Unlikely pairing brings a message of love and mental health to Columbus

Jack White doesn’t understand what DJ Khaled does. That was the report pushed out by numerous publications just two days before the hip-hop DJ and producer joined pop singer Demi Lovato at the Schottenstein Center on Wednesday night. Websites like NME zeroed in on White’s comments to Rolling Stone about Khaled’s 2017 top 10 hit, “Wild Thoughts,” which borrows heavily from Carlos Santana’s 1999 single “Maria Maria.”

"It was nice of DJ Khaled to sit down and write and perform and record that – that was good of him!” White said, sarcastically. “He's an incredibly talented man. There's no doubt about that. He does so much!”

White isn’t the only one to question the abilities of Khaled, who has become best known for doling out “major keys to success” on Snapchat, and shouting catchphrases (“We the best!” “Another one!”) on his songs, which are often produced by other people and always driven by other singers and rappers. One could get lost in the rabbit hole of YouTube videos trying to pinpoint Khaled’s contributions in the studio.

Needless to say, the pressure was on for Khaled to show what he could offer live in concert. Musically, it wasn’t much. Dressed in a white tracksuit and down to 260 pounds (Major key alert! He’s also a Weight Watchers spokesman), Khaled played 30-second snippets of some of his biggest hits, letting the audience do the heavy lifting of filling in for the likes of T-Pain (“All I Do is Win”) and Drake (“I’m On One”) on the choruses.

He also led the audience in chants and played hits by other artists, though some were unfamiliar to the audience of mostly teenage girls (“God’s Plan” by Drake was a favorite; “Poison” by Bell Biv DeVoe not so much).

Khaled’s true power onstage is in his abilities as a motivational speaker. “Love can change everything,” Khaled said. He also expressed his love for the audience, and encouraged them to “come together in love, peace and unity.”

It was an effective complement to Demi Lovato’s subsequent, inspirational set. The rare pop star who relishes being a role model, she centered her show on self-love and mental health awareness.

“I have bipolar disorder,” Lovato said matter-of-factly during the show. “It’s OK to ask for help.” Lovato, who is partnering with the CAST Centers clinic to offer free mental health services on tour, has been vocal in interviews about her past struggles with addiction and eating disorders. She talked to the audience about her sobriety and even her late father’s mental illness before performing the touching tribute song “Father” on piano.

But Lovato wasn’t just talk. She displayed her strength with a fierce, fun, multidimensional performance, tearing through hits and standout tracks from her last three albums. She donned a boxer’s uniform and weaved through the crowd for “Confident,” but then changed into lingerie and picked up a guitar for a sultry series on a bed set. Her vocals soared and her live band and troupe of dancers smoldered.

During “Give Your Heart a Break,” she captured loving couples — and some cozy strangers — on a Kissing Cam. She got friendly with her dancers on “Cool for the Summer,” which has been interpreted as an LGBTQ anthem. “Love who you want to love,” said Lovato, who recently opened up about her own “fluid” sexuality, and has been praised for her inclusive concert environment.

And she brought out the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus for the finale, which included a gospel-tinged version of “Sorry Not Sorry,” confetti and a projection of her image out into the crowd.

But one type of love was emphasized above the rest. “It’s important to love others, but it’s more important to learn to love yourself,” she said.