Take the feeling of wistful longing, personify it with a sultry voice, and score it to a beautiful orchestration, and you’ll get what Lana Del Rey’s latest album Honeymoon sounds like. With a polarizing artist like Lana, it’s difficult not to know who she is and what she sounds like. Yet coming into this album, Lana delivers a performance so powerful that she seems to reinvent her own genre. Every element of Honeymoon is carefully crafted into place; it flows together so well it’s almost like watching a new artist be born. Honeymoon is the rising phoenix of Lana’s career thus far. Del Rey takes us on a journey that starts with a titular track – a tune that wraps you around the finger of Del Rey’s voice and coaxes you into her mind, where you can’t help but empathize with her tenor – and ends with a cover of a 1964 hit (“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by Nina Simone) that Del Rey transforms into a song that not only matches with the tone of the songs before it, but a song that her vocals reach out and take possession of. That is what makes Lana Del Rey such a recognizable force with this album – no artist will ever be able to capture any of the fourteen songs in their own way. The musical arrangement, the palpable tension between Del Rey and her desires, the soothing, smooth, controlled way Lana manipulates her voice – she has always had these talents as an artist but she has perfected them with Honeymoon, her fourth studio album.
For stand-out tracks, the aforementioned “Honeymoon” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” are, in my opinion, the highlights. That being said every track truly does stand out – each melody, each tempo, each chorus is marked with the signature of Lana’s voice, but Del Rey signs it a little differently for each song. “Music to Watch Boys To”, for example, is signed with hearts replacing the a’s, a synthetic ballad that blends passionate lust and desperate desire to map out the valves of a still-beating heart. “Swan Song”, my personal favorite, was titled cleverly; not only was it the last original track on the album, but it was able to vividly present Del Rey’s attempts at convincing a lover to run away with her in order for them to move on with their lives. The entire album is a strong presentation of mature orchestration and brilliant arrangement that serves to highlight Del Rey’s voice and her over-arching theme of longing desire – but here at the end is the closest she gets to making her escape into these desires.
Overall, Lana Del Rey has stuck to what made her such a distinctive artist in the past – the way she carries herself in song, the recurring themes of lost, longing, and desire – while arranging Honeymoon to be an album that puts the spotlight on everything she does well and turning it into something remarkably stronger than we’ve seen before, creating a new way to be Lana. If you’re a fan of Lana or if you’re a fan of music at all, I implore you to give a listen to this beautiful symphony, the outstanding pinnacle of Del Rey’s career to date.
Overall Rating: 9.2/10
Songs to Check Out: All of them – but make sure to hit “Honeymoon”, “Music to Watch Boys To”, “Swan Song”, and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”
Why?: It’s an album put together with the forethought of an already-great artist who has matured and evolved her way towards musical transcendence. It’s also free to listen to on Spotify, if that was a concern.
– Michael O’Malley