Entertainment

Singer Demi Lovato trades in her teen pop

"Good luck, Demi" was trending on Twitter in New York the other night as Demi Lovato - singer, actress, former Disney spark plug, meltdown survivor - sang the morbid power ballad "Skyscraper" at the Hammerstein Ballroom: "Would it make you feel better/ To watch me while I bleed?"

Lovato is a force on Twitter, a human trending topic, thanks to the Lovatics, as her legions of fans are called. She made a show of stopping a few bars into "Skyscraper," her current single, to give them a pep talk.

"A year ago, I was not in a good place, and I needed help," she said. "There are so many beautiful girls in this audience that don't know that they're beautiful, and they are." She then thanked them for "being there for me every single day when I was away."

Lovato also thanks the women of the treatment center Timberline Knolls - where she addressed bulimia and cutting, among other things - in the liner notes of her third album, "Unbroken" (Hollywood), which was released Tuesday, less than eight months after she left rehab and one month after her 19th birthday.

"Unbroken" represents the opportunity to wipe clean several slates, something Lovato is well suited for. She has long been the least musically predictable of her Disney class, which includes the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus. Her albums - "Don't Forget" from 2008, and especially "Here We Go Again," released in 2009 - were the savviest of the group's, full of biting and aggressive pop-rock.

The theory goes that Disney stars have to bide their time to reveal their true selves, but if anything, "Unbroken" feels more restrained than her previous albums. She has traded her teen-pop shackles for another kind, giving herself over to the recent melding of R&B and dance music.

She collaborates with Jason Deruo, Iyaz and Dev, some of the most toothless singers working that intersection, and on a couple of songs with the producer Timbaland, who long ago swapped skittering hip-hop futurism for high-gloss space-pop.

These songs do give Lovato the opportunity to present herself as an adult, not just a moppet who knows too much.

But at this show, the messages about maturity were muddled.

Even though Lovato can pull off R&B siren, she has always seemed interested in the role of rock goddess, and here, she toggled between the two. There was a lot of hair tossing on "Remember December" and "All Night Long."

"Unbroken" arrives a few weeks before the first post-Jonas Brothers solo release by Joe Jonas, Lovato's onetime paramour, who was the squire of choice among the late-aughts teen set. It, too, is a stab at sexed-up pop R&B, though Lovato's feels more assured.

Even if it weakened in places, or slipped off the melody, Lovato's voice is strong and versatile. She was a convincing dancer during this show, whether on her own or surrounded by her backup troupe.

Lovato didn't bother with her bold breakthrough single "This Is Me." But she made one welcome curveball choice: a cover of "How to Love," the women's-esteem-building ballad by Lil Wayne, which Lovato sung throatily, partly in the first person.

  Comments