The song debuted at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, spending a total of 17 weeks on the chart. The song became Lovato's highest-peaking single on the chart since "This Is Me" peaked at number 9 in August 2008, which was released in relation to the Disney Channel Original Movie "Camp Rock".
"Skyscraper" sold 176,000 digital downloads in its 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 US. In August 2011, the song won the Teen Choice Award for Choice Summer Song. The song has been certified gold in Australia and platinum in the United States.
Writing and inspiration
"Skyscraper" was written by Toby Gad, Lindy Robbins and Estonian singer Kerli Kõiv, and produced by Gad. Kerli said that they wrote the song while drawing inspiration from a picture of the apocalypse. In an interview with Seventeen she 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 offered it 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.
She 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, she was "doubled over, just in pain", making her very emotional and tearful; she had never been that emotional while recording a song before. While recording, her voice was damaged from purging. She 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, she 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 finishing her treatment in late January 2011, she re-recorded the song, but decided to keep the original recording because she felt that her voice had changed, although noting that her voice was "weaker" when she originally recorded it. 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." She called the original take "symbolic" and said that "it was providing a message".
Kerli praised Lovato's take on the song, stating that she "really conveys the emotion". Kerli went on to say, "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 for "Skyscraper" via her Twitter account on July 5, 2011. Following the announcement, "Skyscraper" became a trending topic on the site. The song premiered on Tuesday July 12, 2011 on the morning radio show On Air with Ryan Seacrest. Lovato also called in to talk about the track. On the same morning, the single was made available for digital download on the iTunes Store in the United States, although originally planned to be released on July 14. The song reached the top ten on the iTunes chart within an hour, and the summit of the chart later in the afternoon. The single 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.
Upon its release, 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 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 she 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 was very well received in reviews from music critics and also from the media. Bill Lamb of About.com rated "Skyscraper" four and half out of five stars. He praised Lovato's breathy vocals, the instrumentation and inspirational lyrics. He said that Lovato's choice of collaboration with Kerli and Toby Gad make the song memorable, stating that the song "sports the simultaneously fragile but resilient feel of collaborator Kerli's work while being guided with the surefire mainstream pop hand of veteran Toby Gad. Here Demi Lovato looks serious about being not only a Disney teen idol but also a true pop artist." Lamb concluded his review, "“Skyscraper” is a complete change of pace from the current dominance of upbeat party tunes on the pop music landscape. 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". The song won Summer Song at the 2011 Teen Choice Awards.
"Skyscraper" debuted at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, selling 176,000 downloads during its first week of release. This charting made the song Lovato's highest-peaking 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 the week ending March 4, 2012, selling 11,460 copies, her highest UK charting song at the time and her third top 40 hit in the UK.
Live performances and other versions
Demi first performed the song at Vh1's "Do Something Awards" on August 18, 2011, her first live performance since leaving the Jonas Brothers' World Tour to enter rehab. She has also performed the song live on television on America's Got Talent, Good Morning America, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Dancing with the Stars, and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. "Rascacielo" is the Spanish version of "Skyscraper" and appears as a bonus track on her album, Unbroken. She performed this version at 2011 ALMA Awards.. In 2013, she performed it with Darren Criss at Toronto's We Day on September 20. 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 after she won. Bailey's version reached number one on UK Singles Chart. The song was also part of the setlist for the Neon Lights Tour, DEMI World Tour, Sex and Love Tour and A Special Night With Demi Lovato. She also performed the song at a "Confident" promo show in São Paulo, Brazil on October 20, 2015
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 for "Skyscraper" 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. She 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. She 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.
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 throughout the first verse. As the first chorus begins, a glass heart enclosed in a glass box is shown with fog surrounding it. The video soon cuts back to Lovato as she continues to walk down the 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 broken glass, which represents her "taking [the toxicity] off" and "powering through it". As the second chorus begins, 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 glass are shown afterwards. As the last chorus begins, a close-up is shown of Lovato as a tear rolls down her cheek.
The video was met with 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." Bill Lamb of About.com wrote that the video "fits perfectly with the mood and emotional intensity of the song." 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."
A remix of Skyscraper by Wizz Dumb appeared as the 15 track on Unbroken.
|Canada (Canadian Hot 100)||18|
|New Zealand (RIANZ)||9|
|United Kingdom (OCC)||7|
|US Billboard Hot 100||10|
|US Billboard Hot Digital Songs||2|
|US Billboard Adult Pop Songs||27|
|US Billboard Pop Songs||33|