Artist: Lana Del Rey
Release Date: September 18, 2015
Label: Interscope Records
Lana Del Rey has lured listeners closer and closer to her world with each following record.
She introduced her vision of the 1950s Los Angeles lifestyle in her hip-hop-inspired debut, Born to Die, and last year’s Dan Auerbach-produced Ultraviolence dug into the dark side of her beloved city. For her latest album, Honeymoon, the singer now has her followers in the palm of her hand.
The hip-hop-fan past of Lana Del Rey has faded away album after album, and Honeymoon rips that chapter out of her story for good. While she already traded rap flows for ballads in Ultraviolence, she puts away the blues guitar of her last album to fully stock on a string orchestra. The title track, a six-minute, made-for-Hollywood ballad, sets the mood nicely for the rest of the record. There’s nothing but string sweeps and melancholy ahead.
That said, Del Rey hasn’t abandoned pop completely. “High by the Beach” stands out as the most obvious stab at the charts, though its lack of nuance makes the single more of a misstep. Honeymoon’s successful attempts at pop writing arrive rather subtle: The vocal swing of “Freaks” dips low to the tune of its muted bass with a smoother choreography than the clunky “High by the Beach.” Her worst moments sound forced. At her best, she doesn’t even have to try.
What comes the most natural for Del Rey is melodrama. And when she reaches big in Honeymoon, she goes there. Her life dwindles to its last minutes in “24,” her best pitch for a future James Bond theme. The singer cites the man above as her witness of her devotion in “God Knows I Tried.” In the most audacious song in the album, she writes her lover as the one who she prays to. “You’re my religion, you’re how I’m living,” she sings in the chorus of “Religion.”
The lyrics may elicit eye rolls strictly on paper, but she doesn’t sound too overboard on record. Despite including more strings in the production, Honeymoon might be the most modest Lana Del Rey record in sound with a lot more room for her to live and breathe. Her boldest claims flow naturally like everyday conversation, thanks to her swooning sighs. The outlandish moves on Ultraviolence — “I’m pretty when I cry,” “I fucked my way up to the top” — feel bloated twice the size in comparison.
Honeymoon drags not from its density but in length. Del Rey’s slow dance rarely picks up speed throughout its 14-song run, and she doesn’t step too far away from her comfort zone. Honeymoon isn’t made to convince any non-believers. She instead indulges deeper into her well-defined style.
The best song in the record flips the script. Though it sports a cliche title for a Lana Del Rey song, “Music to Watch Boys To” has Del Rey in the position of power. She has dedicated songs to the object of her desire countless times. But here she keeps him as an object, a pawn to her hobby, and nothing more. She may do whatever he wants but not without leaving the reminder that this is her game and she ultimately writes the rules.