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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, April 17, 2024

WEEKENDER: Demi Lovato’s ‘Revamped’ and the trend of rerecording music

Lovato’s rerecording of her old songs warrants a conversation about this industry-sweeping movement.

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Demi Lovato is pictured in 2016.

When Demi Lovato released her album “HOLY FVCK” in Aug. 2022, she bid adieu to her traditional pop style and migrated to the world of rock. While embarking on a tour for the album, Lovato began to reimagine her older pop songs, performing rock covers of some of her classics like “Heart Attack” (2013) and “Cool for the Summer” (2015). The fans seemed to love the new rock versions of the songs, which inspired Lovato to record and release them in “Revamped” (2023).

Lovato is a powerhouse vocalist, and the switch to rock allows her tone and vocal range to shine even more than they did on her pop tracks. For evidence of this, look no further than her recent performance at the MTV Video Music Awards where she performed a medley including “Heart Attack,” “Cool for the Summer” and “Sorry Not Sorry” (2017). The performance, which USA Today ranked as the second-best performance of the night, was electric with Lovato truly looking like a rockstar alongside her band — even Taylor Swift was up dancing and singing along. 

When it comes to “Revamped,” some of the choices for which songs would get the rock treatment were obvious. The songs Lovato performed at the VMAs were clear choices alongside tracks like “Confident” (2015) and “Neon Lights” (2013). Confident - Rock Version” features a heavy drum beat that elevates the song and gives it a punchy feel that is more subtle on the original track. While “Neon Lights - Rock Version” also features a strong beat, perhaps the best addition to this song was Lovato’s choice to feature rock band The Maine on the track. The Maine’s lead vocalist John O'Callaghan’s vocals mesh beautifully with Lovato’s and give the song a duet feel on the chorus they sing together.

While on the subject of duets, Lovato also chose to make “Give Your Heart a Break - Rock Version” a duet with the lead vocalist of the band The Used, Bert McCraken. The duet feels like a battle between these two vocalists vying to express their love for one another. Lovato originally said, despite the somewhat misleading title, “Give Your Heart A Break” (2011) was about faith and fighting for the one you love — a message that is even more present in the rock version, though it might not have the typical ballad feel to it.

Some might be shocked to see rock versions of “Skyscraper” (2011) and “Tell Me You Love Me” (2017) on the album. These songs are known to be Lovato’s more vulnerable songs and giving them the rock twist could have been a risky decision if done poorly. Thankfully, even in the rock versions, the two songs stay true to their emotional roots. While, yes, Lovato does add rock instrumentals, it is the impassioned vocals that dominate the track and make them stand out.

Listening to an adult Lovato revisit songs from throughout her career is no doubt nostalgic for many who grew up with them. “La La Land - Rock Version” aids in driving home that nostalgic feeling. The track maintains that playful, fun energy from the original, but the rock additions help it feel more mature and emphasize Lovato’s growth as an artist. That being said, if an award were to be given for most nostalgia-inducing track on “Revamped,” it would have to go to “Don’t Forget - Rock Version.” 

“Don’t Forget,” which was originally released on Lovato’s debut album of the same title, not only takes listeners back to 2008, but it is the perfect song to conclude “Revamped.” The lyrics, while seemingly about heartbreak, potentially serve as a message for Lovato’s career. Lyrics like “Somewhere we went wrong / We were once so strong” are a reminder of the struggle Lovato has been through throughout her career. Yet, she persevered, and is still a force to be reckoned with. Lovato may pose the question “Did you forget about me?” but nothing could make her audience forget about her. 15 years after her debut album, “Revamped” proves Lovato is not going anywhere and is, just maybe, the best she has ever been.

When thinking about “Revamped” it is hard to not think about the countless other artists in recent years who have revisited their old work and reimagined it. When asked a question about why rerecording old work seems to be so appealing to artists, Lovato stated that when someone’s songs have been out for so long, reinventing them can be an attractive opportunity. For Lovato, the driving force was wanting to make the songs better vocally, telling Billboard, “I’m the type of person that wants to out-do myself always.” This is just one of the many reasons why artists may rerecord old work — to make them better — but for the most famous example of rerecording music, it is about ownership. 

The story of Taylor Swift’s rerecordings is a much more dramatic one than just wanting to make the songs better. Swift’s music catalog was sold without her consent despite the artist trying to buy the masters herself. Shortly after this news broke, fellow artist Kelly Clarkson tweeted, “just a thought, U should go in & re-record all the songs that U don’t own the masters on exactly how U did them but put brand new art & some kind of incentive so fans will no longer buy the old versions.” Regardless of whether Swift was already planning to rerecord or Clarkson gave her the idea, the tweet no doubt predicted the future. 

Rerecording her old work is primarily about ownership for Swift, which makes sense for an artist who is so passionate about her music and specifically the lyrics. That being said, Swift is likely the only artist whose rerecordings, both talent-wise and popularity-wise, surpass that of the originals. Take “All Too Well” (2012) for example. When rerecording “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)” (2021) Swift rerecorded both the original five minute version and the unheard ten minute version, which fans had been pressuring her to release for years. “All Too Well” spent one week on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at No. 80, while “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)” spent 15 weeks on the chart and peaked at No. 1, making it the longest song to ever top the chart. 

Other artists have recently released music for a much simpler reason: to commemorate the anniversary of the album's release. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of her album “Yours Truly” (2013), Ariana Grande released a deluxe version of the album which included live versions of some of the tracks from the album in addition to a new version of “The Way,” featuring the late Mac Miller. While this reason for rerecording is more likely a sentimental reason rather than an economic or popular one, it can still be exciting to hear, even if the version does not add much to the original. 

Whatever reason an artist may have for rerecording old work, it can be a treat for fans, especially when the album or song in question is one that the fans have grown up with. In the case of Lovato, “Revamped” helps emphasize her transition away from pop music and proves that any of her songs, even the ones that one may think would never work, can be made rock. Swift’s case is unique, but one that has proven to be not only an extremely successful move but one that calls attention to a major issue in the music industry — artists not being able to own their own work. Who knows who might be the next artist to put a spin on their old work? But it seems to be a rising trend in the industry, so all one can do is keep an eye out for who might next “revamp” their old music.