NEW YORK — Before achieving back-to-back radio hits with “Give Your Heart a Break” and “Heart Attack,” Demi Lovato wondered why she had yet to find her breakthrough on the radio.

She knew she had a big voice, and had found success as a Disney Channel star, but something was off.

“I had a moment where I was just like, ‘What am I doing wrong? I know I can sing. I know I’m talented. How is it that other artists who don’t have my vocals ... [are] on the radio? What’s taking so long?’ ” she said in a recent interview. “And I realized, ‘Oh, it’s hit songs. You need hit songs.’ ”

So, Lovato went into the studio and recorded songs crafted perfectly for top 40 radio. “Demi,” her fourth album, debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The album features upbeat, radio-friendly dance numbers and pop ballads about love and relationships.

“We didn’t want to put a song on there that was an album filler, so we don’t have any songs on there that couldn’t be potential singles,” the 20-year-old Lovato said of “Demi,” which features producers and songwriters like Ryan Tedder (Adele, Beyonce), Priscilla Renea (Rihanna, Selena Gomez, Madonna) and Carl Falk, Rami Yacoub and Savan Kotecha, the trio behind hits for One Direction.

Lovato got her first real hint of radio love when “Give Your Heart a Break” became a hit in 2012 as she was appearing as a judge on the Fox network’s “The X Factor.” The song was from her 2011 album, “Unbroken,” released months after she left rehab for an eating disorder, self-mutilation and other issues. Though she had a top 10 hit with “Skyscraper,” the first single, “Give Your Heart a Break,” became her breakthrough, selling 1.9 million tracks.

Lovato, who co-wrote most of the songs, said she looked to Kelly Clarkson as inspiration when creating the album.

“A lot of the power vocalists ... they get the respect, but they don’t get the recognition with hit songs that they deserve to have, and a lot of pop artists are very talented, but they don’t have the vocal capability to really carry on those power ballads,” she said. “[Kelly] has that ability to wow you and also get the sound stuck in your head.”

Lovato said releasing “Unbroken” was a learning process because the album didn’t represent her true self.

“I just had come out of rehab ... and I was trying to figure out who I was,” she said. “Sometimes I can confuse what I like listening to with what I am, and I think that’s what I did on that album. I was listening to a lot of R&B stuff that was on the radio and instead of creating my own style, I kind of subconsciously fell into creating someone else’s album, and therefore when you hear it, it didn’t make a lot of sense.”

Being on “The X Factor” has helped Lovato step out of the Disney persona that has trapped others. Lovato, too, said she is thankful for what the show did for her career.

“It doesn’t hurt when you’re releasing music and you’re in millions of people’s homes every week — twice a week,” said Lovato, who will be joined by Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio when the singing competition series returns in fall. “ ‘X Factor’ has helped me make that transition from being the Disney pop singer ... to the mainstream world.”

AP