Skyscraper (song)

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"Skyscraper"
Single by Demi Lovato
from the album Unbroken
B-side "Rascacielos" (Spanish version of "Skyscraper")
Released July 12, 2011 (2011-07-12)
Format Digital download, CD Single
Recorded 2010–2011
Genre
Length 3:42
Label Hollywood
Writer(s)
Producer(s) Toby Gad
Demi Lovato singles chronology
"Wouldn't Change a Thing"
(2010)
"Skyscraper"
(2011)
"Give Your Heart a Break"
(2012)
Music video
"Skyscraper" on YouTube

"Skyscraper" is a song performed by American singer Demi Lovato for her third studio album Unbroken (2011). It was released on July 12, 2011 by Hollywood Records, as the lead single from the album. The song was written by Toby Gad, Lindy Robbins and Kerli Kõiv and produced by Gad. It was inspired by a picture of the apocalypse, in which the world was in ruins and among collapsed buildings, one skyscraper was still standing. When the song was recorded, Lovato was very emotional which triggered outbursts and caused her to start crying. On November 1, 2010, Lovato entered a treatment facility to deal with her personal struggles.

After completing her treatment on January 28, 2011, Lovato re-recorded the song, but kept the original recording as she felt it was "symbolic" to her. This ballad speaks of staying strong and believing in yourself. These two ideals strongly represent the journey Lovato went through the previous year, which speaks through Lovato's breathy and quivering vocals throughout the song. The song opens with a lonely piano and as soon accompanied by heavy percussion. A Spanish version of the song, alternatively titled "Rascacielo" was released on July 22, 2011.

"Skyscraper" 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" which peaked at number nine in July 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.[1] The song has sold over 1.5 million digital downloads in the United States and has been certified platinum by the RIAA.[2][3]

Background[edit]

"Skyscraper" was written by Toby Gad, Lindy Robbins and Estonian singer Kerli Kõiv and produced by Gad.[4] Kõiv said they wrote the song while drawing inspiration from a picture of the apocalypse.[5] 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."[5] Kõiv 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."[5] 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."[5] Kõiv recorded a demo version of the song before Gad was offered the song to Lovato.[5][6] 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.[6][7] 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.[7]

Recording[edit]

"She’s got the range, the full emotional spectrum, incredible control… Vocally, she’s the best thing Disney’s had since Christina Aguilera."

—Producer Toby Gad on Demi Lovato's vocals[8]

Initially, Lovato recorded "Skyscraper" in Studio City, Los Angeles in 2010.[8] During recording sessions, Lovato was "doubled over, just in pain." Lovato had never recorded a song that made that emotional, and according to E! News, while recording, her voice was damaged from purging.[6][9] At the time, Lovato had not told anyone about her struggles—she describes the song as a "cry for help" for her in that moment.[6][9] On November 1, 2010, she entered a treatment facility to treat her physical and emotional problems.[10]

After completed her treatment on January 28, 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.[6][9][11] 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."[6] Lovato called the original take "symbolic" and said that "it was providing a message".[9] Kõiv praised Lovato's version of the song, slated: "really conveys the emotion".[5] 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."[5]

Composition[edit]

"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.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"Skyscraper" is a pop ballad in which Lovato showcases breathy, quivering and powerful vocals.[12] 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.[12] 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 on 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.[13]

Lyrically, the song represents staying strong and believing in yourself.[14] 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."[15] The song deals with the difficulties 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".[16]

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

The song has received universal acclaim from music critics. Jason Lipshutz of Billboard spoke positively about the song, especially praising Lovato's powerful vocal range.[12] Grady Smith of Entertainment Weekly called the song "pretty inspiring," and he wrote that "Lovato’s raspy, crying-out vocal sounds gorgeous".[17] Monica Herrera of Rolling Stone praised the song, describing it as a "tear-jerker ballad".[18]

Chart performance[edit]

"Skyscraper" debuted at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100. It sold 176,000 downloads during the first week of release, becoming Lovato's highest first-week sales, and the song was Lovato's highest-peaked single since "This Is Me" reached number nine in August 2008.[19] It was Lovato's highest first-week sales until the release of "Heart Attack" by Lovato in 2013.[19] The song also debuted at number two on the Hot Digital Songs chart.[20] The song debuted at number 18 on the Canadian Hot 100.[21] As of August 1, 2011, the song entered the New Zealand Singles Chart at number nine—making it her highest debut and a peaking single there.[22] On August 7, 2011, it debuted on the Australian Singles Chart at number ninety-two, and it reached its peak of forty-five the very next week.[23] The next week, it reached its peak of 45.[24]

Skyscraper entered the UK Singles Chart at number thirty-two on March 4, 2012. It sold 11,460 copies which was her highest UK charting song at the time and her third top forty entry in the UK.[25] On September 29, 2013, over a year after the original release date, the song re-entered and peaked at number thirteen. It reached number seven on October 7, 2013, giving Lovato her second UK top ten single.[26]

Music video[edit]

Background[edit]

The music video was directed by Mark Pellington.[27] Lovato's management sent her different video treatments for the song, including one from Pellington.[6] 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."[6] The video was shot in the middle of the Bonneville Salt Flats desert.[6] Lovato wanted to keep the video shoot "really intimate, because it needed to be for the song".[6] The shoot, which took twelve hours, was "both physically and mentally tough" for Lovato; she would "break down and cry" between takes because of the song being so personal to her.[28] On set, Lovato and Pellington were accompanied by the hair and make-up artists and Lovato's management.[6] Due to the lack of people involved, Lovato felt that it was "pretty easy to get to that emotional place" that was needed for the song.[6] 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."[9] The video represents her personal struggles in the past years, including her former eating disorder and cutting and how she overcame them.[29]

Synopsis[edit]

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.[30] 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, surrounded by fog, and Lovato continues to walk down the road. In the second verse, she is surrounded by a black fabric that represents the "toxicity" that took over her mind in the past.[9] Then, she is seen walking over broken glass, which represents her "taking [the toxicity] off" and "powering through it".[9]

In the second chorus, Lovato begins to find more strength—represented by the one shot showing her standing inside a photograph frame. In the bridge, the glass box, with the heart inside, is hit, and the surface breaks. That is followed by more scenes Lovato walking over the broken glass, and as the song fades, the last scene is closes in on Lovato's face.

Release and reception[edit]

The music video premiered on July 13, 2011 on E! News, and it was released by VEVO on July 14, 2011.[27] Soon after the premiere, Lovato spoke with Ryan Seacrest in an exclusive interview On Air with Ryan Seacrest.[27] The video was met with a positive reception. James Montgomery of MTV News was very positive on the video—especially the scene when 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."[30] 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."[30]

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."[31] 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".[32]

Live performances[edit]

Lovato performed the song numerous times. Lovato performed at:

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Fick
2011 Teen Choice Awards "Choice Summer: Song" Won
2012 MTV Video Music Awards "Best Video with a Message" Won

Track listing[edit]

Skyscraper - US/Europe CD Single/Digital download
  1. "Skyscraper" – 3:43
  2. "Skyscraper (Instrumental)" – 3:39
Rascacielo - Spanish CD Single/Digital download[38]
  1. "Rascacielo – 3:42

Credits and personnel[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Release history[edit]

Country Release date Format(s)
United States[12] July 12, 2011 Digital download
United States[63] July 26, 2011 Mainstream airplay
Australia[64] November 2, 2011 Digital download
New Zealand[65]
United Kingdom February 26, 2012 Digital download
October 28, 2013 Re-release, contemporary hit radio

Sam Bailey version[edit]

"Skyscraper"
Single by Sam Bailey
from the album The Power of Love
Released 16 December 2013 (2013-12-16)
Format
Recorded 2013
Genre Pop
Length 3:40
Label
Writer(s)
Producer(s)
  • Graham Stack
  • Matt Furmidge
Sam Bailey singles chronology
"Skyscraper"
(2013)
"Sing My Heart Out"
(2016)

In December 2013, Sam Bailey, winner of the tenth series of The X Factor, released a cover version of "Skyscraper" as her winner's single.[66] The single was the 2013 Christmas number-one single on the UK Singles Chart. All proceeds from the single go to the Great Ormond Street Hospital and Together for Short Lives.[67]

Live performances[edit]

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.

Critical reception[edit]

Lewis Corner of Digital Spy gave the song a positive review by 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. 3/5 stars[68]

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!"[69]

Chart performance[edit]

On December 18, 2013, the song entered ahead of "Happy" by Pharrell Williams at number one on the Official Chart Update in the UK.[70] On December 19, it entered the Irish Singles Chart at number one, and it remained there for a second week, becoming the New Year's number one as well.[71] In its third week, however, the song fell to number five.[72]

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.[73] On December 22, "Skyscraper" debuted at number one with sales of 148,853 copies.[74] 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".[75] It was, however, the fifth fastest-selling single of 2013 in the UK.[76]

Track listing[edit]

Digital download
No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Skyscraper"   Toby Gad, Kerli Kõiv, Lindy Robbins Graham Stack, Matt Furmidge 3:40
UK CD single
No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Skyscraper"   Gad, Kõiv, Robbins Stack, Furmidge 3:40
2. "The Power of Love" (The X Factor performance) Gunther Mende, Candy DeRouge, Jennifer Rush, Mary Susan Applegate Stack, Furmidge TBA
3. "Make You Feel My Love" (The X Factor performance) Bob Dylan Stack, Furmidge TBA
4. "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" (The X Factor performance) Paul Jabara, Bruce Roberts Stack, Furmidge TBA

Charts and certifications[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Release history[edit]

Country Release date Format Label
Ireland[83] December 16, 2013 Digital download Syco, Sony
United Kingdom[84]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Impossible" by James Arthur
The X Factor winner's single (Sam Bailey version)
2013
Succeeded by
"Something I Need" by Ben Haenow