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Lana Del Rey’s “Honeymoon” is an exotic dream

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Thomas Hawk/Flickr

(Thomas Hawk/Flickr)

Lana Del Rey has become one of the largest alternative pop sensations of the past decade. Through her surreal, dreamy hits, Del Rey – whose real name is Elizabeth Grant – has created a large, flower crown-wearing, cult-like following.

When I first listened to Del Rey, I never heard anything like her music. Her dark lyrics, baroque pop and string-driven style mixed so effortlessly with hip hop and electronic samples meandering in the background set her apart from the rest of the pop world.

Her 2012 debut album, “Born to Die,” was an intimate record, where one could easily be taken away into her world, feel her pain, love and losses simply by listening. Her beautiful lyrics and haunting vocals were an incomparable sound, with her free spirited persona marking her as an artist that many could look up to. “Born to Die” was certainly a magical record, but over time, Grant’s magic depleted.

Upon the release of 2014’s “Ultraviolence,” Grant’s music felt more lazy, uninspired and repetitive. The record contained little that Grant hadn’t already displayed on “Born to Die,” and it almost felt like all of the heart and soul she sang with had been lost.

Although the 2014 release did have a few notable tracks, such as “West Coast”, “Ultraviolence” and “Shades of Cool,” most of the tracks sounded interchangeable with one another and were nowhere near the artistic level of “Born to Die.” The talent was there; what was missing was the range of emotions Grant had so beautifully conveyed on “Born to Die.” Hearing “Ultraviolence” made me worry if Grant would ever be able to convey her pain in her music again.

“Honeymoon,” released on Sept. 18 proved me wrong. In Grant’s third album, she had more artistic control, as she not only co-wrote 12 of the album’s 14 tracks, but also was one of its co-producers.

The title track brings the album right back into the world “Born to Die” left us in. The song feels like it should be in the start of an old Hollywood film, continuing with the vintage aesthetic Grant has embraced since the beginning of her career. Grant’s crisp vocals are able to create a picturesque, black and white setting into the listener’s mind.

“Honeymoon” is loaded with tranquil piano keys, piercing violin strings and heavy cellos that come crashing through each track. With these instrumental consistencies, the album is able to seamlessly form into a cohesive whole. At times I was able to completely lose myself in the album, going through four tracks before even realizing that the songs had transitioned from one to another.

Grant’s songs are slow and sensual, and she maintains the album’s thematic setting from the opener all the way to the cover of The Animals’ “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” that closes the album. This cohesion makes “Honeymoon” feel more like a classic soundtrack than an album.

Each song is much longer than a standard pop tune, lasting roughly five minutes –  the longest lasting more than six minutes – and yet the production and instrumentation behind it never makes the songs seem drawn out or lethargic.

Grant shows off her lyrical ability as well, crafting powerful love ballads. In “Music to Watch Boys To,” she sings, “And I love to love you/And I live to love you, boy/Nothing gold can stay/Like love or lemonade/Or sun or summer days/It’s all a game to me anyway.”

She creates timeless words that would initially seem overdramatic, but because of Grant’s production, it fits perfectly. Grant sounds like she’s singing a timeless movie quotation while at the same time creating beautiful pairings of words.

Grant is successful in these pairings in almost every song. The dark, free and liberated Lana Del Rey returns in “Swan Song,” when  she sings, “You got your moment now, you got your legacy/Let’s leave the world for the ones who change everything/Nothing could stop the two of us.”

“Swan Song” shows that, through these past three years, Grant has successfully created her own voice and has made her mark in the music industry. It’s the last original song on the album and feels the most powerful. “Swan Song” summarizes Grant’s feelings and bring the third album to a complete circle.

If “Honeymoon” was Grant’s swan song, it would feel fitting. Here, she has masterfully produced and written a work of art that contains all of the emotional weight she has shown in the past, and yet more polished and matured in its execution.

“Honeymoon” satisfies her fans, but at the same time it is a flowing soundtrack that dives back into the gloomy, heartbreaking sound that many of Grant’s fans fell in love with.

Whether Grant chooses to produce more music or not, this album represents Lana Del Rey to her fullest potential.

Troy Kowalchuk can be reached at [email protected]

1 Comment

One Response to “Lana Del Rey’s “Honeymoon” is an exotic dream”

  1. Justin on March 10th, 2017 11:32 am

    I had kinda lost some hope after ultraviolence but Honeymoon brought it back a little. Her first two albums were fantastic, I’m hoping #5 won’t disappoint.

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