Lana Del Rey apparently learnt something valuable with the release of her first album: less is more. Born To Die was – if you listen to it alongside Ultraviolence and Honeymoon – the most adventurous, turbulent and harshly produced of the three. With pressure from her label to achieve a successful debut, and heavy manufacturing of songs prior the release, BTD would be an album seemingly least genuine to her artistry.
After an early criticised performance on Saturday Night Live and several live hiccups performing the heavily produced LP, Del Rey evidently wanted a change. Though BTD was her most successful performing album, Lana wanted the smoke and mirrors gone, and the simplicity returned. Recording her sophomore set – Ultraviolence, with an almost entirely live band, Del Rey sought a more authentic sound; passing up on most of the technical enhancements used in studio recordings – enhancements that shaped her first album. UV was an album full of real instrumentation, and minimal editing; notice that when performing live, Lana sounds more like the singer on UV, rather than the one on BTD.
Dividing musical styles, and her fan base with it, Honeymoon’s arrival had fans worldwide anticipating the sound the singer would pursuit. With a couple of listens to the newly released album, we can say that Del Rey has found a balance in sounds – but still remains very much infatuated with bad boys.
The playful single High By The Beach, the swooning Terrence Loves You and the tormented Honeymoon all possessed opposing sounds, and not even the most dedicated fans could predict the albums sonic direction. When experienced in its entirety, Honeymoon is a ride of ethereal melodies, supported by atmospheric production. Not nearly as demanding as some of the hip hop infused production on BTD, and not as slow and minimal as sounds on UV, Honeymoon see’s a convergence. The noir-ish, grandeur sounds make a return, with songs like the impressive Swan Song and title track Honeymoon owning haunting atmosphere to be rivalled. The raw and authentic sounds present on Ultraviolence can also be found mixed into Honeymoon, with songs like the soft stringed God Know’s I Tried, the rocky Religion, and the triumphant Blackest Day stretching for gritty lengths.
Del Rey’s flirtatious persona finds a new muse in the futuristic, melancholy production found on Freak and Art Deco. Lana seduces you in with the invitation to come to California and be a ‘freak’ with her as she alluringly sings over trills and distant horns. Salvatore see’s her going multi-lingual, as she sings about soft ice cream in Italian for her foreign man; a tasteful piece to the album.
Sam Smith received the coveted Bond theme this year, but between us, we believe Del Rey ticks all the right boxes when it comes to being right for the part, don’t believe us? Just listen to the classically flourished 24. Sounding like it belongs in the opening credits of the Ian Fleming adaptations, it’s a stand out track. The sublime production continues on Music To Watch Boys To. Owning ghostly layered vocals, Lana sings of her fascination for pink flamingoes. High By The Beach is evidently the most up-tempo track on the record, that’s why it was no surprise it served as the lead single; owning a simple, yet catchy chorus, HBTB is a song almost all can nod their head to. Lana closes the album with a cover of Nina Simone’s 1964 song Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood. Reinventing and bringing new life to the remorseful track, while backed with wavering strings, sharp synthesisers, and faint violins, Lana sings shakily, but with strength as she hopes – like Nina once did – the lord does not misunderstand her.
Honeymoon beautifully harmonises lush strings, muddy baselines and haunting melodies, all blending to create a fluent and ethereal body of work. A stand alone album, you’d struggle to compare it with her first two LPs. On an opposing note, we will say Lana has consistently remained within her lyrical comfort zone – rarely leaving the topical bounds of co-dependency and dysfunctional love. Lana still delivers an air of originality with her music; unlike many artists out in today’s somewhat generic musical climate, Del Rey remains firmly in a lane she has created all on her own.
Honeymoon is now available for purchase worldwide.