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Track Review

It's been a roller-coaster couple of years for onetime Disney princess Demi Lovato. After some well-documented battles with an eating disorder and emotional issues, the pop songstress climbed back into the spotlight with a Top 10 album ( Unbroken, No. 4), a Top 10 Single (" Skyscraper," No. 10) an MTV special ( Demi Lovato: Stay Strong) and a co-hosting gig for the 2012 Teen Choice Awards. Next up: Becoming a judge on The X-Factor. Unbroken indeed.

But while Demi has been open about her struggles—and a good chunk of Unbroken grapples with them—her second single makes it clear she doesn't want to be known just for the "Stay Strong" tattoos on her wrists. After all, she's still a big-piped pop diva, and what do teen popsters sing about? Love, of course—love that's working, love that's not, and love that you really, really hope works but we'll see what happens when he hears this song.

"Give Your Heart a Break" deals with the third sort of love. In it, Lovato puts herself in a relationship on the brink. She's had some great times with her musical beau, but now he's freaking out, and she's worried he's about to bolt.

"You told me you'd never fall in love," Lovato sings, "But now that I get you/I know fear is what it really was/Now here we are, so close/Yet so far/Haven't I passed the test?"

She sees he's growing distant—not answering his cellphone when she calls, going home alone with "tears in your eyes." Lovato sees that he's scared about getting too close, scared about getting hurt. So she says, "Baby, I'm not like the rest/Don't wanna break your heart/I wanna give your heart a break."

Demi knows, better than most, how fragile we all are, how vulnerable our hearts are. And she's spent the last year or so trying to convince her fans to stand strong, to reach out for hope. Now she shows that her journey has made her empathetic too, not just sympathetic. That's a great message to send. It's a reflection of what true love should be about: finding safety and comfort with each other, not stress and angst. Demi wants to be her boyfriend's refuge.

Moreover, the song steers clear of uncomfortable imagery or crude sexuality. We do hear about "When your lips are on my lips/And our hearts beat as one," and there's that hint about him going home alone, as if that might not have always been the case. But that's as sexual as things get.

Which lets us spend a minute or two considering a subject that's something of a tangent, but still subtly raised by Lovato often repeating these lines: "I know you're scared it's wrong/Like you might make a mistake/There's just one life to live/And there's no time to wait, to waste." When I think about Demi's fan base—the tween and teen girls who love her because of both her physical and moral voice—I have to wonder at least a little bit about how well such advice jibes with the level of caution parents would want their newly dating teens to enter into relationships. If someone's scared a relationship's wrong, well, it's wise to consider why that fear's there, rather than just romantically barreling forward. Because while none of us have any extra time to waste, there's always time to take things—particularly in a relationship—slowly.

That's really a small quibble, given the genre this song falls in, but the video piles on just a bit: While most of it simply shows Lovato singing or spending time with her boyfriend during happier days—hugging, laughing, painting walls—we do see the two spending time together on a bed—him without a shirt.

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A Top 20 hit on Billboard's Hot 100 chart.

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January 23, 2012

On Video

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Paul Asay

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