Demi Lovato may still be thought of by many as a Disney princess. But over the last year, the 18-year-old's life has been anything but a fairy tale.
In November 2010, Lovato unexpectedly pulled out of her supporting role on the Jonas Brothers tour to "seek medical treatment for emotional and physical issues" that she had reportedly been dealing with for some time. A statement released later added that the embattled singer was struggling with eating disorders and substance abuse, along with body image and cutting problems.
"I went through a bunch this year," she recently said in an interview with Ryan Seacrest. "I felt like I lived in a city where no woman eats. … I just had so much going on in my head. … It all just boiled up, and I ended up doing things that I regret to this day."
"Skyscraper" is Lovato's first release since her very public meltdown and subsequent treatment. On the surface, the hauntingly pensive but soaring piano ballad can be interpreted as a declaration of finding new strength in the wake of a shattered relationship. Lovato says it also represents the work it took to make it through her recent struggles.
"Skies are crying," she begins, "I am watching/Catching teardrops in my hand/Only silence as it's ending/Like we never had a chance." The chorus is no less angst-filled, but it shifts into an attitude of defiant determination as Lovato declares that she will rise from the smoldering emotional ruins: "You can take everything I have/You can break everything I am/Like I'm made of glass/Like I'm made of paper/Go on and try to tear me down/I will be rising from the ground/Like a skyscraper."
The video metaphorically depicts Lovato's painful personal journey as she walks across a barren, windblown desert. "Would it make you feel better to watch me while I bleed?" she asks at one point before treading barefoot over what looks like broken glass, a jagged visual reminder of the pain she's endured. The balance of the images are equally intense as close-up camera work focuses on the anguish and determination in the pretty young singer's features. In the end, though, hope rules the day. "It's a long way down/But I am closer to the clouds/Up here," Demi insists.
In one scene, she clings to a fragment of dark fabric as it blows in the wind. She explains to E!, "There were so many things that represented my addictions and eating disorders and self-harm. When I'm unraveling this black fabric … it [represents] the toxicity that took over my mind for so long, that oozed out of every pore that I had because I was suffering inside. … I'm taking it off and walking on broken glass and powering through it." Also worth noting: Several camera shots zoom in on a tattoo of a cross on Lovato's right hand as she brushes wind-blown hair out of her face. She also wears cross earrings.
In an interview with Seventeen, Lovato talked at length about the lessons she's learned from what she characterizes as her "nervous breakdown." "I don't think there's going to be a day when I don't think about food or my body, but I'm living with it, and I wish I could tell young girls to find their safe place and stay with it," she said. "I wish I could tell every young girl with an eating disorder, or who has harmed herself in any way, that she's worthy of life and that her life has meaning. You can overcome and get through anything."
Lovato's emotional song and its accompanying video, though intense at times, double-underscore that very positive message.