One thing about Demi Lovato is they’ve always maintained brutal honesty in their music. Their latest album Holy Fvck maintains that tradition, while seeing Lovato return to the rock sound of some of their early releases (this time a little less sanitized than the Disneyfied singles).
The most shocking song on the album has been “29.” Lovato, who now uses both she/her and they/them pronouns, teased the song just before releasing it in full and many were quick to point out the allusions to her relationship with ex Wilmer Valderrama, who was 29 when he met 17-year-old Lovato. They began dating after she turned 18.
“Finally 29 / Funny just 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,” she sings on the scathing chorus. Lovato and Valderrama were together for six years, and both Lovato and the press often painted the That ‘70’s Show actor as a grounding, supportive partner as the singer very publicly struggled with substance abuse and mental health issues.
Lovato has not quite named Valderrama but in a recent interview with Zane Lowe, she alludes to a moment of reckoning she had as she turned 29 herself, reflecting on how strange it was for someone that age to date a teenager. “I’m very careful with the way that I answer these questions because I feel like the song says it all,” she told the Apple Music host. “I don’t have to say too much, to be honest, but turning 29 was a huge eye opener for me.”
Before the full song came out, it became an instant hit on TikTok. Creators reflected on the age-gap relationships they had been in when they were teenagers. Many had since turned the age of their former, older partners. In turning that age, much like Lovato, they began to understand the underlying power dynamic issues and — in some cases coercion and grooming — they had experienced under the guise of feeling like they had found true love. Bravely, some have even pulled up receipts: photographic proof, text messages, and changed relationship statuses on Facebook.
Valderrama’s own dating history has been put under a microscope upon the song’s release. Prior to dating Lovato, the actor had dated a few other famous teenagers. He was Mandy Moore’s “first, real, true boyfriend,” according to the singer. They met when she was 15 and he was 19, and they began dating at the ages of 16 and 20, respectively. He later told Howard Stern that he took her virginity, which Moore said was a lie.
When Velderrama was 24, he dated and then was engaged to 18-year-old Lindsay Lohan. They announced their relationship soon after she turned 18.
Valderrama has yet to comment on the song or theories that it’s about him.
This week on Rolling Stone‘s Don’t Let This Flop, a weekly podcast about internet news and culture, cohosts Ej Dickson and Brittany Spanos discuss Demi Lovato as well as canceled authors, the lesbian break-up apocalypse, Anne Heche conspiracy theories and whether or not Bill Hader is as hung as Rachel Bilson says he is.