‘Heart Attack’ 10 Years Later: How Demi Lovato Reinvented a Seminal Hit After Going to ‘Hell and Back’
Sitting in a studio with Demi Lovato in 2012, songwriter-producer Mitch Allan wanted her to hear something. The rising star was there to record “Two Pieces,” a track to be included her soon-to-be-released album Demi. After hearing her “gigantic vocal” on the emotional pop anthem, Allan pressed play on a demo he’d been workshopping and pitching around called “Heart Attack.”
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“She looked me, her eyes lit up, and she just said, ‘Oh my God, I love it. I wanna cut it,'” he recalls in a conversation with Billboard. Looking back on that moment herself, Lovato remembers the same feeling. “I knew I wanted to record it,” she says. “I could hear what I wanted to do with the song — I just loved it.”
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10 years after its official release in 2013, “Heart Attack” stands as one of the biggest hits of Lovato’s career (one of the star’s three top 10 solo hits on the Billboard Hot 100) and a well-established fan favorite in their discography. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of her signature, the singer decided it was time to give the song an update.
On Friday (March 24), Lovato unveiled the “rock version” of her hit single, first teased to fans who attended her latest tour dates. Swapping swelling synths for raging guitars and scintillating trap beats with double-time pop-punk drums, the updated anthem keeps the bones of the original while turning up the heat on the aesthetics.
Oak Felder, a longtime collaborator of Lovato’s and the executive producer of their 2022 rock opus Holy Fvck, struggled with how to approach remake a song that he “loved” already. “No matter what happens to it or how it’s changed, you just can’t get the original version outta your head,” he says. “To be truthful with you, that’s kind of what made it a challenge.”
The sound that Felder couldn’t shake was that of production duo The Suspex, made up of Allan and Jason Evigan. The duo wrote “Heart Attack” with Sean Douglas, Aaron Phillips and Nikki Williams, the latter of whom the song was originally intended for.
From the moment they first produced the demo, Allan says he knew that “Heart Attack” was a left-field pop song for 2013’s radio landscape, especially with its nods towards light rock and EDM sounds. But after hearing Lovato’s earth-shattering vocals, he knew they had to pare it down.
“We had a dubstep drop right after that massive bridge; it went to this crazy Skrillex-esque … I don’t even know what to call it, this dubstep break that Jason just sat down and just went nuts on,” Allan explains. “That was the first part that we ended up having to cut, because we realized as much as we loved the choppiness and aggressiveness, it wasn’t what was on the radio and it wasn’t right for Demi.”
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What ended up being right for the singer was ad-libbing — once everyone was in the studio together, Lovato asked Allan if they could improvise a few runs on the song’s bridge. “They were pretty off-the-cuff, they kind of just came to me in the moment. It was a pretty simple and easy thing,” Lovato says, before adding with a laugh, “Well, actually, some of the notes were really hard. I remember kind of struggling to hit a few of those in the studio.”
Whatever struggle Lovato was feeling, Allan says he didn’t notice it. “That very last note [of the bridge] was the highest note I’d ever heard a human being hit with full voice, and she just did it,” Allan says, still amazed. “It was perfect. I’m the kind of producer that will always say, ‘That was awesome. Do it again.’ I don’t think I cut it a second time, I just sat there slack-jawed, staring at her and saying, ‘Oh my God.'”
That bridge went on the not only impress Allan, but fans as well — over the last few years, the bridge to “Heart Attack” has spawned a TikTok challenge where aspiring singers attempt to hit the stratospheric G5 in full voice at the end of the run, to varying effect.
For Lovato, that kind of legacy for the song means a lot to her. “It feels amazing, being able to see the song continue to reach people and inspire people to hit those high notes,” she says. “I used to try and hit those high notes in my favorite songs — it’s really cool that people are starting to do the same with mine.”
With that legacy came a set of unspoken expectations for a new rock version — but Felder says he quickly solved the problem he was facing by listening to “La La Land,” another fan-favorite song from Lovato’s discography.
“I realized Demi, in that era, sounded like a completely different person … Demi’s voice now is a witness and a testament to the things that she’s been through as a person,” he says. “Once you’ve gone to hell and you’ve come back, you really appreciate life … when I hear her sing about things that are emotional or painful or joyful, there is a lot more experience and understanding of those emotions behind the way that she’s singing it now. Once I got there, the production just came right out.”
Lovato agrees with Felder’s assessment, and takes it a step further — it’s not just their voice that has changed in the last 10 years. “I was so young, and I was a completely different person back then,” they explain. “I hadn’t come out as non-binary yet, so when I look back, I see a totally different person than I am today. But I still love that girl, I love that part of me.”
With the added context of all Lovato’s been through over the last few years — a public overdose, stints in and out of rehab, publicly coming out and more — the rock version of “Heart Attack” bears plenty more grit and anger where the original didn’t. When Lovato sings “It’s just not fair, pain’s more trouble than love is worth,” this time, you genuinely believe her.
That added context is everything Allan says they were aiming for when reinventing the song in the studio. “It was about capturing what she feels now,” he says. “I think that’s the magic that comes from a great song, where you get to go, ‘Okay, we did that version. We don’t need to rely on it. How do we feel today, and does it still hold up?’ I think it does.”
From her experience playing the new version of the song live on her Holy Fvck Tour, Lovato knows for a fact that it still holds up. “I saw [my fans] rocking out to it, and it just brought a lot of joy to my heart,” she says. “I wouldn’t have believed that I would be re-recording this song for a 10 year anniversary because it was that special. But being able to see it from that perspective today is really exciting to me.”
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