Lana Del Rey’s Honeymoon

Artist: Lana Del Rey

Album: Honeymoon

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Lana Del Rey has become a champion at cultivating her own aesthetic and then shamelessly running it into the ground. Worshipped to almost disturbing levels by her fan base, her live performances are said to be an almost “spiritual experience.” This is understandable – Lana Del Rey is rather enchanting. In small doses. An overload however, can push the artistry produced by any musician to levels of self-parody: a status Lana is on the precipice of attaining with her latest record, ‘Honeymoon’.

The expected presence of sweeping strings, plodding drum beats and breathy vocals are pleasant as per usual. But it’s a tired collection of sounds. Most of Honeymoon’s tracklist could quite easily feature on either of Lana Del Rey’s previous released ‘Born To Die’ or ‘Ultraviolence’. There are frustratingly fleeting snatches of evidence that Lana has attempted to evolve: her staples are sometimes nicely complimented by brief moments of saxophone riffs or borrowed twinkling melodies. Yet as an artist, Lana seems reluctant to push herself and truly experiment with her sound. This worryingly indicates that a fall from grace for the singer in the not to distant future could be on the cards, should she fail to prevent her own artistic stagnation.

Without a doubt, ‘Music To Watch Boys To’ should have been the album title, it suits the dreamy, pining tone of most of the tracks. In fact ‘Music…’ is one of the most compelling songs present on the record, with Lana playing to her strengths in being at her most sultry and siren-like. The echoing vocals feel as pure as the filtered sunlight piercing the waves and gleaming on the skin of the mysterious sea-nymphs in the accompanying music video. But ‘Honeymoon’ feels as hastily coined an album title as the track itself. Perhaps ‘Music…’ was axed as a concept due to the similarity to that album title by The Goo Goo Dolls.

Collectively, Lana’s notoriously sparse, simple and repetitive lyrics are a pitfall as much as they are easy-listening fodder. Along with hot summer nights, California, wild older lovers, old Hollywood, humming and moaning, unadorned lyrics are all key ingredients in the concoction of a Lana record. All are present here. ’24’ succumbs rather numbingly to this formula: there are only so many times one can stand to hear Lana bleat ‘There are only twenty-four hours in a day…” We know. Lana also exhibits strange, warbling moments sandwiched between exhalations of lust on the more notable track ‘Freak’. But even so, overall ‘Freak’ isn’t really all that freaky. It’s secret is old hat – “Take it to the back if you really wanna talk.” Though perhaps this is a mischievous wink to the dominant percentage of Lana’s fan base – gay men.

The recently released ‘Terrence Loves You’ is another commendable track that forgives a lost romantic interest for being a bad boy and leaving Lana to salve her pain with her favourite genre of music. Its gentle wash of strings punctuated by a delicate piano refrain is much more refreshing than the embarrassingly dated loop featured on ‘High By the Beach.’

A personal favourite, ‘The Blackest Day’ is beloved Born To Die track ‘Dark Paradise’ Mark 2. “You’re deader than ever” she moans – it’s not news that Lana is usually at her most powerful when she’s steeped in sadness. If only Billie Holiday could soothe us all. Although there is a suspicion that such frequent mentions are as though Lana is trying to prove that her oft-mentioned love of blues and jazz is indeed true. ‘Swan Song’ is full of triumph and promise: an invitation into wilderness and freedom, and would have made a stunning close to the record. The minor key holds captivating notes that suggest chapters both closing and others opening as Lana deftly croons: “And I will never sing again/…Say good night to the life in the world we live.”

A further long-term problem with Lana’s music is that each individual track is often far too long; ‘Honeymoon’ is no different in that it is in dire need of editing, in order to cut the dragging length that oppresses many of the tracks. ‘God Knows I Tried’ is similar to ’24’ in that it tries the patience is a little too much, getting lost amongst the more memorable, listenable offerings. As a collective, ‘Honeymoon’ summons prayers that Lana Del Rey will someday realise that drawn-out phrases and repetition lose their initial effect with copious use.

Overall the record simultaneously features an irksome balance of some of Lana’s most impressive and reductive work. ‘Honeymoon’ is a heat-haze of a release – relaxing and enjoyable for a few choice moments, but lethargic and heavy with a consuming slowness if experienced for too long. There are sadly few unexpected surprises here – it’ll soothe the ache felt by her fans for more of her work, but it will do little to convert any other listeners who have become bored with her ‘Lolita-lost-in-California’ schtick.

Verdict: 6.5/10

Download: Terrence Loves You, Music to Watch Boys To, Swan Song, Freak, The Blackest Day

Availability: Out now on iTunes

Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘E.MO.TION’

Album title: E.MO.TION

Artist: Carly Rae Jepsen

Genre: Pop

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Already critically lauded as a ‘spotless pop album’, Jepsen’s latest offering has the potential to finally deliver the underrated songstress the acclaim she deserves. Jepsen arguably lacks the brash attitude, spangly costumes and frighteningly loyal fanbase of her more prosperous fellow pop musicians; but E.MO.TION seriously gives one of the best pop releases of 2014, Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’, a run for its money. The album title is apt – the songs are all centred on Jepsen’s feelings, usually to do with falling in or out of love. But such is the playful, simplicity of the lyrics that each track instantly feels relatable, and nothing drags or disheartens in the manner that a Lana Del Rey song might. Everything is tight, nothing feels like wasted space. Sonically, the record ultimately owes a lot to the 80s, with its addictive synth-driven beats and starry-eyed lyrics.

It’s immediately clear that E.MO.TION has been chiselled and produced to perfection, with apparently hundreds of rejections lying on the cutting room floor. It’s the undeniably infectious record that the likes of Hilary Duff failed to release during her flash-in-the-pan comeback last year.

In fact, it’s hard to settle on one track that stands out from the rest as the strongest, as nearly all are solid, and warrant plenty of replays. Perhaps ‘All That’ with it’s silky, slow-build beat and softly pleading vocals, or ‘LA Hallucinations.’ ‘There’s a little black hole in my golden cup so/You pour and I’ll say stop’, Jepsen croons, a flicker of darkness in her tone, as though she’s self-aware of the self-destructive, fame-hungry behaviour that LA seems to breed, like a deadly celebrity-slaying disease. ‘Boy Troubles,’ penned with Sia, is the first track to feature the elusive, melancholic artist, that doesn’t tug on the heart strings as much as it is a joy-filled bop. The title track ‘E.MO.TION’ peppily surmises the general atmosphere of the album, and has shrewd echoes of the chart-topping behemoth that was ‘Call Me Maybe,’ with its equally karaoke-ready chorus.

Jepsen made a smart move in teaming up with Ariel Rechtshaid – the genius behind the tight drum machine and ear-worm synthesiser sounds. Overall what’s been hewn together is a record that showcases audibly well-constructed, memorable pop music. On the surface, finding fault with ‘E.MO.TION’ as a pop album would be difficult. The trouble is that underneath, Jepsen’s refusal to solidify a more flamboyant, media-baiting demeanour may be her achilles heel. As refreshing as it is to enjoy a pop record that doesn’t repeatedly slam a stars image into the listener’s perspective, Jepsen may end up being forgotten beneath the thunderous clamour of more media-hungry stars like Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift. Carly Rae may be resting on her laurels in terms of her image; the sweetly naïve, hopeless romantic – but if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it.

UK Release Date: 18 September 2015

Verdict: 8.5/10

Listen to: Warm Blood, All That, LA Hallucinations, I Didn’t Just Come Here To Dance, When I Needed You

For fans of: Taylor Swift’s 1989, Charli XCX’s Sucker

Featured photos not owned or produced by author.