Album Review: Lana Del Rey Reaches Peak Lana in ‘Honeymoon’

I’ll call it – Honeymoon is Lana Del Rey‘s magnum opus; her masterpiece. If she never makes another song again, that’s okay – we’ve got this and it’s all we’ll need. She would be going out on an almighty high if she were to call it quits right here and now. On Born To Die, it was the transition from Lizzie Grant to Lana Del Rey, documented with a desire for dangerous passion and an innate need to be loved. She craved fame and fortune, but would give it all away in a second to be whisked off on the back of a motorbike with a man your parents wouldn’t approve of. She was old time, glamorous (but from a trailer park) and reminded us all of what America wanted to be just a few decades ago. She was what the “American Dream” of the sixties turned out to be, untouched by history. Timeless.
Then, Ultraviolence and her romanticising about the position she was now in. Likened to The Weeknd and his narcotic-tinged love songs (or rather, he is likened to her), she sung lyrics like “He hit me and it felt like true love” as she moved away from Summertime Sadness and sunny California for Brooklyn Baby and New York. She’d left it all behind in search of love, and now was convincing herself this was what she had always wanted. She is perfectly fine to give her entire existence to the man she loves, regardless of what he does to her in return. After all, he loves her too, right?

Now, we come to Honeymoon, and the third chapter in the chronicles of Del Rey. She’s famous, rich, adored and should be happy – but there’s something wrong. The cracks you thought were there in Ultraviolence are still there. She almost sounds bored. But, she is at her most powerful and her most artistic. She has taken us with her over the last few years, getting us ready for this moment, the moment where she can be herself. And with that, she effortlessly, woozily, seamlessly and enchantingly takes us on her honeymoon. This should be the happiest time in her life, except it isn’t. Her all-consuming devotion has made her a sitting duck, and now she is taking it upon herself to expose the flaws that she was too naive to see (or maybe she just plain didn’t want to). Demonstrating the full effect and influence of her artistry, Lana takes the final step in creating an entire league of her own. She has finally arrived.

The cinematic strings of the title track open the album like a pair of velvet curtains being drawn back to reveal our star, Lana, lounging as she sings the first lyrics, “We both know that it’s not fashionable to love me”. Exposing, raw, real and – as always – dramatic, you can almost picture her with her hand on her forehead in a “woe is me” sigh. Her voice is it’s most powerful, her warbling and solemn delivery makes a beeline for your heartstrings. You can’t help but feel her forlorn uncertainty, but also dangerously addictive love. A honeymoon has never sounded more unnerving or unsettling as she begs, “Say you want me too”.

She flirts with danger, and just wants to be loved. She speaks when spoken to, but happily peers over her sunglasses as she quietly observes like is Music To Watch Boys To. However, her all-consuming devotion remains on full display in tracks like Terrence Loves You. She’s in that type of love that slowly kills you; that turns you into a depressed and desperate shell of yourself. She sings of dancing to The Eagles and feeling free when she sees no one and when nobody knows her name in God Knows I’ve Tried, an exhausted ode to what once was and what she’s been through. Her voice is magnificent, her lyrics are exposing and raw as she sings “I’ve got nothing more to live for ever since I found my fame”. This is also the one of the very few songs she has that does not mention a man, and is also one of her absolute best. Her realness continues with High By The Beach, where she sounds tired and, frankly, over whoever it is she is singing about. “The truth is I never bought into your bullshit” she shrugs, the gut-wrenching and agonising love she sung about just a few songs before long gone. Instead, we now here Lana 2.0, who just wanted to get high by the beach. Even the video for this track shows how over it she is, in which she literally guns down a helicopter with a bazooka for not leaving her alone. She’s bored, and wants to be alone.

As the album progresses, it’s also evident that Lana’s progression has also made her confident to mix up her signature sounds, as she starts to work with trap style beats, intricate soundscapes and a multitude of sounds far away from her Born To Die days. Freak, in which she sounds so inviting when she tells you to come to California and be like her, and High By The Beach particularly showcasing these new styles. Is it that she no longer has to prove who she is that she now feels comfortable to try new things, or is it that she still has some proving to do and is going to do it this way?

From here, Art Deco (my least favourite song), Religion (where we once again revisit just how much she is capable of loving someone), Salvatore (with her vocal strength on full display) and The Blackest Day (one of the best songs she’s ever made), you get the feeling these songs already exist – but in the best way possibly. They’re so quintessentially Lana; they’re familiar, without sounds monotonous nor repetitive or overdone. They’re just Lana, being Lana. No matter how sick and tired she gets, she can’t change who she is and she goes through phases of acceptance and wanting to rebel. Just like the rest of us.

“I don’t really want to break up / We got it goin’ on,” Lana reasons in The Blackest Day, before lamenting about her black days since her “baby went away”. The song plunges as she sings about going deeper, harder, darker “looking for love in all the wrong places”. She exclaims in frustration at herself and her devastation in the aftermath of a breakup. Her love is gone, and she’s left alone. As the song progresses, so too does she through her grief as she finally reaches acceptance, repeating the realisation she’s on her own again. In 24, her lust is powerful but she’s starting to slip, realising probably what her mother told her – “If you lie down with dogs you’ll get fleas / Be careful of the company you keep.”  And with that, we reach her Swan Song, her final ode to leaving it all behind and being “free”. That’s all she wanted. After an astounding Nina Simone cover in the form of Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, she’s done. Gone. Will we ever hear from her again? Has she been whisked off into the sunset once more on that motorbike she so desperately craves?

Say what you want about Lana Del Rey, but the fact that she has managed three albums with some of the most bare, revealing and honest songs we’ve heard in a long time. She represents the side of love you warn your friends about, but then suddenly find yourself in the throws of. She, like the love she sings about, is a drug you can’t quit. She entices you, sucks you in and keeps you, but you’re okay with it because it’s kind of nice there all warm and loved – or at least you think it is. Honeymoon represents exactly what it should represent: a natural progression of a girl who just wants to be loved and will not stop until she gets it. She tricked herself into thinking she knew what it was, and now this is where she is in chapter 3. Quite frankly, I can’t wait for chapter four.