In the album standout Freak, Lana Del Rey tells her lover (and fans) to “be a freak like me” and “screw [their] anonymity.” This simply reinforces the idea that embracing weirdness isn’t exactly radical in the age of “Shake It Off” and the #DontJudgeChallenge. Lyrics like “Dance around like I’m insane/I feel free when I see no one, and nobody knows my name” take on a new meaning, stemming from the polarizing Video Games siren. It’s telling that the closing song on Honeymoon, a cover of Nina Simone’s Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, feels like a mission statement of her entire career as much as the record. Lana’s embracing her outsider status, but she’s also fighting for validation of her authenticity—and she succeeds.
Her third album doesn’t diverge much from her established sound, but it seems fresher and more organic. It showcases her development as a musician and has serious substance to back up her “Old Hollywood vixen meets Coachella flower crown girl” style.
Compared to the bluesy desert rock of Ultraviolence, the 2015 album Honeymoon doesn’t stray too far from the cinematic noir-pop the artist is known for. Yet, there’s a surprising variety of genre influences. There’s rock in “The Blackest Day,” hip-hop in “High by the Beach,” jazz in “Terrence Loves You,” and even gospel in “God Knows I Tried.” There are unexpected instrumental choices and lovely vocal flourishes—hints of flutes, sax, lilting soprano, and trap beats. Consider “Salvatore,” an Italian-themed number that sounds like The Godfather soundtrack à la Sam Cooke’s International Tour concept album. It’s as kitschy as it sounds, but it works. There’s also “24”, which sounds like a rejected theme song for SPECTRE (aka the 24th James Bond movie).
The album isn’t as diverse lyrically, but between the usual bad boys and sad girls are hints of burgeoning independence. Honeymoon delves more into the femme fatale rather than the damsel in distress aspect of Lana’s persona. She subverts the male gaze in the tropical summer jam “Music to Watch Boys To,” plays the seductress when she says “put your white tennis shoes on and follow me/why work so hard when you could just be free,” and shockingly dumps the loser boyfriend for once. I was relieved, not because I see her trademark as romanticized, dysfunctional, and disturbing. It always struck me as so stylized to be intentionally dark and twisted, like Nick Cave or the Blank Space music video, as opposed to something like Meghan Trainor’s “Dear Future Husband.” It’s a relief because after three albums you just want to sit the girl down and say, Come on girlfriend, you can do better.
With 14 songs and a running time of over an hour, Honeymoon is a little too long. Most of the tracks are slow-burn ballads. Even the more upbeat numbers are only around mid-tempo. With 12 out of 14 songs clocking in at more than 4 minutes long, the album can feel sluggish at times. Actually, the biggest snooze is the title and opening track. However, it’s still surprisingly and consistently strong and lively despite the sheer number of songs. If Ultraviolence proved her capable of mixing things up sonically, Honeymoon is the record where Lana Del Rey comes into her own as an artist with range.
Standout tracks: “Music to Watch Boys To,” “Freak,” “Salvatore,” “24”