Honeymoon: a trip into romantic darkness

Del Rey’s new album depicts harsh realities of love

Honeymoon: a trip into romantic darkness

Photo By: Nick Stamp

Naloni Smith, Staff Writer

Lana Del Rey sings about the dark truth we all eventually discover about romantic love: it’s always a risk. The ones you love may not care as much as you’d hoped or stay around as long as long as you’d like. Her music is an undeniable reminder that the promise of a perfect relationship is often broken.

Though she is predominantly known for her catchy, blues track “Summertime Sadness” released in 2011, with her fourth album Honeymoon, Del Rey explores darker territory, but trust me, it’s not as depressing as it sounds. There are little shimmers of hope on various tracks, but Del Rey definitely moves away from some of the pop trappings that have characterized her music in the past.

Though she is undeniably a pop star, her latest album has critics taking her more seriously as an artist. In the past, some reviewers have summed up her work as simply depressing and even somewhat boring. Critics are now taking another look and describing her new album as clever, sophisticated and developed.

These accolades seem well deserved. Del Rey demonstrates her wit right away with the album’s title. The idea of a honeymoon is deeply ironic considering the fact that the entire album revolves around the concept of romantic disillusionment. It also opens as the title track, one of four singles released in August, and begins with the swelling of a string orchestra followed by Del Rey’s voice, so deceptively delicate you will feel misled once the contrasting message sinks in. The prolonged instrumental introduction builds anticipation, and then there are the lyrics, which juxtapose a sweet honeymoon theme with suggestions of violence. The result may be creepy, but its purpose is to set the tone for the rest of the album. Hope, idealism, and disappointment all reside here. This is just the beginning, and there are far better tracks to come.

Despite different tastes in music, this singer’s phrasing, style, and flexibility are remarkable. One of the top tracks that highlight the strength and versatility of Del Rey’s vocals is “The Blackest Day.”  Throughout the song, Lana interprets lyrics in an evocative way, summoning up raw emotions, transforming them into mournful, sultry tones, then transitioning into light, delicate notes. It’s more difficult to forget the longing in her voice when it’s accompanied by the layered, ethereal backup vocals of the chorus.

Del Rey’s concept is also impacting at it’s best moments. Nostalgia for romanticized periods in history and individual life significantly influence most songs. With a soothing introduction composed of drums, keyboards and strings Del Rey leads you into the 1950’s Italian cinema era on the track “Salvatore.” She softly coos throughout the chorus, purposefully mispronouncing Italian endearments like “Ciao Amore” to capture her character’s naiveté and light-hearted energy. With the song’s faster, more playful pace, Del Rey characterizes young coquettishness when she sings, “Catch me if you can, working on my tan.”

As inventive as this album is, it has its weak points. Del Rey disappoints with some tracks that build the chorus up while leaving her stellar voice tarnished by overproduction. Then there are the boring, indulgent lyrics that will never go hand in hand with an artist capable of so much more. That is where the fault lies in tracks like “Swan Song” which sounds like nothing more than filler.

Yet overall, Honeymoon offers songs that are emotionally and lyrically beautiful. Del Rey continues to demonstrate expansive, enduring vocals, especially when accompanied by minimal string, piano, and other atmospheric backups. Though the album is conceptually uneven when trying to portray the underbelly of love and occasionally so over-produced that the vocals suffer, this artist’s ambition and talent shines through. For dedicated Del Rey fans, buy it. This latest effort is one more step toward “iconic” status for Del Rey. If you’re a new to Lana’s music, try out tracks like “The Blackest Day,” “Religion,” or “Salvatore” to get a taste before purchasing. Either way, almost anyone could tag along on this honeymoon trip and return satisfied by this emotional, beautifully composed album.