At the age of 22, Lovato seems to have seen it all, from the sharp gaze of Rivers to a relationship with a Jonas brother; that condition helps form the core of her appeal. A former Disney Channel star, Lovato weathered a starring role on one of the network's sticky-sweet sitcoms, a stay in rehab and a Simon Cowell feud, experiences that collectively give her the air of an elder stateswoman. She seems relieved to let her experiences color her public persona. She's frank about her past struggles in the press and snaps back at those who publicly mock addictions or eating disorders, even going so far as to reach out to her childhood tormentors. "I realized that she was going through things at that time that I had no idea about," she told Good Morning America in 2013. Think Princess Diana if land mines were Perez Hilton links.
This seen-it-all attitude powers Lovato's best moments on record. Her 2011 ballad "Skyscraper" was a highlight of the It Gets Better-core era, a slow build allowing her soprano to gain momentum until it sealed itself off from haters. "Give Your Heart A Break," meanwhile, is one of the nicest romantic pleas you'll hear; its central conceit is that the nurturing ways of its narrator will allow a paramour to love someone at last. Last year's Demi was heavy on blippy dance tracks, but "Nightingale" was a simply framed wish for the end of insomnia. "Heart Attack" extolled self-protection. These are optimistic survivor transmissions.
"Really Don't Care," Lovato's scrappy new single, doesn't reach those same heights, but its video reframes the title into a civil-rights cry. Set at the Los Angeles Pride Parade, it opens with Lovato crying "My Jesus loves all" at several sign-toting Westboro Baptist Church adherents. It's hard to explain why the gutter-trawling Hilton makes an appearance, until you reconsider Lovato's kill-them-with-kindness tactic, which has at least gotten her this far. With MKTO. —Maura Johnston