Finally 29, Finally Speaking Out

Photo courtesy of Spotify

Photo courtesy of Spotify

Last month, on August 17, 2022, Demi Lovato (she/they), released a song from her new album “HOLY FVCK”, entitled “29”. Starting with a twangy, haunted guitar the lyrics begin with “Petal on the vine, too young to drink wine…” This hook immediately gripped me, preparing me for the story that is about to be told. A story of bravery and resilience. At seventeen years old, Demi Lovato had led quite a life, starting her acting career as Angela in “Barney and Friends” from 2002-2004. Just four years later, when the actress was sixteen they started their career with The Disney Channel, starring in the movie franchise, “Camp Rock” and “Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam” as Mitchie Torres. They also scored another leading role with “Sonny With A Chance” as Sonny Munroe, another Disney production.

But her life wasn’t all Hollywood glamour and glitz. In fact, there were a lot more sinister things taking place. When the Disney star was seventeen years old, she met “That 70’s Show” star, Wilmer Valderrama, who at the time was twelve years older than her. This twenty-nine-year-old man groomed and eventually dated this seventeen-year-old minor until they finally split up in 2016. Finally being free from this actor, Demi had an opportunity to speak her truth. 

At the beginning of the article, I mentioned the starting lyrics, now I want to go back and share the meanings behind them. I won’t be analyzing every lyric, I will simply be analyzing the ones that spoke out to me the most.

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“Just five years a bleeder, student and a teacher” → She had gotten her period only five years prior to her relationship with the 29-year-old Wilmer. 

“Far from innocent, what the fuck’s consent?” → Their relationship stemmed from the grooming of a minor; there is nothing innocent about this. Demi spoke about how they really didn’t know what consent was at that time in her life.

“Numbers told you not to, but that didn’t stop you.” → This is speaking to the laws put in place that should have protected a young Demi, but Wilmer didn’t care.

“Finally twenty-nine.” → She is now at the age he was when they began seeing one another. That within itself is traumatic. 

“Funny, just like you were at the time.” → She now knows what it is like to be the adult in that situation and she does not think it is appropriate to be around any minor in the way Wilmer Valderrama was with Demi Lovato.

“Thought it was a teenage dream, just a fantasy.” → Growing up, Demi had a rough relationship with her father. She wanted to love him but he was abusive, and this caused an internal struggle within the singer/actor, some speculate

“But was it yours or was it mine?” → Demi repeats this line over and over again to show her relationship from a retrospective lens. Each line slightly changes throughout the song, showing Lovato’s growth. In the first chorus, she questions whose fantasy it really was, and by the end, she confirms her doubts. That it was not her wanting to date older men, but Wilmer wanting to date younger girls. 

“I see you’re quite the collector.” → Wilmer has a record of dating women/girls with severe age gaps.

“Yeah, you’re twelve years her elder; Maybe now it doesn’t matter; But I know, I know better.” → She’s finally at a place where she knows right from wrong.

“Finally twenty-nine; Seventeen would never cross my mind” → She is now looking back to when they first met. In her mind, she doesn’t understand how someone who is almost thirty could possibly be interested in a high schooler. Because that’s what she was at the time. This just proves how disgusting his actions were. 

“Thought it was a teenage dream, a fantasy; But it was yours, it wasn’t mine; Seventeen, twenty-nine.”

This song blew up on TikTok, providing an outlet for other survivors of grooming to speak out against their abusers. According to Spotify, “29” has 25,483,162 streams, making it Lovato’s third most popular song on her Spotify Top 5 List.