MUSIC REVIEW: Lana Del Rey - Honeymoon
Former trouble-maker choir girl, Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, better known as Lana Del Rey, has again released a crowd pleaser in the form of new release “Honeymoon”. Beginning her writing/recording career at 18 years of age she has risen to become the most streamed female artist on Spotify in the US.
Born and raised in Lake Placid, New York she has modelled and studied meta-physics, but is more famous for her music. She has even been the subject of speculation as to whether her projected persona is as ”fake as her lips”, or not.
Her music however, speaks for itself. Her Uncle taught her to play the guitar when she was young and her first album was released in 2010.
Her style is quite cinematic and channels 50’s film noir and when asked to describe herself she comes up with “Gangsta Nancy Sinatra”; ironic as she covered “Summer Wine” and sounded just like her.
Not to be confused with all the other pre-packaged starlets, she wandered around in the forests as a teenager “like a weirdo” writing music herself and played in small clubs until the release of her first album.
I heard her once characterised this way. “She has many different qualities that women in our culture aren’t allowed to be, all at once, so people are trying to find the inauthentic.” She is just comfortable in her own skin and isn’t scared to write about it.
“Honeymoon” is definitely sounding more like “Ultraviolence” than “Born To Die”. With the title track (released as a single July 2014) we’re thrown head first into the 50’s drama with a “creepy forest” eerie orchestra sound with slow playing violins. The snare drums slide in for tempo and her haunting, smooth vocals and layered harmonies certainly make for “atmosphere”. They are going to go on their “Honeymoon” and completely ignore the fact that “it’s not fashionable for you to love me” and that “there’s a history of violence” surrounding him, but that’s ok because she’s “not scared”.
The reality of “guns blazing around” him and that he’s known as “Mr. Born to Lose” should scream danger, but “we make the rules” and “we have nothing to lose” are the justifications for throwing caution to the wind. It certainly leaves you with the “Born To Die” punch in the solar plexus.
In “Music To Watch Boys To” we are caught up in the smouldering pout of an ignored girl who is desperately vying for this boys attention, but, failing. She says “I like you a lot” and “that’s why I do what you want” and when he isn’t listening she sings and plays the music he likes to draw him back, but it isn’t working so “no holds barred I’ve been sent to destroy”. Make him pay!
All this on an aural backdrop of slow trip hop echoes, sustained, breathy vocals, and this husky little glissando she punctuates her sentences with. In the end she is still whispering “I live to love you, boy” though.
If you want to drink in that Nancy Sinatra “Summerwine” vibe, then you get it in spades in “Terrence Loves You”. References to David Bowie’s “Ground control to Major Tom” pop up and we’re swept along mourning her lost “bad boy”, “Hollywood legend”, real or imagined.
She cries “I lost myself when I lost you. I still get trashed, honey, when I hear your tunes.” There is a jazz feel, referenced by her line ”I still got jazz when I got the blues”. Piano chords and a staggered tempo preclude a frisson of violins and the rhythms kick in with an old saxophone. She winds it up humming a lullaby.
I think that “High by the Beach” is going to be a hit with its bouncy trip hop vibe. A lot like “Lolita” and “Florida Kilos” it’s infectious. Following the pout of “Music To Watch Boys To” this one devolves into a black hole of spite. “When you would pay tribute to me” being past tense she says “I can’t survive if this is all that’s real.” Denial of buying into him in the first place. Therefore, “That don’t make you a man”,” I don’t want your money, money” and “All I wanted to do is get high by the beach, get high, baby baby bye-bye”. Meow! It’s heavy on the bass kicker and the “church organ” chords and related to us in completely innocent-sounding bell-like vocals ending with an echo.
Getting back to the whole “weirdo in the forest” thing. She has written “Freak”. This whole album oozes summer in California where you can visualise the heat shimmering along the ground and literally hear the cicadas in the background in tracks like “God Knows I Tried” and ”Freak”.
”Freak”, however, has an eastern spin on the trip hop where she encourages him to ”screw your anonymity” , “Baby if you want to leave, come to California and be a freak like me too” and “talk til we both turn blue”. The orchestra keeps it grounded and the bridge has heavy bass grooves and rhythms. She sings it with phased harmonies and it has quite the jazzy conclusion.
“Art Deco” is an all too familiar tale of the “Club Queen” trying too hard to be cool. Described as “Art Deco” and “Ghetto” maybe a little contradictory, but, she is “cold and unsure” and “looking to score”. The song goes ”You want more” to be followed by the “why?” The old saxophone is back haunting this trip hop track with snare drum and synths weaving in and out of her husky vocals.
In “Religion” we’re looking in on an obsessive devotion where her friends beg her to “take some space”, but, she says ”it was never about the money or the drugs, for you there’s only love” ”You’re my religion. When I’m on my knees you’re how I pray” We have acoustic guitar chords in the form of a ballad with violins and almost tribal rhythms.
Del Rey really wears the “let’s-get-smashed-because-my-heart-is-broken” mentality spectacularly. In “The Blackest Day” with its retro guitar riffs and slow trip hop she is “going deeper and deeper” “darker and darker” because “ever since my baby went away it’s been the blackest day”. Her devastation is palpable. She is going to break up with rebound man because “it’s not easy to talk about” and “It’s not simple, it’s trigonometry” and admits that she looks “for love in all the wrong places”. She takes us on her downward spiral of phased and somewhat elliptical harmonies sounding a lot like Sharon Den Edel from Within Temptation.
We get more of this in “Swan Song” where their love is so enthralling at the cost of all else (maybe). She regretfully says “we could just get lost” and “I will never sing again” and even deciding for him ”you will never work again” because “nothing could stop the two of us”. We get the full brunt of the orchestra with very intense cello.
If she shines with a broken heart then she is downright astounding when she is enthralled with the wrong man. Got to love a woman who is irrevocably drawn to a high-functioning sociopath!
“24” showcases her “crooked lust” as she tells him (and herself) “There’s only 24 hours in a day and half as many ways for you to lie to me, my little love.” Most of those 24 hours are spent in bed with her, the other half “you lay awake with thoughts of murder and carnage”, but, she is constantly reminding him to be “careful of the company that you keep” when maybe she should be telling herself that.
This one screams 50’s with the muted big band brass, sweeping orchestra and even castanets. With the phased harmonies and emphatic humming, you’re carried away with her fatal folly as she croons “give me your heat, give me your diamonds” and la-la-las her way to the end.
There is a very Latino style track “Salvatore”, with flamenco guitar and, ”Burnt Norton” (poem by T .S. Elliott) spoken over fluttering music and a poignant cover of Nina Simone’s ”Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”.
All up a fantastic demonstration on how to channel self-destructive tendencies into mesmerising music. Del Rey’s voice alone is magnetic without even getting into the cleverness and brutal honesty of the lyrics or her writing skills. Her music has been used in soundtracks such as ”The Great Gatsby”.
“Honeymoon” could be a look in on the “country club” messed up, spoiled little rich girl mentality all blown off in style because “it’s cool to be in rehab” or ok descending into wrist slashing oblivion. The caprice of her sentimentalities is probably a hybrid of the party girl/alcoholic doing battle with the choir girl searching for God. Her work has been described as “depressing”, but, if you have the positive energy to cope with that then check out her stuff.
- Born To Die (2010)
- Ultraviolent (2012)
- Honeymoon (2015)
For more information visit www.lanadelrey.com
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