"Skyscraper" is a song performed by American singer Demi Lovato. The song was released on July 12, 2011, as the lead single from her third studio album Unbroken (2011). The song was written by Toby Gad, Lindy Robbins and Kerli Kõiv and produced by Gad. When the song was recorded, Lovato was very emotional which triggered outbursts and caused her to start crying. In November 2010, Lovato entered a treatment facility to deal with her personal struggles. After completing her treatment and leaving the treatment facility in late January 2011, Lovato re-recorded the song, but kept the original recording as she felt it was "symbolic" to her. According to Lovato, the song represents the journey she had been on the previous year.
The song is a ballad and the lyrics speak of staying strong and believing in yourself. The song opens with a lonely piano and as soon accompanied by heavy percussion. Lovato showcases breathy and quivering vocals throughout the song. "Skyscraper" was critically acclaimed by music critics; many praised Lovato's vocals and the inspirational lyrics of the song. The song debuted at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100, spending a total of 17 weeks on the chart. The song became Lovato's highest-peaked single on the chart since "This Is Me", peaked at number nine in August 2008. "Skyscraper" sold 176,000 paid digital downloads in the first week of release in the United States, setting a sales record for Lovato. Internationally, the song reached the top 20 in Canada, New Zealand and the United States. The song was certified Gold in Australia. The song has sold over 1.5 million digital downloads in the United States and has been certified platinum by the RIAA.
Lovato performed "Skyscraper" for the first time at the Do Something Awards on August 18, 2011.
"Skyscraper" was written by Toby Gad, Lindy Robbins and Estonian singer Kerli Kõiv and produced by Gad. Kerli said they wrote the song while drawing inspiration from a picture of the apocalypse. In an interview with Seventeen, Kõiv elaborated on the picture, stating, "The world was in ruins and in the middle of all the collapsed buildings was one skyscraper still standing tall. It was slightly raining and the first rays of sun were starting to shine through thick clouds of smoke. I was actually feeling amazing when I wrote it. It came from a really empowered place." Kerli revealed that the song is also personal to her, stating, "I come from a very small place in Eastern Europe so my whole life has kind of been one big fight to live my dream against all odds. But I think it's hard to be a human in general — we all have our own struggles and things to overcome." When asked what she wants girls to feel when they hear the song, Kerli said, "I think the lyrics say it already. You can hit the lowest low and face the darkest dark, but you can always get back up and get in the light." Kerli recorded a demo version of the song before Gad was offered the song to Lovato. Lovato wanted to record the song because she felt a "huge emotional attachment to it" and believed both she and her fans could relate to it. Lovato explained the rest of Unbroken is "a lot lighter and more fun" and they chose to release "Skyscraper" as the first single from the album because they wanted to show "something very inspirational" that represents the difficult journey she had been on.
Lovato initially recorded "Skyscraper" in Studio City, Los Angeles in 2010. During recording, Lovato was "doubled over, just in pain", making her very emotional and tearful. Lovato had never been that emotional while recording a song before. While recording, her voice was damaged from purging. Lovato felt that the song was a "cry for help", which triggered a lot of emotions, stating that she was crying and "bawling [her] eyes out" in the studio. At the time, Lovato had not told anyone about her depressions and personal issues. In November 2010, she entered a treatment facility to treat her physical and emotional problems. After completed her treatment and leaving the treatment facility in late January 2011, Lovato re-recorded the song, but decided to keep the original recording because she felt that her voice had changed, although noting about her voice was "weaker" when Lovato originally recorded. She said, "There was something in that first try, that first run through of the song that was kind of magical. It was so much emotion in it, and to this day, it’s still really special to me." Lovato called the original take "symbolic" and said that "it was providing a message".
Kerli praised Lovato's version of the song, slated: "really conveys the emotion". Kerli continued: "I always say that songs are messages and artists are messengers, and at this point in time there is no better messenger for this song than Demi. Her courage to go out and tell the whole world about everything she's been through the past year is beyond inspiring." American singer Jordin Sparks provided backing vocals on the song. Lovato said that they kept her vocals because "it adds a lot to the song". Lovato stated, "I think she may have recorded it once maybe and I don't really know what the situation was, but I know she did the background vocals and they were lovely so they kept them."
Lovato revealed the cover artwork and release date of "Skyscraper" on her Twitter account on July 5, 2011. Following the announcement, "Skyscraper" became a trending topic on the site. On July 12, 2011, an interview of On Air with Ryan Seacrest, Lovato called in to talk about the track. The same day, the song was made available for digital download on the iTunes Store in the United States, although originally planned to be released on July 14, 2011. The song reached the top ten on the iTunes chart within an hour and the summit of the chart later in the afternoon. The song was serviced for mainstream radio airplay on July 26, 2011. Lovato recorded a Spanish version of the track, named "Rascacielo". It was released on the Mexican iTunes store on August 16, 2011.
After the song was released, many celebrities voiced their support of "Skyscraper" on Twitter. According to The Hollywood Reporter, those celebrities included The Veronicas, Kelly Clarkson, Selena Gomez, Lucy Hale, Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, Jordin Sparks, Ashley Tisdale and Pete Wentz, among others. In response to the celebrity reactions, Lovato stated "There has been so much positive feedback, it's been so incredible. I hear that people like Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson respect my music and are even tweeting about it on their own time. I mean, it's just been so amazing and I've been so thankful and grateful. It's just so exciting for me, because these are people I look up to myself and then hearing that they're tweeting about me; it's like a dream come true." Jordin Sparks, who provided backing vocals on the track, posted a video of herself singing the song on her website. Lovato called Sparks' take "beautiful".
"Skyscraper" is a pop ballad with lyrics focusing on "staying strong and believing in yourself". In the chorus, Lovato's quivering vocals are accompanied by breathy backing vocals and heavy percussion.
"Skyscraper" is a pop ballad in which Lovato showcases breathy, quivering and powerful vocals. In the first verse, Lovato is only accompanied by a lonely, pulsing piano as she sings, "Skies are crying, I am watching catching teardrops in my hands/ Only silence, as it's ending, like we never had a chance". As the song progresses, the piano is accompanied by heavy percussion and breathy backing vocals. In the chorus, Lovato sings, "You can take everything I have/ You can break everything I am/ Like I'm made of glass, like I'm made of paper/ Go on and try and tear me down/ I will be rising from the ground like a skyscraper". In the second verse, Lovato "begins to find more strength". The song has a simple musical structure. According to the sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by EMI Music Publishing, the song is set in common time with a metronome of 104 beats per minute. It is composed in the key of G major with Lovato's vocal range spanning from the note of G3 to the note of G5. Lyrically, the song is about staying strong and believing in yourself. According to Lovato, the song's lyrics symbolize her personal journey from where she used to be to "the happy healthy person [she is] today." The song deals with the difficulties when Lovato had been through the past year and overcoming the obstacles she faced. With the song, Lovato hopes that "people are able to relate to it and realize that they are able to rise above and overcome any obstacle, no matter the circumstances and shine like a skyscraper".
The song has received universal acclaim from music critics. Jason Lipshutz of Billboard was positive on the song, especially praising Lovato's powerful vocal range. Grady Smith of Entertainment Weekly called the song "pretty inspiring" and wrote that "Lovato’s raspy, crying-out vocal sounds gorgeous". Monica Herrera of Rolling Stone praised the song, describing it as a "tear-jerker ballad".
"Skyscraper" debuted at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100, selling 176,000 downloads during the first week of release, becoming Lovato's highest first week sales, until the release of "Heart Attack" by Lovato in 2013. The song also Lovato's highest-peaked single since "This Is Me" reached number nine in August 2008. The song also debuted at number two on the Hot Digital Songs chart. The song also debuted at number 18 on the Canadian Hot 100. On the issue dated August 1, 2011, the song entered the New Zealand Singles Chart at number nine, making it her highest debut and peaking single there. On the issue dated August 7, 2011, it debuted on the Australian Singles Chart at number 92. The next week, it reached its peak of 45.
Skyscraper entered the UK Singles Chart at number 32 on March 4, 2012, selling 11,460 copies, her highest UK charting song at the time and her third top 40 hit in the UK. On September 29, 2013, the song re-entered and peaked at number 13, over a year after the original release date. It reached number seven on October 7, 2013, giving Lovato her second UK top ten hit after "Heart Attack".
There were so many things that represented my addictions and eating disorders and self-harm. When I'm unraveling this black fabric...It was the toxicity took over my mind for so long, that oozed out of every pore that I had because I was suffering inside...I'm taking it off and walking on broken glass and powering through it.
— Demi Lovato to E! News on the video's content and inspiration. The music video was filmed at white sands, NM.
The music video was directed by Mark Pellington. Lovato's management sent her different video treatments for the song, including one from Pellington. Lovato based her decision on choosing his idea due to him being "really respected as a director". She said, "he had a great way of really interpreting the song into a video and I was just really thankful that he did such a great job. But he is such an incredible artist and he really knew how to interpret that into a incredible video." The video was shot in the middle of the Bonneville Salt Flats desert and Lovato and Pellington took a private plane to the location. Lovato wanted to keep the video shoot "really intimate, because it needed to be for the song". The shoot, which took twelve hours, was "both physically and mentally tough" for Lovato, as she would "break down and cry" between takes because of the song being so personal to her. On set, Lovato and Pellington were accompanied by the hair and make-up artists and Lovato's management. Due to there not being many people involved, Lovato felt that it was "pretty easy to get to that emotional place" that was needed for the song. Lovato also wanted to give the video an "emotionally raw feel", stating, "That video was an emotional release for me, like therapy... I kept crying, I was so emotionally invested...That's when I realized, that's what music videos are all about." The video represents her personal struggles in the past years, including her former eating disorder and cutting, and that she finally sought medical attention.
Lovato as she is wandering through the desert in the music video for "Skyscraper".
The video begins with Lovato walking towards the camera on a desert road in Bonneville Salt Flats while wearing a long white dress. A close-up shot of Lovato's face serves as the main portion of the video, throughout the first verse. In the first chorus, a glass heart enclosed in a glass box is shown with surrounded by a fog and Lovato continues to walk down the desert road. In the second verse, a black fabric surrounds her, which represents the "toxicity" that took over her mind in the past and made her suffer inside. She is then seen walking over the broken glass, which represents her "taking [the toxicity] off" and "powering through it". In the second chorus, Lovato begins to find more strength, with one shot showing her standing inside a photograph frame. In the bridge, the glass box with the heart inside is hit, causing the surface to break. Other scenes of the black fabric and Lovato walking over the glass afterwards. As the song fades, the last scene of Lovato's face as the video ends.
The music video premiered on July 13, 2011 on E! News and released by VEVO on July 14, 2011. Soon after the premiere, Lovato chat with Ryan Seacrest in an exclusive interview. The video was met with a positive reception. James Montgomery of MTV News was very positive on the video, especially a scene in which Lovato looks into the camera and almost breaks into tears. Montgomery said, "I'm not sure if she's acting or not, but I doubt it, and really, it's not like it matters. Not when a singer connects to a song on such a visceral level, especially one who's already been through the wringer." He concluded, "there's some dramatically billowing fabrics and some shattered glass, but really, the song is the star. And that simplicity is perfect here, because the song provides all the pyrotechnics necessary." Grady Smith of Entertainment Weekly praised the video for being simple, saying "There are no electric guitars or goofy story lines here—just simple, raw passion." Melina Newman of HitFix said that "No one else appears in the Mark Pellington-directed clip as the focus is clearly on showing the pain [Lovato has] gone through and from which she is rising, not like the proverbial phoenix, but like a skyscraper." Newman praised Pellington for bringing "a sense of intimacy to the clip despite the often wide-open spaces".
Covers, talent performance and usage in media
Jordin Sparks, who provided backing vocals on the track, posted a video of herself singing the song on her website. Lovato called Sparks' take "beautiful".
In August 2011, Puerto Rican-American rock band Boyce Avenue together with Megan Nicole covered the ballad and posted an acoustic version on their YouTube channel. The video generated more than 20 million views. In April 2012, Romeo Miller released a remix of the song featuring Lovato.
On 15 December 2013, Bailey performed the song live on The X Factor final, competing against Nicholas McDonald. She also performed the song on 25 January 2014 during her live appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show.
Lewis Corner of Digital Spy gave the song a positive review stating:
As we've been reminded numerous times over the past few months, The X Factor celebrated its tenth series this year, and for it the public decided Sam Bailey should release its tenth winner's single. The annual release has faced its ups and downs over the past decade, with any number of Facebook campaigns, novelty singles and festive anthems attempting to thwart its victory. But it generally feels this year that Sam, who was working as a prison officer at the start of the year, has even charmed over the more vociferous members of the public. "You can take everything I have/ You can break everything I am," Sam declares on 'Skyscraper', showcasing her impressive range that has astonishingly gone unnoticed for the past two decades. While diehard fans of Demi Lovato's original will argue that there's clear emotion attached to her version, there's no doubt Sam's 'working mum to popstar' transformation that we've been witness to over the past few months adds her own endearing perspective to the cover. And with a freshly-signed record deal being handed in at Sony HQ this morning, it's a journey we are more than intrigued to see play out over the next 12 months. 
Lovato also praised Bailey's version of the song. Writing on Twitter, she said: ""Congratulations @SamBaileyREAL on winning X Factor UK!! Love your version of Skyscraper!"
On December 18, 2013, the song entered number one on the Official Chart Update in the UK, ahead of "Happy" by Pharrell Williams. On December 19, it entered the Irish Singles Chart at number one. She remained there for a second week, becoming the New Year's number one as well. In its third week, however, the song fell to number five. On December 20, it was revealed that the song had so far sold 107,000 copies (68,000 ahead of "Happy") and was on course to become the UK Christmas number one. On December 22, "Skyscraper" debuted at number one with sales of 148,853 copies. Despite more than doubling the sales of closest competitor "Happy" (63,858), it produced the second-lowest first-week sales of any X Factor winner's single; the lowest was Steve Brookstein's version of Phil Collins' "Against All Odds". It was, however, the fifth fastest-selling single of 2013 in the UK. The following week, "Skyscraper" dropped to number two, with "Happy" claiming the final UK number one of 2013.