Jessikah Hope Stenson
After Lana Del Rey’s extensive history of releasing brilliant albums, I had high expectations for her fourth LP, Honeymoon.
The title track transports you into a Disney movie with the use of violins and Lana’s dreamy voice – a good start. However, in some of the songs Lana’s impressive voice is replaced with a whisper that lacks the same impact. Take Art Deco for instance, in which Lana’s vocals never raise from above a husky whisper. While we’re talking about Art Deco, is that what Lana’s labelled the new word for hipsters?
In short, Honeymoon is a selection of lyrics and melodies repeated relentlessly. My boyfriend hates God Knows I Tried for that very reason and I’m pretty sure the only reason I like it is because it’s good fun to watch him squirm when it comes on. High By The Beach, albeit, is catchy, but lacks the intelligence of a song that can be enjoyed on a second listen. Music To Watch Boys To is also annoyingly repetitive, however after around fifteen listens began to grow on me. Surely that’s not a good sign.
There are a couple of lovely songs though. Terrence Loves You is basically Lana Del Rey’s version of Miley Cyrus’s Karen Don’t Be Sad – both of which are beautifully written and recorded with graceful eloquence. Religion gives the album the kick it needs. It’s metaphorical, emotive, and capture’s Lana’s voice wonderfully. It’s almost sad to listen to because there should be more songs like that on the LP.
With only a few songs that give this album any credit, it’s hard to compare it with Lana Del Rey’s previous releases and for that reason, it’s a disappointment.
Picks: Terrence Loves You, Religion
Lana Del Rey is more of a bad actor than a bad singer-songwriter, although, of course, she is both. What is most dislikable about her 2012 album Born To Die and its 2014 sequel Ultraviolence is not the music per se. Indeed, her modernisation of retro-style instrumentation with hip-hop beats is an original sound with some potential. No, it is Lana her self, or at least the character she plays, which makes listening to her albums so unenjoyable: from her vacant sulk staring out at you from the album covers, to her listless drawling vocals, not to mention the unforgivably trashy lyrics. It is almost impressive how she can write reams of songs on the same theme – good girl gone bad feels unfulfilled with life and/or experiences romantic disappointment – and never succeed in conveying a depth of feeling beyond that of a puddle.
That being said, the first couple of tracks are some of her best. The opening and title track sees Lana accompanied by a full-size orchestra, and (thank God!) there’s not a trap beat in sight. It sounds glamorous and brash in the best possible way, with the low piano chords and soaring violins complimenting Lana’s voice nicely. The second track, Music To Watch Boys To, despite an arbitrary and clumsy a cappella opening chorus is equally palatable with another lush string section and an unexpected panpipe counter-melody that works surprisingly well. However, this track sees the return with a vengeance of Lana’s crestfallen, demure, willingly subjugated persona: “I like you a lot / So I do what you want / … I live to love you, boy.” Hello, Victorian gender roles! Everything goes downhill from here.
High By The Beach, the album’s leading single, is the low point. Astoundingly bad in every respect: the trap rap beat, the instantly forgettable verse melody, and the most irritating chorus of the year so far. I’ll give her one thing, her slurred, empty vocals do make her sound high, but on what I can only guess are very strong tranquillisers. Get high by the beach, get by by the beach, get by, baby baby, bye bye? No thanks. The remainder of the album hurtles from being contrived (Lana reciting T. S. Eliot on the completely unnecessary interlude track) to unintentionally hilarious (her “king” Salvatore raps and beatboxes “like a boss”), and occasionally achieves both. “Calling out my name in the summer rain, ciao amore, now it’s time to eat soft ice cream” is a classic.
Instrumentally, this album has its moments, especially the vintage Nancy Sinatra feel of tracks like Terence Loves You and Religion, or the orchestral songs Honeymoon and 24. But lyrically and vocally, she is as dull and shallow as ever. She strives so hard for a retro aesthetic and cardboard cutout persona that she forgets to look inside herself for any real emotions or authenticity. Everything is put on, nothing is pulled off; this is the musical equivalent of crocodile tears.
Picks: Honeymoon, Music To Watch Boys To
Lana Del Rey’s latest venture contains much of the same elements of her previous albums: velvety, languishing lyrics and dramatic, old-timey instrumentals. For die-hard Del Rey fans, there are a lot of tracks to play with and the production is impeccable.
However, Honeymoon falls into the trap of sounding very samey, with no real standout songs. The album feels like the soundtrack to an arty European movie, portraying Lana as something akin to a wealthy socialite, travelling the world, lying on beaches and seducing lovers. This all panders to the Del Rey aesthetic that has been established from previous albums, but adds nothing new to it.
The first two tracks, Honeymoon and Music to Watch Boys To are strong tracks. Luxurious strings intertwine with soft, aspirate vocals to create two beautiful songs. The interlude Burnt Norton, in which Del Rey quotes (a cappella) the poem of the same name by T. S. Eliot, references the transitory nature of time. Along with the other songs, this makes the setting of Honeymoon a pleasant, but ephemeral summer excursion. Yet songs like Salvatore and High By The Beach have rather unimaginative choruses; the first rhymes “limousines” with “soft ice-cream” and interposes it with Italian, making the intended luxurious image fall flat, and the latter repeats the title over and over. Ultimately, the rest of the album fails to live up to her hit tunes like Ride and Born To Die.
Overall, a perusal through Honeymoon will appeal enough to established fans of Del Rey, but casual listeners will not find anything innovative within it, despite it sounding very pretty. Del Rey indeed is a capable singer, which is clear from the album, but this time round, does not pique interest as much as expected.
Honeymoon provides one of the ultimate melancholic and decadent experiences that the music industry has presented us this year. From the steamy Music To Watch Boys To, to the dream-inducing Art Deco, there is an organic and almost literary vibe to each individual track. It is clear why Del Ray chose High By The Beach as the lead single of Honeymoon. It is the most commercially viable track on the album and has a significantly faster pace than the majority of the album. The theme of this track seems upon further inspection not to fit with the main self-pitting tone that dominates Honeymoon. This so called “angry” Lana is one that will sell to the mass media. Highlights of this album include The Blackest Day, a track that acted as a pleasant contrast to a majority of the album with its consistently changing backing tone and a stronger Lana lyrical tone. My overall Honeymoon experience is rather bittersweet. I love what Lana does, yet as this almost timeless loner character, this album feels very self-indulgent. One example of this this the title track of Honeymoon, which I felt was rather arduous, even by Lana’s high standards. However, listening to this album over the week, my overall impression of the album has grown. Del Ray still has the ability to draw the listener into her tortured depiction of the world – that ability has just dulled comparably. As a side note, having listened to this album in its entirety I cannot help but wonder why she is not doing the current Bond theme… but that is another kettle of fish.
Picks: The Blackest Day