[Editorial comment: Since beginning writing these posts, my mantra has been that pop songs will ALWAYS surprise you by being deeper than you expected. With Demi Lovato’s “Cool for the Summer,” I thought for sure I had found one that the rule didn’t apply to. Surprise, surprise: I was wrong. Whether you enjoy the song or no, you will be interested by the ideas presented to pop music listeners.]
[Another editorial comment: “Cool for the Summer” contains allusions and ideas that younger children may be better off not coming into contact with. It may be a good idea for those under 16 to ask parents to review this post before reading it themselves. In addition, I do not agree with what Lovato is proposing here, but I do not explain why because the purpose of this post is to explain; I write posts at other times in which the purpose is to convince. If you wish to dialogue further about this, please e-mail me at email@example.com.]
Demi Lovato is a 22 year-old former Disney Pop Princess who launched a pop career that’s found special success among the club/dance crowd; her followers call themselves “Lovatics.” Beginning her career on Barney & Friends, Lovato moved on to Camp Rock in 2008 and finally was the star in Sonny with a Chance. After Disney, she focused primarily on her musical career. She entered rehab in 2010 following a litany of problems including alcohol abuse, cocaine use, assault, and bulimia. According to Wikipedia, Lovato describes herself as a Christian and advocates heavily for gay rights.
Music critics have complimented “Cool for the Summer” for Demi Lovato’s “understated on point vocal performance,” “strong electric guitar fueled chorus,” and “lyrical embrace of a post marriage equality world.” The song is technically well put together, thanks in part to Lovato’s co-writers Max Martin, Ali Payami, Alexander Erik Kronlund and Savan Kotecha. In “Cool for the Summer,” these four and Lovato have put together a pop dance anthem that (though deployed late in the summer) has the chance to seriously upset the Billboard top 40 before fall begins on September 23rd (though it will very likely still be listened to after that).
The Main Idea: This song, like Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” is about a woman who is interested in homosexual relations with another woman.
“Cool for the Summer” is Lovato wondering what it would be like to be sexually involved with a fellow woman. Bill Lamb at top40.com says, “Demi Lovato has made no secret of her strong support of the LGBT community, and in a nation where marriage equality is now the law of the land, she has released a pop anthem reflecting the new reality.” In fact, the case can be made that Lovato is actually building on what Katy Perry’s song began.
In Verse 1, Demi Lovato sings, “Tell me what you want / What you like / It’s okay / I’m a little curious too.” She appears to be talking to another female and trying to convince her that homosexaul experimentation will be all right. She wants to know what the other woman wants to feel and assures her that curiosity is normal.
Progressing the situation, she sings, “Tell me if it’s wrong / If it’s right / I don’t care.” Lovato seems to be winking at the usual morality-centered meanings of “right” and “wrong” while really intending her friend to consider what feels good and what feels bad physically. If the friend doesn’t like what Lovato does, Lovato assures her that “I don’t care”; they’ll try something else.
Despite wanting to do this, they are afraid of what others will think if they are found out, and Lovato sings, “I can keep a secret. Can you?” Of course, because Lovato is singing about the encounter, the secret is officially out; thus, that secret isn’t what mattered. Rather, Lovato simply wanted to build tension and suspense while developing the personalities of the women involved.
In the pre-chorus of “Cool for the Summer,” Lovato sings about her desire for this other woman, trying to explain why she wants to do what she wants to do. She sings, “Got my mind on your body / And your body on my mind.” She can’t stop thinking about the other woman’s body.
What really shows listeners (who may be doubting at this point) that the song is about another woman, is the pre-chorus’s third and fourth lines: “Got a taste for the cherry / I just need to take a bite.” According to Genius.com, the word (apart from its regular meaning in such a context) could also be a shoutout to the “cherry chapstick” mentioned in Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” or to a woman’s virginity in general, all options pointing at homosexual relations.
Lovato warns her friend, “Don’t tell your mother.” Part of being “cool for the summer,” as Lovato sings three lines later, is not letting anyone else know (including parents) and letting the entire relationship drop when the two return to normal life at the end of what will have been a wild summer fling.
Lovato tells her friend, “Kiss one another / Die for each other.” However far they plan to go, Lovato and her friend are experimenting both with affection and sex.
Of course, at the end of their experiment, they’re “cool for the summer.” No long-lasting emotional bond will be forged. When the summer is over, they will return to wherever they came.
In “Cool for the Summer’s” chorus, Lovato sings, “Take me down into your paradise,” which could be a reference to deeper intimacy. She sings, “Don’t be scared ’cause I’m your body type / Just something that we wanna try.” Lovato tries to make the encounter seem less “ground-breaking” by suggesting that this will not be a longterm preference–just something to try.
In Verse 2, Lovato asks the other woman to “[t]ell me if I won,” which could be a reference to convincing the other woman to enjoy the experience. Whatever the case, Lovato seems to be the sexual aggressor here. She’s trying to achieve a goal while the other woman is far more passive. Considering whether she was successful or not, Lovato asks, “If I did / What’s my prize?” which could be a reference to the other woman returning the favor.
Lovato sings, “I just wanna play with you, too / Even if they judge / F**k it / I’ll do the time / I just wanna have some fun with you.” Lovato believes that this experience is innocent and that she now doesn’t even care what people think. She desires this women (or homosexual experimentation) enough to disregard other people’s opinions of herself.
“Cool for the Summer” is not direct support for homosexual relationships; it’s Demi Lovato’s admitting to her own curiosity about other women’s bodies and thus her argument for the legitimizing of such relations. In the end, Demi Lovato declares that she doesn’t care what others think and won’t let them get between her and something she wants, no matter what that may be.
What do you think of “Cool for the Summer” by Demi Lovato? Do you think she’s advocating something concerning homosexuality or do you think this is just self-confession? Is what she’s doing right or wrong? I’d like to hear what you think, either in the comments below, on Twitter, or on Facebook. Don’t forget to follow! More pop song explanations to come!