A hauntingly beautiful album, but nothing new here from Lana Del Rey.
Lana Del Rey offers no surprises in her latest album; Honeymoon is a slowed down, haunting ode to California, to doomed love and the past.
The eponymous opening song is particularly morbid. The album begins with orchestral strings that escalate to a beautifully cinematic sound of despair – the sonic sound of tragedy – before the entry of those instantly recognisable purring vocals. She opens with the fabrication “we both know that it’s not fashionable to love me”- but as the most streamed female artist on Spotify in America, Lana Del Rey couldn’t be more wrong.
She may favour an unfashionably vintage sound but Del Rey is not traditional. A down tempo pop undercurrent exists throughout the album, becoming an RnB trap beat in the most popular single on the album, ‘High By The Beach’, which gives this morbid collection of tracks that modern and listenable touch.
Throughout the album her haunting vocals are enshrouded in vaporous reverb like a lazy smoky exhale of the cigarettes that have become part of the iconography of Lana Del Rey. The second song on the album (and Del Rey’s stated favourite), ‘Music To Watch Boys To’ sets this template for the rest of the album with a smoky 30 second acapella beginning. She then goes onto hypnotise us with very similar sounding tracks ‘Art Deco’, ‘Religion’ and later ‘Salvatore’ in which she weaves in and out of Italian.
I found ‘God Knows I Tried’ to be the most depressing track on the album, standing out only in terms of lyrics. When addressing her celebrity she hints at suicide, “I’ve got nothing left to live for now that I’ve found my fame” and “I feel free when I see no one and nobody knows my name”. Trapped by her newfound fame, she certainly is the damsel in distress with the Disney Princess voice to match, with villains in the form of the paparazzi and bad boy lovers, the fairy-tale setting being her paradisal California. She seductively hums the introduction, and it is overbearingly romantic.
Halfway through the album there’s a spoken word interlude, “time present and time past are perhaps time future and time future contained in time past”. Embarrassingly, I initially scoffed at the pretentious nature of this ‘waffle’ before after a little research discovering it to be an extract from T.S Eliots iconic poem, ‘Burnt Notion’. It is an injection of sophistication that this very cinematic sounding album does not need; I was already mesmerised.
The album ends with a cover of Nina Simone’s, ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ which Del Rey somehow makes feel even more historic. Her voice paired with an organ is a magical alliance that creates a much spookier interpretation of the 51 year old track.
Del Rey relentlessly but admirably does not step out of her comfort zone. Her vocals are effortless, she never breaks from the minor key and each track feels more depressing than the last, but the album’s sheer beauty is why I am forgiving. But as an album of dark ballads with a chilled out beat, Lana Del Rey’s humourless Honeymoon is certainly far from the joyous honeymoon I envisioned for myself.
Honeymoon is out now via UMG Recordings.