‘We both know / That it’s not fashionable to love me’, she trills on the opening track of her third studio album. In many ways, this is a true statement. Since the release of her first offering, Born To Die, Lana Del Rey has been the poster girl for dejected Tumblr girls and alternative homosexuals everywhere. She has managed to appeal to both the indie crowd and the pop crowd thanks to the layered and hip hop-tinged production that laced her music.
With her seconding outing, the moody Ultraviolence, she took a much darker route, abandoning the slick and polished production of the previous album for a more stripped back and raw musical style. While this gained her critical praise and allowed her fanbase to grow stronger and more fervent, and while the album initially reached #1 in the UK, it failed to have any kind of longevity in the charts.
So when Lana announced that her third album ‘Honeymoon‘ was ‘very different to the last one and very similar to the first two, Born To Die and Paradise‘, fans everywhere rejoiced, including myself. Although Ultraviolence was a wonderful album and showcased a completely different side to Lana’s talents, it didn’t have much staying power, and I’m not talking about chart success. Born To Die was a stunning debut – haunting, yet refreshingly modern. So it was extremely exciting to see Lana return to her roots whilst staying true to her artistic nature.
In July, she released the title track, a haunting swell of mournful strings that sound like they’d fit right at home during a 50’s noir romance epic, as guitars and a ghostly background choir stain underneath the melody. She’s never sounded better; dark and husky, full of heartbreak and cigarettes, and devastatingly hopeful, and the powerful production lifts the track with its stunning instrumental and glorious backdrop that blissfully recalled the cinematic Paradise.
Then, a month later in a complete u-turn, Lana released the lead single from the album, ‘High By The Beach‘. The promise she’d made about the album being more like Born To Die seemed to be coming to fruition; the song was a seductive, summery hip hop-esque number with a hypnotic trap beat, effortlessly merging with the scuttling drums beneath and Lana’s casual delivery:‘The truth is / I never bought into your bullshit’. With two tracks of a completely different style already released, fans were understandably brimming with anticipation to see what the album would bring.
‘I live to love you, boy’, she whispers on the second track of the album, ‘Music To Watch Boys To’, an ethereal blend of pounding drums and haunting pipes that provide a perfect backdrop for Lana’s dreamy vocals. Her favourite track of the album, ‘Terrence Loves You’, is a heartbreaking lament to an ex-lover. It’s meandering and melancholy, with strains of a lonely saxophone creeping through the smouldering vocals, and even a reference to Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ gets a look in – ‘Ground control to Major Tom / Can you hear me all night long?’ Continuing the theme of influences, ‘God Knows I Tried’ first sounds like Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Bang Bang’ – which wouldn’t be surprising as Lana at one time referred to herself as a ‘gangster’ version of her – but gives way to Lana’s most impassioned vocal performance of the album.
The return to her roots is equally apparent on ‘Freak’ and ‘Art Deco’. The former is undoubtedly the sexiest song she’s ever done, with deliciously teasing lyrics – ‘We can slow dance to rock music / Kiss while we do it’ – throbbing pulses of electro beats bubbling underneath Lana’s breathy vocals and menacingly sexy synth running through the track. The latter is like the little artistic sister – quieter, less sure of itself, but still leaving enough of an impact thanks to its eerie trap beat and Lana’s beautiful lyrics – ‘You’re not mean / You’re just born to be.‘
The best moments come towards the end of album, and also shows how far Lana has come as a songwriter. ‘Salvatore’ follows the story of Lana and her lover on their journey through Italy. Lana is having her most fun here, as she trills playfully over the utterly glorious strings and noir backdrop of the track – ‘Catch me if you can / I’m working on my tan, Salvatore’. The following track ‘The Blackest Day’, steps right in. Clocking in at six minutes, it contains baroque verses and an epic stadium chorus. ‘I’m falling for forever / I’m playing the game’, she cries out during the dramatic bridge with open vulnerability as the song soons draws to an intense close. The supremely beautiful ‘Swan Song’ is the penultimate track on the album, and arguably the finest cut on album. Uplifting, yet enchantingly dark, Lana’s vocal takes most of the work, while synths quietly support her. So, so stunning.
Overall, the album is definitely a nod to her earlier days. It’s doubtful that she’ll ever allow herself to be fully immersed – as I’ve said in my previous review, she publicly stated that she wasn’t a fan of the production of the first album – so fans might as well stop holding their breaths. But she’s undoubtedly experimented a lot more with sounds on this album, as the varying styles clearly show. It’s not a perfect album, by any means – ‘Religion’ is an absolute bore with no real exciting factor, and ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ is a completely pointless cover that she could’ve easily put on her YouTube page as a free track – but it’s a coherent album with a solid feel of its own voice. It probably won’t win her any new fans, but it will cement the loyal base she already has, which is a plus for everyone.