Demi Lovato knows a thing or two about substance abuse, having a near-fatal experience in 2018 after overdosing on opioids. The 29-year-old singer-songwriter is an icon in the music industry, publicly battling drug and alcohol addiction since she was 18.
On August 19, 2022, the “Confident” singer’s eighth studio album, HOLY FVCK, debuts. “Substance,” the second single on the highly-anticipated album, dropped on July 15 along with an angry music video addressing their close call with death.
It is not the first song the Grammy nominee has written about her drug use and experiences. Soul-searching lyrics have depicted a never-ending battle and become a prevalent theme in their music.
Lovato was ‘clean and sober’ when she recorded ‘Substance’
In a recent interview on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, the “Sorry Not Sorry” singer revealed that after going through treatment again last year, she wanted to make the best album possible. Lovato said she wanted something that “really represents who I am,” explaining, “the easiest way to do something the most authentic is to do it clean and sober.”
Lovato explained, “I made this album clean and sober. I can’t say that about my last album, but this one I’m really, really proud about.”
‘Dancing With the Devil’
Before “Substance” was even a thought in their head, Lovato wrote many songs about her experiences with substance abuse.
In “Skin of My Teeth,” Lovato’s first track on the HOLY FVCK album, the tormented singer states, “Demi leaves rehab again, When is this s*** gonna end? Sounds like the voice in my head. I can’t believe I’m not dead.” They also refer to finding it “harder to breathe,” the grim reaper knocking on the door, and the “f****** disease.”
In 2018, the power ballad “Sober” was released one month after the singer’s overdose. According to US Weekly, Lovato spent two weeks in the hospital and three months in rehab. The song talks about her relapse after six years of sobriety.
At the 2020 Grammy Awards, Lovato made a comeback with an emotional performance of “Anyone,” which was written and recorded shortly before their overdose. After 18 months away from the spotlight, the “No Promises” singer revealed in an interview with Apple Music’s New Music Daily that the lyrics to “Anyone” were a cry for help, saying, “How did nobody listen to this song and think ‘Let’s help this girl.'” Lovato expressed her desire to “go back in time and help that version of myself.”
In last year’s YouTube Original docuseries, Dancing With the Devil, Lovato discussed the grizzly details of her addiction, claiming, “I had three strokes. I had a heart attack. My doctors said that I had five to 10 more minutes.”
Lovato’s new single is out now
While the title implies the lyrics are about substance abuse, the singer is instead referring to her attempt to find something with meaning.
On the website promoting their new album, the Camp Rock actor explains the overall meaning of the track saying, “I wanted to make a point that we live in a world where nothing is real anymore. There’s so much that’s lacking substance, from the content that we intake to the activities we do in our normal lives. We’re always on our phones, we’re always on the internet and I wanted to make a song that was saying how I missed the substance that used to be the world we live in.”
According to Genius, at the beginning of this year, Lovato teased lyrics from the track on an Instagram post. In March, she revealed some of the audio, and then in June posted a short sneak peek on TikTok, with the pre-save link released the same day.
While the song title might not refer to drug use, the chorus lyrics of “Substance” still express their feelings of drug addiction, stating, “Am I the only one looking for substance? Got high, it only left me lonely and loveless. Don’t wanna end up in a casket, head full of maggots, body full of jack sh*t.”
The song clearly resonates with Lovato’s overdose experience, last year’s relapse, and their fear of dying.