Lana Del Rey’s Honeymoon

Artist: Lana Del Rey

Album: Honeymoon

honeymoon

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

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‘Miracle’ Beauty Essentials

Flawless, youthful and dewy looking skin is the number one beauty goal for many people. The ultimate dream is to feel confident enough to forgo any foundation or concealer coverage because our skin looks totally fabulous and ‘perfect’ without it. Of course, there is a very valid argument that you don’t need to cover up your imperfections, and that you don’t need to look good for anybody – your appearance is your own personal business. Yet the confidence required to stop caring about how our skin and hair looks on a daily basis is far easier said than done. Besides, to some degree you should care, because your skin is a delicate organ and should be appropriately tended to, if only in the context of maintaining your own health. And if you commit to forming long-term habits pertaining to skin and hair maintenance then you will only receive positive results to be grateful for in the future. Look after your skin and hair basically, but do it for you, and nobody else.

However, with so many aspects of daily life fighting against achieving ‘flawless skin’ and ‘perfect hair’ – the harsh weather; pollution; a lack of time to commit to a proper beauty routine, and a confusing amount of expensive products to choose from that all claim to create perfect skin and gorgeous hair, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are some of my favourite, student budget-friendly products that have helped improve and protect my skin and hair…

1. No. 7 Protect and Perfect Intense Advanced Serum, around £15 – This really has to be my ultimate skin saviour, through consistent use, morning and night, the serum manages to radically soften my skin and quickly clear up any nasty break outs that I might be troubled with. What’s also great is the gentle nature of the product – I have super sensitive skin that’s prone to horrible allergic reactions if any products have strong chemical ingredients. For example, a lot of make-up remover wipes have a form of alcohol as an ingredient, which nearly always affects my skin, often resulting in a painful, burnt effect that lasts for days. Goodness knows why companies put alcohol into products that are meant for the skin – nobody should ever put alcohol on their face, as it’s only ever going to do damage. Trust me, watch this video where a skin expert explains why you shouldn’t put it – along with some other harmful ingredients – on your face, it’s a really educational watch.

2. Maybelline Baby Skin Primer, £7.99 – This primer is super cheap, and makes my skin literally feel like silk. In addition, this Baby Skin primer is definitely good value for money – which is essential for a student on a budget – as I don’t find myself having to use much product to cover my whole face. It’s the perfect product for preparing my skin and creating a base for my foundation and eye make-up, helping to prevent it from smudging and sliding off my face throughout the day. Plus, I’ve had no allergic reaction to this formula, despite having highly sensitive skin, which I’m really pleased about.

3. Garnier Ultimate Blends Sleek Perfector, around £10 – A couple of years ago I made the decision to dye my hair platinum blonde. This of course meant putting my tresses through some severe bleaching processes, which thoroughly weakened my hair, making it thinner, less workable and made it prone to breakage. Garnier’s latest hair care range has been a life-saver for me. The large variety of mixtures tailored to different hair requirements ensure that there is a perfect solution for every kind of hair nightmare. I found that The Sleek Restorer and Perfector products were the most helpful for my dry, frizzy hair. The Sleek Perfector Oil in particular was a great addition to my hair routine. It works as an excellant additional softening, smoothing and conditioning treatment after drying my hair post-wash, or it can be used as a heat protecting solution whenever I plan to style my hair with hot tools. I also highly recommend the newest addition to the Ultimate Blends range – The Strength Restorer shampoo and conditioner, as my hair has never felt so soft or thick. Here’s another tip, a lot of supermarkets and drug stores sell the shampoo and conditioners from the range at a discounted price if you buy the products as a pair, so keep an eye out.

4. The Soap and Glory ‘A Brush With Greatness’ Exfoliating Brush, around £6 – This little handheld tool is a manual version of the popular ‘Clarisonic’ electronic face cleansers that are great for getting rid of bacteria and dead skin cells. After removing my make-up, I often put a little dab of cleansing lotion onto the brush, before massaging the bristles against a pre-dampened face. Be very, very gentle when using these kind of tools, as scrubbing too hard is not going to help your skin at all. Applying too much pressure to the bristles will most likely just cause irritation and inflammation, which is to be avoided at all costs as it’s painful and promotes skin that is easily aggravated in future. I clean my brush after each use – otherwise I’d just be smudging all that old bacteria from the previous use back onto my face again, which negates the whole point of using the tool in the first place. Also, as you would with a toothbrush, I recommend replacing this brush every few months, or as often as you possibly can.

5. Nivea Pure and Natural Soothing Day Cream, around £3 – The gentle nature of this cream is perfect for my sensitive skin, it feels cool and calming whenever I rub it on, which generally is in the morning after my cleansing routine. However, I should warn you that if unlike me, you aren’t very fair, it can very subtly make you look a little paler if you don’t thoroughly massage the mixture into your skin. And here’s a little bit of cute trivia for you – there are rumours that the Duchess of Cambridge herself allegedly uses this cream.

6. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, SPF 30 and upwards, around £7 – You’ve probably seen this sort of thing in beauty magazines over and over – the advice telling you to wear sunscreen every day underneath your make-up. I’m a huge, huge supporter of this. UV rays are a big contributor to long-term skin damage, and can potentially lead to all sorts of problems, from pre-mature wrinkles to skin cancer. Even when the weather seems overcast, UV rays can filter through the clouds and have an effect, so it’s best to prepare in advance, and form a habit of wearing sunscreen on a daily basis. To me, the Neutrogena formula doesn’t feel greasy on my skin, and each tube lasts quite a while as a little amount goes a long way, so it’s good value for money.

The Art of Music Videos

No song released as a single is truly complete as a work of art without a complimentary music video. By primarily being a visual medium, they give artists a vast scope for imaginative and innovative opportunities, and this has been greatly exploited to an impressive degree throughout music history. And in an era within the music industry that relies so heavily on technology and globalisation to attract huge audiences, the release of a music video to accompany a musician’s single has never been more important. A controversial music video, with thought-provoking, or just down right provocative imagery can help rack up a serious amount of views and attention. The more publicity the better.

Unfortunately, this appears to have translated into a shallow competition within mainstream pop music, to concoct the most shocking, outrageous music video without the foundation of an intelligent message to underline it. Some music videos have even dared to take the form of miniature movies as artists have recruited talented directors to add a dash of Hollywood glamour and adrenaline. Some have produced more worthwhile results than others – Iggy Azalea’s ‘Black Widow’ effort, far too obviously inspired by Tarantino’s Kill Bill, is an ignominious example. Other artists simply use the visuals as a means of amplifying the message of the song, or create an evocative narrative to ensnare the emotions of the viewer.

Nearly every single released is guaranteed to have an anticipated music video, meaning their numbers are vast, even on Youtube alone. So with such an array of choice, is there anything truly memorable and meaningful amongst what is arguably lot of formulaic, generic noise? What are some of the most truly influential and spectacular, music videos of all time? Here are some of my favourites…

Continue reading The Art of Music Videos

‘Heathers’ and the Rashomon Effect

I don’t miss secondary school. At all. In retrospect, most of the time it felt like a futile race to the top of the social pile, nearly everyone ravenously eating up whatever trend was currently in vogue and gossiping about friends and enemies alike as though it was going out of fashion. ‘Looks over books’ was the creed. Your lip-gloss was more exciting and influential than how well you did in a maths test. I was reminded of this dog-eat-dog school environment after watching the 1989 teen-movie classic ‘Heathers’… Continue reading ‘Heathers’ and the Rashomon Effect

Review – The Self-Titled Mr. Twin Sister Album

With their latest album dropped this September, ‘Mr. Twin Sister’ have revealed an evolution from previous more meandering guitar-led records, to a solid collective of whirling, layered synth-dance, faintly reminiscent of German new-age music project Enigma. Thankfully, the techno-pop structural keystone of their music has not been lost, but instead advantageously amplified, creating far more memorable records.  So it seems that the addition of ‘Mr.’ to their name may herald the coagulation of a more lucid identity for the band.

Continue reading Review – The Self-Titled Mr. Twin Sister Album