Teasing an upcoming single with snippets, cryptic social media posts and pseudo scavenger hunts used to be a sporadic thing in popular music. It was usually reserved for "comebacks," returns from hiatuses, or shifts in musical style. Now, it's a standard promotional tool for all new material, no matter how ordinary or ineffectual. The tactic has become a catfish of sorts. Even when the snippets sound appetizing, the main course ends up tasting bland or just plain awful. So, when Demi Lovato started to rib her new single "Sorry Not Sorry" on Instagram, I didn't get too invested. The few electronic notes I heard had a little bump to it. I concluded, "At least one part of this song will have some flavor." The seconds-long warped vocal warned "Payback is a bad b***h, baby, I'm the baddest." I rolled my eyes and thought, "Demetria is still in this childish, bravado mode," and left it at that.
In a rare moment, the teasers correctly represented the final product. "Sorry Not Sorry" is a zesty and contagious electro-R&B/hip-hop brew, produced by Warren "Oak" Felder (according to Tidal credits). Felder's resume includes extensive work with Nicki Minaj, Alessia Cara, Kehlani and Elle Varner. Lovato got her start and excelled in pop-rock, but the vocal stylings that serve as evidence of her upbringing with soul music make you crave and delight in her R&B deviations. The shrillness of her voice is still something for the ears to contend with, however. Lovato co-wrote the song with Felder, Zaire Koalo, Trevor Brown and Sean Douglas. Koalo and Brown collaborated with Felder on Kehlani's debut LP, SweetSexySavage. "Sorry Not Sorry's" premise of making your enemies sick with how well you've recovered from their inflictions is what girl-pop is made of. While the lyrics are well-formed for the most part, the superfluous expletives in the pre-chorus follow the trend of being overly conversational and casual. I said to a friend, "Songwriters are lazy with lyrics these days. They read like text messages." The previously quoted "payback" line is trailed with "You're f**king with a savage." This leads me to Lovato's "Ford tough" kick.
If you've kept up with Lovato's career, you're aware she's known for her unfiltered, and sometimes impulsive, reactions (especially on social media). She proudly touts her brand of frankness as some type of weapon against dishonesty and "fakeness." This demonstrates that, despite being nearly 25 years old and overcoming obstacles that would age anyone, she still lacks the maturity and wisdom to understand that honesty and brashness aren't synonymous. While commenting on her 2015 album Confident, she said: "There's nobody in the pop industry that says 'Don't f**k with me...I'll kick your ass'...that's the thing; I'm totally that." When artists face adversity and barrages of naysayers, it's comprehensible that they'd want to assert themselves. The tough guy/tough girl shtick quickly gets old and becomes off-putting, though. Christina Aguilera was 13 years in the game, still talking about her haters on Lotus. Anyhow, lyrical and boasting annoyances notwithstanding, "Sorry Not Sorry" is a bop. I'll be purchasing the "clean" version. You can hear the song below.