightforward political song dressed up as an emotional appeal to Donald Trump. This right here, above the boring arrangement and plain lyricism, is the song’s chief problem. Making an emotional appeal to Donald Trump not only makes absolutely zero sense, it calls into question if anyone involved in the creation of this song has paid attention in the last four years. Donald Trump has proved time and time again that he does not care. He does not care about the state-sanctioned murder of Black lives at the hands of police. He does not care about the caged children, separated families, and forced sterilization of women in ICE detention centers. He does not care about agreeing to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose the election next month. He does not care about anyone or anything other than himself and his ego. So, again, what sense does it make to dedicate your talents to making an emotional appeal to a person who is literally incapable of empathy?
Aside from the inane concept of the song, it doesn’t help matters that the production is flat. The song follows a similar structure to “Still Have Me” where the production is initially sparse and by the halfway point a cliché choir appears along with some militant drums. It’s predictable arranging which is particularly egregious for Demi because she releases so many ballads. Demi shines on her ballads, but if she’s not going to reinvent their structure, like she did with “Sober,” it gets redundant. Furthermore, “Commander In Chief’s” vocal production makes the song feel more akin to a breakup ballad than a political commentary; it’s sensory overload in the most unpleasant way. Lyrically, Demi sings “we’ll be in the streets while you’re bunkering down.” This line is similar to Beyoncé’s infamous “rubber bullet” lyric in “BLACK PARADE.” There’s a conversation that needs to be had about celebrities co-opting protest imagery for shallow “protest songs.” When Demi sings that “we’ll still take a knee,” things get even worse. These lines that she is singing evoke a rich legacy of revolutionary Black activism, so to hear them casually thrown into an open letter to Donald Trump feels flippant, to say the least.
At the end of the day, Demi, as per usual, emotes very well and her vocal performance is solid. The real question at hand here is: What is the point of this song? Demi hasn’t had a radio hit all year and her recent releases have all been quite somber. After her breakup with her ex-fiancé, this could have been the moment to finally put out an uptempo track and give us something different. “Commander In Chief” does absolutely nothing; at best, the attempt is admirable, but even then, the execution is just pitiful. At this point, it’s beyond frustrating to see Demi and her team make these asinine decisions because her talent deserves better.