Lana Del Rey is back. Following her stellar debut, “Born to Die,” and her duskier sophomore album, “Ultraviolence,” Del Rey released “Honeymoon” in the fall of 2015. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s still her swan song – the cherry on top of her now well-established, unique style. Here she’s cut the fat, tightening up the swaths of strings and stripping back the lyrics to leave more room for dream and interpretation. The production is significantly neater and cleaner yet still exudes her signature film noir-dipped sophistication. In essence, this is her most elegant record yet.
Del Rey’s cigarette-husky, soft voice has never been more confident and graceful, deftly wrapping itself around vocal techniques heard on previous albums. An interesting new feature, however, is the lacing of saxophone melodies throughout the album, particularly coloring the tracks “Terrence Loves You” and “Freak.” It’s an evocative touch, brimming with a sexy, mussed-up feel and winding seductively around the main melodies.
While the title track is every bit as sweet and tragic as a classic Del Rey ballad, it’s a wispy opener. Rather, the follow-up, “Music to Watch Boys To,” for which a music video was recently released, is an immediate and glamorous crowd-pleaser. And as a flautist, it makes me swoon to hear a flute being used so artfully in a modern track.
Never one to hold back the syrup, Del Rey aims for the heart again with the tender, jazz-drizzled “Terrence Loves You.” It’s moonlit music – tragic, romantic, and undeniably sensual. However, “Ultraviolence” fans will especially adore “God Knows I Tried,” which is a nod to the gravelly blue guitars woven into the previous album.
The first half of “Honeymoon” gets darker and bolder as it reaches the interlude. “High by the Beach” is arguably the catchiest track on the record. It’s defiant and irresistibly cool – a breathy boombox anthem for cruising down the beach with your boyfriend. “Freak” is also a clear stand-out; alluring trip-hop has never sounded more groovy and gorgeous. The bass entices, and the chorus is an auditory swaying of hips. Rounding this off is “Art Deco,” a slow-burning lover’s ode. The song stares out at you from under hooded eyes, spilling femme fatale attitude. Imbued with subtle shadowing, the instrumental elements such as the saxophone trills add to the noir feel.
A spacey interlude swings us into the more intense second half of the album. Spiced with guitar licks, “Religion” is pure Lana in every way. But the Italian-spiked “Salvatore” is the true charmer. Its luxuriant lyrics may be illogical, but Del Rey’s crooning will transport you to an opulent Italian bar of an earlier era.
In “The Blackest Day,” Del Rey laments “looking for love in all the wrong places,” while “24” is the murderously beautiful ballad that could easily belong in a Bond film. But the grandiosity of “Swan Song” places it as the record’s climax. Emotional depth and sweeping magnificence are at their zenith as powerful vocals blend effortlessly with cinematic instrumentals. Finally, while “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” is beautifully crafted, it fails to leave much of an impression as an album closer.
In terms of musical evolution, however, Lana Del Rey is stuck. Her lyrics are still wistful, gold-dripping lines to her lost lover. Her music evokes the same sensual gloom. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With “Honeymoon,” Del Rey has proven that she has staying power. She’s the pioneering queen of her genre, and “Honeymoon” is the gorgeous proof.