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Demi Lovato survives a dance with the devil

UPDATED: Thu., April 1, 2021

During a recent chat with Kurt Cobain’s close friend Buzz Osborne of the Melvins, the subject of what derailed the late icon was raised.

“It was drugs,” Osborne said. “It was that simple with Kurt. Drugs killed him.”

Chemicals have destroyed many legendary rock and pop figures such as Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse and Jimi Hendrix. There have been some survivors, too, including Keith Richards, Elton John and David Crosby.

Add Demi Lovato to the latter list. The pop sensation’s troubles are detailed in the informative, entertaining and unsparing documentary “Dancing With the Devil,” which debuted last month at the South By Southwest film festival and on March 23 on YouTube Originals.

Lovato, 28, hit her nadir in 2018 when she made headlines courtesy of an overdose on opioids laced with fentanyl and nearly succumbed. The damage to her health was significant. That’s the focal point of the documentary, which was directed by Michael D. Ratner, who doesn’t pull any punches.

It’s evident how damaging the scrutiny by the media and fans was on Lovato. The film is raw and uncompromising. Give Lovato credit for taking a chance with a flick that features revealing commentary from family, friends and those who work with Lovato.

When I interviewed Lovato in 2014, she spoke of some issues, but it was shocking when she overdosed. During our chat, Lovato, who came across as relatively innocent, was calling from her childhood bedroom in Dallas.

Lovato spoke about what she had to live up to during a childhood in which she constantly worked. Lovato appeared on the popular children’s show “Barney.” The amiable actress and singer also starred in the Disney series “Sonny With a Chance.”

But those credits paled in comparison with what her mother achieved. Her mom, Dianna Lee Hart, was a cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys,” the standard for American beauty.

“That’s what I grew up with,” Lovato said. “My mother is an amazing person. She has always been a dynamo. My mom was a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. That’s not an easy thing to do. You have to work so hard to be able to do that and be a great mom.”

Lovato talked about reaching a standard, which is so difficult to touch and even more so to attain. Much of Lovato’s childhood was traded for a chance at stardom. Lovato competed in beauty pageants throughout her early years.

She graduated to TV shows and the recording studio. A regular childhood is difficult enough, but Lovato pushed herself to another level. Unlike some of her peers, Lovato isn’t just a pretty face. She has a three-octave range and acting ability.

But her gifts and drive couldn’t help prevent her inner demons from almost taking her life. Give Lovato, who sang Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” during “Celebrating America,” the prime-time inauguration special for President Joe Biden in January, credit for candor, honesty and raising awareness when speaking about addiction and disorder during her documentary.

Her album, “Dancing With the Devil: The Art of Starting Over,” which drops Friday, is filled with ballads and features a heavy title track. “I was dancin’ with the devil, out of control / Almost made it to heaven, it was closer than you know / Playin’ with the enemy, gamblin’ with my soul / It’s so hard to say no, when you’re dancin’ with the devil.”

It only gets more revealing from there. “It’s just a little white line, I’ll be fine / But soon that little white line is a little glass pipe / Tinfoil remedy, almost got the best of me / I keep prayin’ I don’t reach the end of my lifetime.” Lovato’s single is as compelling and powerful as her documentary. It’s difficult to think of any pop star who has gone out on such a limb.

Unlike, say, the Rolling Stones, who glamorized drug use (check out “Dead Flowers,” “Sister Morphine” or “Let It Bleed”), Lovato made an album and documentary that can be filed under public service. It’ll be fascinating to see where Lovato ventures from here.

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