Review Summary: "We both know that it's not fashionable to love me"
"We both know that it's not fashionable to love me"
This lyric kicks off the title track of Lana Del Rey's fourth studio album Honeymoon and provides a dead-on analysis of how she's viewed in the music industry. Despite all of her commercial success, Del Rey's gloomy, vintage-inspired sound and image has made her one of the most maligned artists on the planet. Those detractors will have even more ammo to attack her with after Honeymoon, which is easily the bleakest and most retro-influenced effort she has put forth to-date.
Honeymoon filters the melancholy sound of 2014's Ultraviolence through the string and synth-based production of her 2012 breakout album Born to Die. With this combination of sounds, Del Rey is able to create her most stirring tribute to old-Hollywood noir to-date. It's no secret that Del Rey has spent her entire career trying to emulate the styles of 50's and 60's pop stars such as Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Nancy Sinatra, but this is the first time where's she been able to make something that truly sounds like it came from that era.
The production-which was handled by Del Rey and her longtime collaborators Kierion Menzies and Rick Nowels- creates a raw, nostalgic atmosphere that makes the album sound like it was recorded in a desolate piano bar in the mid 60's. The subtle and lush soundscapes subsequently brings out the best in Del Rey's vocals. The beauty and wide range of Del Rey's vocals have always been the most endearing aspect of her music, but the bare bones production style employed on Honeymoon showcases just how powerful her vocals truly are. Her performances on "Terrence Loves You", "The Blackest Day", "God Knows I Tried" and "Music to Watch Boys to" are particularly chilling and leave the listener in absolute awe of her immense vocal capabilities. In the hands of a lesser vocalist, the repetitive and barely-present instrumentation that runs through the entire record would've made this a dull and exhausting listen, but Del Rey's powerhouse vocals make Honeymoon a consistently captivating and haunting record.
Perhaps the biggest change on Honeymoon is the tone and subject matter of Del Rey's lyrics. On her previous records, Del Rey regularly wove tales of her being involved in relationships where she was treated like an object and beaten. This lyrical storytelling approach has led to her being criticized as an "anti-feminist" who promotes abusive relationships. On Honeymoon, Del Rey largely shifts her attention away from her relationships and breaks into more personal subject matter. Over the album's 13 tracks, she covers topics like trying to avoid the media scrutiny and claims that she is a no-talent fraud after her disastrous Saturday Night Live appearance in 2012 ("God Knows I Tried"), her new friends in Hollywood ("Art Deco") and embracing her newfound independence ("High by the Beach"). Even when she discusses relationships, she focuses more on the aftermath of her turbulent breakups and whether or not her partner truly loves her or not than being objectified and abused. While there's still come clunky, sophomoric lyrics along the way (the lyrics in "Salvatore" and "24" are flat-out cringeworthy), it's refreshing to see her lyrical concepts and worldview grow alongside her music.
Honeymoon may not have as many home-run tracks and massive hooks as Ultraviolence and Born to Die, but for what it lacks in flashy highlights, it makes up for with a stronger sense of consistency, maturity and cohesion. Del Rey is starting to become much more comfortable in her skin as an artist and that confidence shows with the bolder risks she took with the songwriting and production choices on this album. Honeymoon further validates Del Rey as one of the most important figures in modern pop music and much to the chagrin of her detractors, she's a musical force that's not going anywhere anytime soon.