We once heard thirteen-year old Demi Lovato sing a knee-buckling version of Mercy Me's "I Can Only Imagine" at an outdoor charity event. Never mind that the song was grossly overplayed, and never mind that a dance troupe followed the performance with a floor-humping routine to 112's "Peaches and Cream." The tiny girl with the cleft chin opened her mouth and pure tonal genius came out.
She was there with her knockout older sister, Dallas; they both wanted to be pop stars. Talking to them and their former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader mom, Diana, as half-sister Madison toddled around their Colleyville home, we got a firm impression these girls were not going to stop driving and paying and dreaming until they were famous. The Lovato sisters employed the help of Addison-based voice teacher and pop superpower Linda Septien, who coached Ashlee and Jessica Simpson and is often credited for grooming the images that made them household names.
Almost five years and many connections later, Demi has been dressed as a veritable Disney princess, albeit in pants and with an electric guitar in tow. Art (or, um, media) imitated life when Demi was cast as singer-in-waiting Mitchie Torres alongside the Jonas Brothers in the Disney Channel's hit movie "Camp Rock". Her debut album on Hollywood Records, "Don't Forget," was met with huge commercial success after the songstress opened for the Jonas Brothers in the summer of 2008 -- it dropped at #2 on the Billboard 200. Curiously, the neo-boy band had been summoned to help Demi write the album, because, as Demi told the press, "she needed help writing catchy songs."
Those who followed Demi closely saw that she was more than Rocker Barbie. She dropped names of black metal bands like Norway's Dimmu Borgir in an interview with MTV, claiming she blared metal in her dressing room and wished she could "secretly do vocals" in the studio for Underoath or another harder outfit. Even Demi's looks don't quite fit the part she's playing: her pronounced features are more America Ferrera than Miley Cyrus. But she's absolutely beautiful in that old Hollywood way, her natural self bucking plasticization with strong eyebrows and tousled waves.
Demi has fast-tracked her tenure at Disney with a starring role in the series "Sonny With a Chance" and the June 26 debut of the film "Princess Protection Program" co-starring Demi's BFF Selena Gomez. The sweet-toothed flick drew 8.5 million viewers, the most logged for the channel's scripted programs this year according to the New York Daily News. Anticipation mounts for throngs of tween fans as her new album comes out this month and headlines huge arenas around the country on her first proper tour.
As the cloud of glitter settles in the coming years, we trust that Demi will emerge a star. What kind of star, we don't know. But her voice will carry.
Below, we've embedded the video for the title track off the forthcoming "Here We Go Again" that just debuted on the Disney Channel. The album is set to be released on Hollywood Records July 21.