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Lana Del Rey - Honeymoon
THERE are many different reasons why I recommend…
certain albums for inclusion into Vinyl Corner. In the case of Lana Del Rey, she is making news at the moment because her upcoming album, Norman Fucking Rockwell, is starting to shape up. There are snippets and teases out and, typical of the modern promotional cycle, you never really get anything fully-formed right away: one must wait for weeks and months before the actual album arrives! In any case, there is an album on its way and it is always exciting. I like Lana Del Rey because she has this very mature altitude and is someone that inspires. Her previous albums have gained critical acclaim and I love the smokiness of her voice. She is almost like a 1950s heroine or classic singer; someone who sounds like they are crushing down the French Riviera but, with a bit more of a sassy outlook. In lyrical terms, Del Rey is much more compelling than a lot of her peers. She talks about love and the ups-and-downs of heartache is a refreshingly honest and unfiltered way – yet she can throw in poetic images and incredible images when you least expect. I am not sure what we will get from Norman Fucking Rockwell but, as we have seen from her previous albums, it will be a mixture of sensual and cinematic. Released in 2015, I think Honeymoon is an album that does not quite get the credit it deserves.
The fourth studio album from the American artist, Honeymoon was produced by Del Rey alongside Rick Nowels and Kieron Menzies. Unlike her more guitar-driven album, Ultraviolence, the tempo and sound on Honeymoon is more dreamy and Pop-based – similar to what she provided on Born to Die (2012) and Paradise (E.P., 2012). Maybe there was a sense Ultraviolence was a move too far or it was not quite the album she imagined; perhaps, as Del Rey is prone to do, she just likes to keep it fresh and change it up between albums. Although there is quite a luxuriant and Baroque sound to Honeymoon, lyrics take ion themes of torment and heartbreak; lust, wanting to escape and feel alive – pretty much what we came to expect from Lana Del Rey! The period before Honeymoon seems to have been rather productive and fruitful. I have seen interviews Del Rey has conducted and her creative process is a lot different to other people. She is compelling to listen to and, in her interviews, she is as revealing and striking as her music. One reason why Honeymoon is perfect for vinyl investigation is because it transports you somewhere else. The front cover – a 1950s-looking Del Rey looking set to hit the road – grabs you but the music has that epic and cinematic flourish that reminds you of film scores and stunning vistas. The sonic blends are terrific, too. In terms of general, Del Rey experiments with Trap, Blues; Pop, Jazz and Soul. There are elegant, snaking guitar liners, hushed vocals and songs that are easily memorable yet deeply personal.
Throw in some sliced-up samples and beautiful soundscapes, Honeymoon is a pleasure for the senses. The slightly shinier and glossier production was very different to Ultraviolence’s gritty and darker hues but, as I explain, Del Rey is always moving and pushing herself. Honeymoon, to me, is a more accessible work and one that reaps rewards time and time again. Some claim Del Rey’s voice is quite detached and uninvolved with the subject matter; as though she is not interacting with her lyrics and showing necessary emotional awareness. In fact, that smokiness and dreaminess is pretty effecting and striking. She can go from resonant to hazy; switching between the potent heroine to someone who is more laid-back and observant. The themes and stories tackled through Honeymoon are a far cry from the rather commercial and conventional subjects addressed by many of Del Rey’s peers – samey interpretations of love and destruction; a rather unchallenging and straight take on something quite complex and interesting. Lana Del Rey approaches her words with the same director’s eye she gives to the music. There are visions of bad lovers and domestic abuse; a yearning to get to the sea and dark nights of the soul. One can close their eyes and let the strange and intoxicating world of Del Rey waft into the mind. The Trap and Hip-Hop elements give Honeymoon requisite kick and physicality whilst luxuriant strings and elements give us grace and nostalgic kiss. Whether she is discussing teenagers staying out all night or digging into the recesses of her soul, Lana Del Rey is always compelling and original.
Songs, as many reviewers have noted, seem to be in slow-motion: like time is stopping and the heroine is trying to take it all in; a sort of druggy haze or dream-like state. There are some who are never likely to gravitate towards Del Rey but, for the most part, her work finds critics hungry and accepting. Honeymoon was well-received and got a lot of effusive nod. The Guardian, in this review, gave their thoughts:
“The fruition of Honeymoon smacks of strict creative control: there was minimal press – one notable interview with friend/superfan James Franco – the album’s public playback took place at Urban Outfitters, and the production team was confined to Del Rey herself, long-time engineer Kieron Menzies and Ultraviolence/Born to Die producer Rick Nowels. The resulting album is naturally self-indulgent, but her most sophisticated and refined yet. Her score-like songs are self-sabotagingly slow, striving for Rat-Pack romance and often succeeding. Familiar themes feature: Hollywood legends haunt Terrence Loves You while morality troubles God Knows I Tried (“I’ve got nothing much to live for / Ever since I found my fame”), and she still fraternises with dodgy men, but instead of bonking bikers against pinball machines, she’s now skulking around with the mafia. With a little chopped-and-screwed modernity, hints of jazz and Morricone-like soundscapes, there’s a timelessness to Honeymoon, and an intrigue that should linger longer than her previous LPs”.
AllMusic, in their review took a slightly different approach:
“Apart from the syncopated chorus on "High on the Beach," any lingering element of the hip-hop affectations of Born to Die have been banished and so have the shade and light Dan Auerbach brought to Ultraviolence, a record that feels cinematic in comparison to Honeymoon. What's left behind is the essence of Lana Del Rey: iconic images of days of Los Angeles passed, all plasticized and stylized, functioning as lighthouses in stoned, sad daydreams. Mood reigns over all on Honeymoon -- melodies and tempos certainly aren't prioritized over feel; all the originals are purposefully languid, which is partially why the Nancy Sinatrasample on "Terrence Loves You" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," a cover allegedly in the vein of Nina Simone's original but bearing an organ out of the Animals, stick -- but underneath the dragging beats and austere arrangements, there's something approaching triumph. Where Lana Del Rey seemed weighted down by existential sorrow on her first two albums, Honeymoon seems comfortingly melancholic and that's the truest sign that it is the fullest execution of Lana Del Rey's grand plan yet”.
FADER raised some interesting points when they reviewed Honeymoon:
“This album is Lana Del Rey at the most self-aware and self-realized she’s ever been, but it will leave you as bemused as ever as to who she really is. Honeymoon literally opens with Del Rey singing we both know it’s not fashionable to love me, a strikingly incisive line from the mouth of a retro pop star. But this is Lana Del Rey speaking, and so even at her most self-realized, she’s non-committal and impenetrable; one second she’s throwing herself on the ground to worship your never-ending love, and the next she’s watching boys skate by over the top of her cat-eye sunglasses…
In the throes of the devil-may-care Honeymoon, it makes sense that Del Rey would be vague when asked if she stands for feminism, because this Del Rey is the queen of nihilist pop. She stands for absolutely nothing.
On the cover of Honeymoon, Del Rey sets you up to expect her coolest, most distant embodiment of this persona yet. She looks down on the world from above, hidden behind hat and shades, sharply removed from the portraits that covered her first two records. But the new vantage point she occupies on this album—everything looks better from above, she sings over the breezy march of “Salvatore”—feels, in some ways, more intimate than ever. She breaks away from having—as Eliot writes in “Burnt Norton, ”the poem Del Rey quotes on the album—the look of flowers that are looked at. Instead, she becomes the looker: for the most obvious example, there’s the female gaze pop song “Music To Watch Boys To.” With a multi-tracked vocal the reflects a split personality, she says in one breath I like you a lot, while admitting in the next, more distorted line to putting on my music while I’m watching the boys. Even more unnervingly, she then warns you she’s been sent to destroy. Rather than presenting a straightforward image of a submissive woman in desperate love, as she’s been accused of doing in the past, she adds the crackling undercurrent of her own desire and power. After playing the victim for a lot of Ultraviolence, suddenly she’s dangerous”
The ethereal and beautiful Honeymoon is a great work and one that is as destined for the hipsters and dreamers as it is the romantics and the daring. It blends it sounds wonderfully and there is so much to enjoy. From a compositional viewpoint, Del Rey integrates so many different sounds without overcrowding songs or merely chucking everything into the blender – she has a great ear and eye for what works and what a sort requires.
Lana Del Rey gave a few interviews when Honeymoon was released/just after and she was asked about her love life and inspirations. When she spoke with Billboard she was candid regarding heartbreak and her ambitions:
“When was the last time you got trashed by a love affair?
The last one -- before the boyfriend I’m with now -- was pretty bad. It wasn’t good to be in it, but it wasn’t good to be out of it, either. He was like a twin. Not a facsimile twin, but a real twin.
So maybe finding the same person doesn’t work. Are relationships hard for you?
For someone like me -- and it’s not a codependent thing -- I just like having someone there. I’ve been alone, and that’s fine. But I like to come home and have someone there. You know, to say, “Oh, he’s here. And this other thing (Mimes a table.) is there. And this (Mimes setting down an object on the table.) is there. (Laughs.) I’m very methodical. I have to be. I’m like that in the studio too. Mixing and mastering can take four more months after we’re done -- three to mix and one to master. I like having a plan. Though I do leave spaces for ad-libbing in the studio when I write.
Do you want to be in the movies?
Well... I’m open to it all. James Franco asked me to be in three films that were going to be directed by a Spanish director, and I was hesitant. I think he heard my hesitance and got scared. Someone wanted me to be Sharon Tate. I thought, “That’s so right.” At that time, there were three Manson movies being talked about, but none were ever made. So maybe that was the answer”.
Lana Del Rey would follow Honeymoon with 2017’s Lust for Life. Aside from the slightly disappointing title – one will always associate Iggy Pop with that album title – it was another bold and brilliant work that was so different to what was plaguing the charts that year. That is a key in Del Rey’s arsenal: the fact she is so much more interesting, pioneering and inventive than her peers. I think everyone should grab a copy of Honeymoon on vinyl as it is a great record and perfect for the format. You can put it on, lie down and just let the music carry you off. The album also warrants greater listening; nuanced and interesting as it is, you will find yourself coming back and picking up on new things. I am looking forward to Norman Fucking Rockwell because it sounds like it will be a blend of the harder-edged Ultraviolence and what we witnessed on Honeymoon. Norman Rockwell was a popular American author and painter who produced these brilliant cover illustrations that depicted everyday American life. I think Del Rey will blend her representations of American life with a bit of a sharp tongue – the fact that, with Donald Trump as President, the view of modern America lacks any romance and hope. Lana Del Rey always keeps people guessing and there is (rightly) a lot of interesting surrounding her forthcoming album. I think, with so much banal chart music around, we need her pretty quickly to wash away that sound and replace it with her sense of wonder and beauty. I am excited to see what comes next but, in the meantime, get a copy of Honeymoon on vinyl and…
CHERISH every note.