Much has been written about the singer/songwriter Lana del Rey (born Elizabeth Woolridge Grant) since the much-acclaimed release of her second album “Born to Die” in 2012. (She had previously released a self-titled debut album in 2010 on a smaller label but it gained little attention.) This is due to the fact that she seemed to arrive from nowhere (Del Rey herself had been posting her songs and home-made videos on YouTube for some time) and in particular, she constantly divided opinion with regards to what she is all about.
The reaction to her captivating and haunting song “Video Games” – “It’s you, it’s you, it’s all for you”– was extraordinary, resulting in the song going viral online and subsequently becoming the first single release from “Born to Die”. It hit no 2 in the US Billboard charts earning her an Ivor Novello award for “Best Contemporary Song”. But there was a backlash, and it was a big one. Many in the musical press accused the singer of being a major label puppet with no real personality who lacked authenticity. Her image reportedly contrived her sound – “Hollywood Sadcore”.
But as it turns out, a lot of music fans didn’t care. Today “Born To Die” has sold in excess of 8.5 million copies worldwide. Ten months after the album’s release, her Paradise EP debuted in Billboard’s Top 10. Eight months later, Cedric Gervais’ EDM remix of “Summertime Sadness” went platinum and soon after, her song for The Great Gatsby soundtrack, “Young And Beautiful” went platinum too. Since then, she has released her third studio album “Ultraviolence” in 2014 which was received positively by contemporary music critics on its overall production. Her latest album, “Honeymoon” was released on 18th September 2015. She has enlisted producers Rick Nowels and Kieron Menzies, who worked on her earlier songs like “Young and Beautiful”.
With this latest album, Del Rey continues the dreamy pop with a heavy blues/jazz influence that is retro-styled and very reminiscent of “Born To Die”. “Honeymoon” is also the title of the opening track and is indicative of what the album is going to deliver. With a sultry sweeping violin, she sings “We both know, that it’s not fashionable to love me” – a pop at the critics but Del Rey is in no rush to impress. The song lazily unwinds and requires some degree of patience to listen to. “Music To Watch Boys To” is better. With subtly layered vocals, sultry drum beats and whispers, Del Rey delivers a sexy and ethereal message which is deserving of her “Sultry Siren” title. It is a song that hypnotises and is a highlight.
“Terrence Loves You” keeps up the melancholy and is wistful and sad to the sound of just a saxophone and lone piano. The song typifies the cinematic atmosphere present in the majority of her music because it is so visually compelling. One can almost be sitting on the back of a chevy in the middle of a desert in 1950s America. “High By The Beach” is synth-led and is the catchiest song on the album due to a cheeky chorus and the fact that it is relatively upbeat. It is up-tempo with dreamy synth beeps and it is easy to see why this was the first single release.
After this point, barely mid-way through the album, it all begins to sound samey, almost claustrophobic. “Honeymoon” settles into one melancholic ode after another. Sometimes her songs drag long and sometimes her self-seriousness can be grating but in beautiful moments in songs such as “God Knows I Tried,” she perfects the art of sounding lonely and languid. Her vocal range on this song is impressive, especially when she proclaims “Let there be light”.
“Honeymoon” contains all the trademark Lana Del Rey: melodrama, nostalgia and American cultural allusions, the songs’ themes are all steeped with desire, loss and regret. The album showcases Del Ray’s impressive vocal delivery with barely-there instrumentation and is produced well. The lush strings harmonise perfectly with haunting melodies and it’s a fluent body of work if not four songs too long.