Lana Del Rey has an affinity for the dramatic. Often this quality leads her music into garishness—pushing her message to be dispersed too thinly over a lengthy somber beat, tumbling in upon itself between croons. However, when she finds an equilibrium between her dramatic themes, instrumental range and lyricism, her music is beautiful and, more importantly, accessible.
Lana Del Rey
Such balance can be found in previous Lana tracks such as Born To Die’s “Dark Paradise” or Ultraviolence’s “Brooklyn Baby.” Here, Del Rey’s lyrical genius works in tandem with the song’s rhythms in a way that allows listeners to hear the music rather than listen to it. Luckily, Honeymoon, the artist’s fourth studio album strikes the right in chords and largely has balance among its components, making it one of Del Rey’s strongest works
Honeymoon opens with the somber “Honeymoon.” Del Rey’s rhythm is reminiscent of every Lana song that you aren’t quite sure the name of. It makes for a great album title, but one of the less intriguing tracks therein. Conversely, once the echos of “Music To Watch Boys To” hit the ears, they perk with curiosity. The short verses allow the multi-leveled chorus to truly shine. The devotion of the echos (“I like you a lot … so I do what you want … Blue Ribbons on ice … cause I like you a lot”) counters with the self-involvement of the other lyrics (“Putting on my music while I’m watching the boys … ”) brilliantly, creating one of the album’s highest peaks two songs in.
“Terrence Loves You,” “God Knows I Tried” and “Religion” are the epitome of her artistry. The first is a post-breakup jazz track featuring self-loathing and self-destruction, while the second is a purely introspective and “Religion” is a metaphor in which Del Rey praises her lover. To her core fan base, they are surely fantastic, but to others they don’t have a catch to them. Nonetheless, “God Knows I Tried” does have a soaring moment of beauty: “Put on that Hotel California / dance around like I’m insane.”
Honeymoon finds its heart in its lead single “High By The Beach,” its catchiness isn’t measurable, which makes it all the more fun seeing that its production is in stark contrast to songs typically labeled as “catchy.” It’s minimal; beyond some percussion the tune is entirely carried upon Del Rey’s rhythmic delivery of the chorus.
“Freak” is the sexual peak of Honeymoon. The love letter asks for the listener to join Lana in California and “become a freak like (her) too.” And in the same fashion of “High By The Beach,” this track roots itself in Del Rey’s delivery. She’s quick, and the progressions are predictable in such a way that invites participation in the quick delivery rather than annoyance.
“Art Deco” works because it is Lana. Lana is Art Deco. Art Deco, according to Wikipedia, is an eclectic style that combines traditional craft motifs with Machine Age imagery and materials. Without a doubt, Del Rey’s work displays craft motifs, which is exactly why critics point out that most of her discography is extremely monochromatic, but in the same fashion as the architecture of the Empire State Building, Del Rey’s musical musings may be similar, but if you look closer, there are details in the songs that distinguish them among each other.
The album’s second half offers less diversity than the first. The star track, “The Blackest Day,” at first listen, is a typical melancholy Lana post-breakup ballad, but the songs construction cooly moves through all the stages of grief. Denial in the first verse: “I don’t really wanna break up, we got it going on.” Anger in the bridge: “You should’ve known better / than to have, to let her / get you under her spell of the weather.” Bargaining in the second verse: “Carry me home, don’t wanna talk about the things to come / Just put your hands up in the air, the radio on.” And ultimately acceptance in the outro: “I’m on my own again.”
“24” and “Swan Song” close out the original work of Honeymoon with equally lowly beats. “24” is assisted with subtle maracas in its message of ephemeralness. However, the track’s standout feature is Del Rey’s humming. “Swan Song” is a plea to run away from responsibility, and with rather boring lyrics paired with uninspired delivery, the track falls flat.
The record closes with a cover of Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” The chorus, “But I’m just a soul whose intentions are good / Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood,” does well onto the work that has come before it. Honeymoon, and even Lana, is at times hard to swallow, but its heart is in the right place.