Sorry Not Sorry
I can't imagine what it would be like to be famous. No matter what you do, you have critics. Haters.
For musicians, especially, it's a proverbial catch-22. If you try to replicate your last successful album, some hater will say it's "stale" or "stuck" or "boring." Color too far outside the lines, though, and haters on the other side will invariably say, "It's not as good as the last album." The musicians who carve out a multi-decade career master a paradoxical alchemy: changing and staying the same, moving forward but not forgetting the past.
Which brings us to Demi Lovato.
The 24-year-old singer and actress began her entertainment career at Disney in 2007. A decade later, she's weathered more than a few career reinventions, veering wildly between good girl to bad girl personas. And, no doubt, she's had to endure comments, criticism and haters every step of the way.
Now, she says, she's written a song for them.
Where Can I Apply for My Hater Card?
In a video interview with Amazon, Lovato said of her new single, "'Sorry Not Sorry' is a song basically to the haters that is basically saying, 'You know what? I'm good now, and I'm sorry I'm not sorry that you may not be loving where your life is at the moment.'" She then adds, "A lot of people hear this song and think it's about an ex-boyfriend or something like that. But it's actually just a song about the haters."
Now, that sounds pretty reasonable, actually. Demi's happy and content, she says. And if you're not? Well, it's not her problem. And she's not going to let anyone's crit bring her down to the level of those bitter critics.
But what about the message in the song's lyrics and video themselves? That's where I suppose I better apply for my "hater" card, because there are some things about Demi's non-apology here that aren't quite as innocuous or empowering as Lovato's explanation of this song's meaning is.
Revenge is Best Served …Savagely?
Lovato wastes no time throwing down the lyrical gauntlet. "Payback is a bad b--ch," she sings in the song's first line. "And baby, I'm the baddest."
Even though she's explained the song as being aimed at "haters" in general, if you'd never seen that interview, you'd probably assume she was talking about a hyper-critical ex. "Now I'm out here looking like revenge," she continues. "Feelin' like a 10, the best I ever been." And she hopes that her good looks are inspiring regret in those who see and hear her: "And, yeah, I know how bad it must hurt/To see me like this, but it gets worse (wait a minute)/Now you're out here looking like regret."
The second verse brings more of the same: "Baby, fineness is the way to kill/Tell me how it feel, bet it's such a bitter pill/ … Bet right now this stings." The taunts—again laced with harsh profanity—continue in the track's pre-chorus: "You f--kin' with a savage/Can't have this, can't have this." For a brief moment, Demi flirts with being kind, then decides against it: "And it'd be nice of me to take it easy on ya', but nah."
Is she sorry she's gloating? Nah: "Baby, I'm so sorry (I'm not sorry)/ … Feeling inspired 'cause I know the tables have turned/Yeah, I'm on fire, and I know that it burns."
Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous
Another line in the song says, "Being so bad got me feeling so good." That lyric would double as a good summary for the accompanying video. It's preceded by the message, "On June 29th, Demi threw a house party and we made a music video. This is what happened."
Scenes of a real party picture people, um, partying. There's a pool. People kiss. (Two men; a man and a woman.) Beautiful folks flaunt their figures, many not wearing much. Actor Jaimie Fox shows up. In other words, just another typical night for the rich and famous in the Hollywood Hills.
Those shots are intercut with professionally produced footage of Demi (wearing a top with a deep plunging vee) and other women (also, again, not wearing much). They're singing, laughing, clapping. There's a bubble machine.
As videos go these days, it's hardly the most risqué. But it does reinforce the idea that the good life is best envisioned as a bacchanalia that never ends, a hedonistic good time with no rules and endless indulgence, all in the name of freedom.
After the song concludes, a lengthier clip of party footage plays, showing a helicopter with a spotlight hovering overheard. Demi takes a mic and yells, "I hear the cops are here to shut us down, but who gives a f---." As the crowd cheers, she adds, "I'm totally kidding. I respect the police."
Maybe so. But I'm pretty sure she's not sorry for the defiant attitudes her latest song and video model for fans.
Then again, what do I know? I'm just one of the haters.