Look at how fucking cool she is!
“We both know that it’s not fashionable to love me,” Lana Del Rey croons on the opening track of her latest full length release, Honeymoon. And yet, it certainly seems that way. She’s got her face on t-shirts at Urban Outfitters, she has an affinity for making lyrical references to hipster favorites like Pabst Blue Ribbon and outdated fashion trends, and to top it all off, she’s got James Franco penning poetic tributes to her. So, despite what she may think, Lana Del Rey is most certainly trendy at the moment. Perhaps that’s why people seem to like her music so much.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was not a fan of her 2014 release, Ultraviolence. I found it to be incredibly dull and unemotional. But, despite that, I was willing to enter into this record with a fresh mindset. After all, she’s made it clear that this newest record is not similar to Ultraviolence. So, I brushed my preconceived notions of her music aside, and readied myself to be surprised.
I must say, to Honeymoon’s credit, it really did make me reconsider what I look for in a good album. Upon first listen I really found myself hating this thing, but I just couldn’t place why exactly. So I listened again, and took very diligent notes concerning everything I disliked.
Perhaps the biggest issue, and the one that I keep coming back to every time I listen to one of the tracks, is the absolutely lack of variety. Lyrically, she dwells in the same general area at all times; drugs, love, and the intersection of the two. There really isn’t much more to it than that. “The truth is I never bought into your bullshit/When you would pay tribute to me cause I know that/All I wanted to do was get high by the beach.” This line, taken from “High By the Beach,” perfectly showcases the lyrical “depth” of this record. Her stories are tired, and the “bad girl” role she does her best to fit into is, at this point, as boring as the songs themselves.
Unfortunately, the monotony of this record doesn’t stop at the lyrics. I don’t think I could pick a single one of these instrumentals out of a lineup, let alone sit through 65 minutes of each one, back to back. It’s just ballad after ballad, always the same tempo, always the same droning string section and vocal effects. The dynamics reflect this sentiment, in that there are no dynamics. Each song goes from slow and quiet, to slow and quiet, and then, usually ends slow and quiet. The fact that not a single track on here (save for the last song and interlude) is less than four minutes doesn’t help Lana’s case either. I often found myself nodding off halfway through these tracks, and really straining myself to listen all the way through.
Possibly the only redeeming cut is “High by the Beach,” one of the first singles. It sticks out like a sore thumb not because it’s so fantastic, but just because it’s different. The chorus is more rap inspired than baroque pop (or whatever you want to call her faux 1920’s musical genre,) and the melody is legitimately catchy. It’s the only song on the record that breaks through the boredom. Although no other track was anywhere near as decent as this one, the other aspect of this record I found myself able to appreciate (not necessarily enjoy) were the drums. Although they were often in the far background, they added a nice rhythmic texture to an otherwise totally melodic landscape, especially when they were acoustic rather than electronic.
Regardless of what, musically, was awful, or which areas of the record I found vaguely listenable, Lana herself obviously has to be on her game for Honeymoon to succeed as a coherent piece of music. But is she ever? The singing is just as lukewarm as it has been on previous albums, and her tone is the sonic equivalent of a vaudeville actress yawning. Nothing about her as a singer is interesting or attention-grabbing whatsoever. She should be carrying this album on her shoulders, but instead she sounds indifferent.
I hated this record, just like I hated Ultraviolence. As always, as soon as she releases another project, I’ll give it a full listen, but at this rate, things are not looking good for her. She seems to be consistently making the same mistakes, and I’m seeing a pattern of musical stagnation across her albums. Maybe she should just give up on the singing and do American Apparel ads.
Written by Preston Fulks