Artist: Lana Del Rey
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.
Download: Terrence Loves You, Music to Watch Boys To, Swan Song, Freak, The Blackest Day
Availability: Out now on iTunes