Music Review: Demi Lovato 'Here We Go Again' and Brooke Hogan 'The Redemption'

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By Allison Stewart
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Life can be rough for the girls in the middle. The ones who aren't named Miley, who aren't finalists on "American Idol." Girls such as Demi Lovato, 16, and Brooke Hogan, 21, who have their own B-level TV shows (the Disney Channel's "Sonny With a Chance" and VH1's "Brooke Knows Best," respectively) and are both issuing follow-ups to their tepidly selling debut discs on the same day.

Lovato has what passes for teen pop cred: She once collaborated with the Jonas Brothers (her new disc gets an assist from John Mayer, a lateral move at best), and she once told MTV she was a fan of death metallers Dimmu Borgir, which isn't the sort of thing someone would make up. Less importantly, she seems like she can sing.

But Lovato has been overzealously airbrushed. On "Here We Go Again," her smart, bristly, busy sophomore disc, she's remote and perfect, the class president who makes albums in her spare time, when she isn't busy modeling. Too much of it apes Avril Lavigne, with the standard shouted choruses and hiccupped verses that are beginning to sound very '03.

Lovato has the voice of an indie singer, or at least of a budding Alanis Morissette, and tracks like the sprightly "Every Time You Lie," a Jamiroquai rip-off better than anything Jamiroquai ever did, and the ballad "World of Chances" exploit the rough grain of her voice. They're like direction signs pointing to a much more interesting career.

While Lovato essays her songs with a cool dispatch, Hogan usually wrestles angrily with hers. "The Redemption" is a crime against tastefulness, starting with its appalling cover portrait of Hogan wearing angel wings and gazing heavenward, like Our Lady of the Spray Tan. Many tracks poach so unabashedly from Britney ("Strip") and Mariah ("Falling") they're more like stylized karaoke numbers than actual songs.

And yet. Hogan's awkwardness, her virtual inability to get through a song without embarrassing herself, is endearing. She overshares. She wants to be tied up. On the self-explanatory "Handcuffed" she coos "Oh, baby, tie me up/Cause I'm in love with you." Despite its gaps in logic, it may be the single best line of the year. She wants to be roughed up. Like on the gamey "Ruff Me Up," which may mark the only time its collaborator, Flo Rida, has ever been too classy for something. She has mother issues, and she would like to tell you about them. "This one's for you, Mom/ I love you but you gotta change," she intones dramatically on the threadbare R&B track "Dear Mom . . . "

Hogan's best song isn't even on "The Redemption." The mixtape track "Ur Not That Hot" is a scorched-earth Heidi Montag diss that's the summer's best example of girl-on-girl musical crime. "Whatcha gonna do?" it taunts. "I'm an icon, and I don't like you." It's not a good song, exactly, but it's bad in an interesting way, which is a start. "The Redemption" could have used more songs like it.

Demi Lovato performs at the Patriot Center on Aug. 20.

DOWNLOAD THESE: Demi Lovato: "Got Dynamite," "Every Time You Lie"; Brooke Hogan: "Hey Yo!"

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