Lana Del Rey’s third studio album, “Honeymoon” finds her back to crooning beautiful, downtempo, melancholic ballads. Departing from its predecessor “Ultraviolence,” “Honeymoon” is much slower, elegant and controlled, with the overwhelming anguish cooling into a swooning sadness.
The opening track and album namesake “Honeymoon” is incredibly subtle, and sets the tone for the rest of the album. It begins with slow violins, almost reminiscent of Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde,” which segues into Rey’s lush vocals. The production is very sparse, with her vocals accompanied by an intermittent piano, violins and very little else.The album keeps the tone that “Honeymoon” sets until about halfway through, where “High by the Beach” adds a lovely pop element to the album. Starting off with an organ riff in the back and Rey singing softly into the mic, the chorus moves into a catchy synth beat with her singing “All I wanna do is get high by the beach / get high by the beach / I never bought into your bullshit.” There’s also an interesting element of lo-fi on her vocals throughout the track that works really well with the synth beat.
Her cover of Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” is also an excellent song on the album, even if it does not come remotely close to the brilliance of the original version. It begins with a very simple synth beat which brings in a subtle guitar riff on top of the violins. The layering in this song is very delicate and restrained. Surprisingly, even the vocals are held back. The main difference between the two versions is that Rey just doesn’t have the same ability to change registers that Simone had. Where Simone sings, “but I’m just a soul whose intentions are good / Oh, lord please don’t let me be misunderstood,” going from high to incredibly low, Rey’s vocals don’t change too much. Where Simone’s change in vocals expresses deep grief, Rey’s suggests a much more constant melancholy.
The songwriting on the album is thematically similar to the songwriting on her previous albums, with Rey musing on love, death, loss and obsession. However, the production is much more controlled and doesn’t feel contrived at all. Throughout, she oozes a west coast coolness that pairs well with the overall downtempo nature of the songs.
While the album does have a nice progression, toward the end it begins to feel repetitive. The album is a little too long to sustain the tragic emotions she packs on. The album feels too unified, with the tone and emotions the same throughout. The consistency becomes dry after the eighth or ninth song, and although Rey changes things up by adding or subtracting layers from the songs, the album’s emotional register feels unchanged.
Although the controlled nature of the album is very different from her previous music, “Honeymoon” contains much of what made Rey great. While not entirely minimalist, there are far fewer layers and crescendos. This is a welcome direction, and maybe her strongest album yet.
Rating: 4 stars