Demi Lovato’s Confession
Demi Lovato’s Confession

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I’m not a massive fan of chart music, however a story about Demi Lovato caught my eye and gave me pause for thought. For those (like me) who aren’t au fait with today’s pop, Demi Lovato is a 27 year-old singer/songwriter/actress from the States. Wikipedia tells me she began her career aged 10 on kids tv, before moving on to fame, money, success, etc. However, like many celebrities she has also suffered a huge range of personal issues, addictions and breakdowns. In 2018 she was rushed to hospital with an overdose and had not performed since, until this year’s Grammy Awards, where she performed for the first time since then. It was this story that caught my eye, because of the song she performed – a new release entitled ‘anyone’.

Here are the lyrics:

I tried to talk to my piano
I tried to talk to my guitar
Talk to my imagination
Confided into alcohol
I tried and tried and tried some more
Told secrets ’til my voice was sore
Tired of empty conversation
‘Cause no one hears me anymore

A hundred million stories
And a hundred million songs
I feel stupid when I sing
Nobody’s listening to me
Nobody’s listening
I talk to shooting stars
But they always get it wrong
I feel stupid when I pray
So, why am I praying anyway?
If nobody’s listening

Anyone, please send me anyone
Lord, is there anyone?
I need someone, oh
Anyone, please send me anyone
Lord, is there anyone?
I need someone

I used to crave the world’s attention
I think I cried too many times
I just need some more affection
Anything to get me by

A hundred million stories
And a hundred million songs
I feel stupid when I sing
Nobody’s listening to me
Nobody’s listening
I talk to shooting stars
But they always get it wrong
I feel stupid when I pray
Why the f*** am I praying anyway?
If nobody’s listening

Anyone, please send me anyone
Lord, is there anyone?
I need someone, oh
Anyone, please send me anyone
Oh, Lord, is there anyone?
I need someone
Oh, anyone, I need anyone
Oh, anyone, I need someone

 

Demi has stated that she wrote this song a couple of days before the overdose of 2018; this was her first performance of it. Little wonder she had to restart the song because of her emotion.

The song reads as a confession – life as Demi Lovato experienced it. Now she’s not the first to write a song about her struggles, nor to articulate these themes, but the raw desperation of the lyrics struck me afresh for the following reasons:

1. Have we not now had more than enough proof that riches, fame, success and glory do not satisfy the human heart? It seems that every year we have a new set of stories of those who have made it to the top and then collapsed into despair, and yet how many of us still spend our lives striving for money and success? Of course, we know that we will not achieve the levels of fame of Demi Lovato, but we still strive for the bigger house, the better job or a reputation of wiser, more important, more significant, etc. When will we learn that this simply does nothing to meet our real needs? The really tricky thing is that even as Christians we can baptise these desires and present them in pseudo-spiritual form – an ambition to be the best preacher, the kindest person, the most ‘deep’, the most humble… ‘success’ can be redefined a hundred ways. The need to succeed is perhaps my own biggest temptation and idol – when will I learn that it will bring me no happiness? When will I learn to be an average normal human being before Jesus, content in my ordinariness?

2. The isolation she expresses is simply tragic. The comparison between social media “connectedness” and real relationship has been made so many times now as to be boring, but do we yet really grasp the haunting isolation which is one of the defining experiences of our post-modern culture? Do we realise how many people feel this deeply alone? The reasons are plentiful: family breakdown is chronic, (as is other relationship breakdown), our lives are more individualised, community rhythms and spaces are diminishing and so on. In my view though the deepest reason is our post-modern narrative we now live in, whereby there are no absolutes of truth, goodness or purpose in which to understand our lives; we have to create the meaning for our own existence: be yourself! Find yourself! Make your life! Can the result be anything other than isolation? If there is no moral, metaphysical or epistemological certainty then we cannot be confident that anything can be known beyond our subjective experience. That may sound complicated, but really all it means is what Lovato expresses – is there anyone at all that I can know and love? Maybe not.

These reflections are not necessarily new – similar observations have been made for decades now, but novelty does not always reflect important. This may not be new but it characterises our condition – a deep aching isolation. We are separated from each other and our real selves, as well as the God who is community and love. Isn’t it fascinating how many (like Lovato) will still appeal to God in desperation, even if their expression is angry futility? In the depths on humanity we know that we were made for divinity; this broken relationship is the most devastating isolation of them all.

So as I live this week I am reminded of two imperatives:

1. We must listen to one another. This may sound lame following the analysis above, but the longer I live the more I’m convinced of the importance of really listening to one another. So many people simply are never really listened to at length. It seems to me the norm is that we compete to be heard, rather than continually try to listen. This is the primary way many of us feel loved – in fact, for all of us, it is impossible to distinguish being loved from being carefully listened to. If we really want to love one another and develop a community of love then this is a fundamental practice – listening well. God has given us two ears and one mouth, as the quip goes, let’s use them in that proportion.

2. Mission may also begin with real listening. Our dying world is desperate for the love of God; our calling is to communicate his love to that world. Rather than automatically imagining this as ‘telling’ people about God, perhaps, given the desperate loneliness of many people, our first communication of the love of God will be in listening to them well. You may well be the only person in their lives that will do so. As we become vessels of the love of God in our attentive care for others, it may well be that they are drawn to the source of all our love and the ultimate answer to their desperate isolation.

– Tim Murray