Lana Del Rey’s rise to fame is like something straight out of one of her own songs: a beautiful, headstrong young woman with a mysterious past and a fake name follows her dream straight to the top, only to find herself facing the wrath of the haters and discovering the price of success in the process. “I’ve got nothing much to live for/Ever since I found my fame,” Del Rey sings on God Knows I Tried, one of her new album Honeymoon’s many highlights.
But those who think that the thirty year old singer has given up will be surprised by Honeymoon, an album that sounds less like an admission of passivity and more like a brazen rebuttal. It may be the darkest record Del Rey has yet turned in, but it’s also in many ways her strongest, and most defiant: a gilded fuck you aimed at all those who expected Del Rey was capable of turning in anything less than a masterpiece.
Del Rey is in no rush: Honeymoon’s pace is deliberately and distinctly slow. This is a sun-swollen record, full of languid string work and rich, sultry tones. Songs like lead single High By The Beach and the titular track Honeymoon take their time to weave their spell over the listener, swirling and sashaying around the audience in ever-decreasing circles. This dirge like time scheme allows Del Rey to summon up some stunning tonal complexities: the elegiac Swan Song moves from lament to liturgy, from celebration to surrender.
Despite the fact that Del Rey’s unique throwback style runs through the record like blood through veins, she never falls back on old tricks, or saunters over territory she has covered in the past. Though Religion initially seems to owe a debt to Video Games, the mega hit that started it all, the instrumentation and acerbic lyric take the piece in a different direction entirely. On top of this, her Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood cover’s high synths and the strangled horn section that dominates the latter half of Art Deco add a woozy, ever so slightly kitsch delight to the piece that is entirely new to Del Rey’s oeuvre.
Make no mistake, then: those waiting for Del Rey to collapse in on herself will be disappointed by Honeymoon, a record that rattles with self-assurance and is ultimately more intelligent and distinct than almost any other pop album released this year. Lana Del Rey’s story isn’t coming to an end. Indeed Honeymoon is so powerful and vibrant it feels as though the youthful singer/songwriter’s tale is only just beginning.