Demi Lovato’s latest single, “29,” was released on Wednesday, but even before the full song was out, it created a lot of buzz online.
Lovato, who uses the pronouns he and they/them, initially shared a snippet of the track on her TikTok account earlier this month. Soon, Lovato fans became deeply attached to the song’s emotional lyrics and made it an anthem about older men who were willing to “groom” teenage girls.
Fans have speculated that the song is a hoax on Lovato’s ex-boyfriend Wilmer Valderrama, the actor Lovato dated on and off from 2010 to 2016. They met when Lovato was 17 and Valderrama was 29, but Lovato has said that they didn’t start dating until she was 18.
“Finally 29 / Funny, like you were at the time / Thought it was a teenage dream, just a fantasy / But was it yours or was it mine? / 17/29,” Lovato sings on the chorus of “29” . (And yes, Lovato actually turned 29 this weekend before her birthday.)
The TikTok account @demisculture used the song’s audio to create a video that revealed the 12-year age difference between Lovato and Valderrama; It also shed light on Valderama’s many other relationships.
The video states that the “That ’70s Show” star dated Mandy Moore when she was 20 and she was 16 and claimed she was in a relationship with Lindsay Lohan when she was 17 And she was 24 years old. (Lohan was 18 when they went public with their relationship.)
The same video incorrectly stated that Lovato and Valderrama started dating at the age of 17.
“When I met him and I first laid eyes on [Valderama], I was into hair and makeup, and I was like, ‘I love her man and I have to keep him,'” Lovato said in her 2017 Said in the documentary, “Just Complicated.” “But I was only 17, so he was like, ‘Get away from me.’ After we turned 18, we started dating.”
In 2015, after celebrating three years of sobriety, Lovato said Valderrama played a key role in her recovery.
“After sharing my ups and downs and supporting my recovery… “I really wouldn’t be alive today without her… I love you Wilmer,” Lovato wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post.
Lovato has not publicly confirmed or denied that “29” is about Valderrama. However, in 2020, Lovato said that she was no longer in touch with her ex, who had recently engaged to model Amanda Pacheco.
“I’m really happy for her and I wish her all the best, but we’re not in each other’s lives, haven’t talked in a long time,” Lovato told Harper’s Bazaar.
A representative for Valderrama declined to comment when reached by The Times on Wednesday.
Even if the song is about someone, people on TikTok are using it to tell personal stories about being groomed by older men and how they were able to survive toxic situations.
User @takeyoutocourt pulled audio to share his account of being framed as a teenager by a man who was 12 years older than him. She posted clips and pictures of the two and emphasized how young she was and how happy she was to leave that relationship.
“This song has left me stunned. I’m so grateful we can now stand up and speak out against grooming,” she captioned the video. “I’m in my healing journey and moving to the other side Am. Crafted and manipulated for years. 17 will never cross my mind!!! Thank you Demi for writing this song, it’s so therapeutic.”
@bunnnbabe used the single to soundtrack his video about being groomed by a former teacher when he was 17 and he was 25. She captioned the video, “He was a teacher, I was a student.”
“Today’s Trauma Processing” follows how @neko_sheru crafted her own story of being groomed by a 21-year-old when she was just 13. She responded to a comment on the video saying: “I’ve had a lot of healing and I was doing great,” and in response to another comment added, “It took me years to realize I was a victim. ”
@_mrsmetz presented her story about grooming in text form on a video of her walking.
“I met my b [f] when I was 15 and she was 21. We started dating at 17 and he was 23,” she wrote. “Sometimes around 20 him and his friend confess to me that they only like little girls because they are easier to control and ‘turn them into the type of gf a guy wants.'”
“Protect your innocence. You’re not an ‘old soul’ or ‘so mature for your age,’ there’s a reason he isn’t dating anyone his age, don’t let these people manipulate you.” Give.”
Such TikTok videos have garnered millions of views on the app, with the comments section full of other users explaining how they too have been victims of grooming.
The full version of the song details the relationship built on uneven power dynamics.
“Student and a teacher / Far from innocent,” sings Lovato. “Did f—consent? / The numbers didn’t tell you / But that didn’t stop you.
“Yeah, you’re 12 years older than him / Maybe it doesn’t matter now / But I know f—better.”
In a recent interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, the “Confident” singer talked about how going to rehab after a 2018 overdose helped with the process of passive trauma.
Demi Lovato poses for the cameras in a purple-blue suit jacket
Lovato said, “Everything I write about comes from personal experiences … I had all this unresolved trauma that I didn’t face or begin to treat.” “And then when I came out, I was like, ‘It’s okay to be angry and feel those things.’ So when I was making the album, the first week, I got very angry, and I think it showed in a lot of songs.”
When asked about “29”, Lovato remained mostly silent, but acknowledged that the song’s lyrics would grab listeners’ attention.
“And I’m very careful with the way I answer these questions because I feel like the song says it all,” he said. “I don’t have much to say to be honest, but being 29 was a huge eye-opener for me.
Lovato said, “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care about taking this song out.” “I just said, ‘I have to go for it. I have to own my truth.’ Yes. And I still tread that line very closely. I’ve learned that sometimes less is more to say.”