“All I want to do is get high by the beach,” Lana Del Rey croons on the lead single to her newest album, Honeymoon: It’s an aloof and somewhat carefree sentiment that rings true throughout the entirety of the album’s lazy state. Del Rey told the Inquirer that for this follow-up to her ‘70s-rock-inspired Ultraviolence (2014) she was, “ready to go into a more ‘Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds’ surrealist place.” Keeping her promise, Honeymoon sees Del Rey leaving behind the gritty sound of live guitars and echoing drums and replacing them with trap-inspired instrumentals.
“Terrence Loves You” is a stunning ‘50s-esque piano-driven song featuring distorted vocals. “Music To Watch Boys To,” with its understated progression and stunningly interweaved vocals, is one of the finest songs Del Rey has crafted, while “Swan Song” reflects British singer Jessie Ware’s minimalistic material to a tee. But while the tracks are individually succinct, there is a disjointed feeling to the album. For example, it’s hard to believe that the trap-infused “High By the Beach” and string-heavy cover of the 1964 song, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” are even on the same record.
What is consistent throughoutHoneymoon, though, is Del Rey’s vocals. Her ethereal voice floats from a sultry whisper to soaring croon effortlessly, transforming and bringing to life songs like “The Blackest Day” through her sensual and smoky delivery. But repeated listens reveal some of the lurking absurdity: “You’re so Art Deco / out on the floor […] Baby you’re so ghetto / you’re looking to score” is a prime example of one of many eyebrow-raising examples of the cringe-worthy lines.
Honeymoon is an interesting album. While Ultraviolence saw Del Rey play with tongue-in-cheek lyrics about the way she is perceived, she is much more direct here. “I’ve got nothing much to live for / ever since I found my fame,” she sighs on “God Knows I Tried.” Unfortunately, her oft-too-straightforward lyrical style threatens to leave behind the ‘surrealist’ vibe she was apparently going for. The interlude, “Burnt Norton,” is a case in point: Del Rey mumbles half-formed existential sentences that dance blindly on the surface of attempted philosophical. There is a difference between descriptively eluding to a story or emotion and heavy-handedly blurting it out, and unfortunately Honeymoon is full of the latter. For all of Del Rey’s stated ‘LSD' talk about letting go,Honeymoon feels remarkably constrained, even uninspiring The weighty literary, historical, and pop-culture references within the lyrics don’t quite translate to the same original intention once played out over production this sparse and through lyrics this blunt.
In early interviews discussing the album, Del Rey stated that she had ideas for a song about “shadows passing in front of [faces],” and the album as a whole reflects this vaguely shallow state of existence. Fans will find nuance in the album after multiple listens; for example, the growing progression of instrumentals and haunting background vocals on the fantastic “24.” But whereas the brilliant Ultraviolence oozed a rich, timeless quality, the songs on this follow up are so hazily produced and stretched out in length that the entire album ends up feeling like one long whisp of smoke trailing up into the air. It’s something that’s dazzling in its existence, but lacking no real substance and ultimately vanishing into thin air. Regrettably, while Honeymoon admittedly feels like a grower, it doesn’t feel much of a keeper.