Flashback to 2011, when Bon Iver, Bon Iver was one of the latest big things hitting the Indie scene. The snowy sounds and emotional voice of Bon Iver ensured that all was fine in the indie-verse. And then something happened.
In late November of that year, I picked up a copy of Toronto’s NOW Magazine, a weekly publication that deals with entertainment, politics, music–the whole shebang. On the cover of this issue was the face of Lana Del Rey. Her hit “Video Games” was on the radar in the Indie circles. Was the song good? Not particularly. It was drab, felt like it had a droning monotone, and was way too grey for some tastes. When Born to Die came out, it felt surprisingly good. Ultraviolence, her third release, can be reviewed by a snicker or by a genuine appreciation for the artist. In short, New York’s Lana Del Rey was, and still is, polarizing.
With Honeymoon, there are small improvements that make the Chamber Pop album, at best, fair. However, in the grand scheme of things, nothing on this record will bring detractors to the cult of Del Rey. The album feels a lot more like a soap opera when compared to previous releases. The tempos of these songs fear speed.
“Honeymoon” opens this record by acting like the opening credits to a black and white flick involving dangerous men in suits and vagrants. The pianos on most songs are too simple for their own good, although they can create the essence of a parlour jazz session (“Terrence Loves You”) or a bluesy, yet gunslinger-appeasing piece about contemplating fame (“God Knows I Tried”). Despite this simplicity, the combined sounds manage to be hypnotizing enough for listeners, especially those already used to Del Rey’s shallow material.
The instrumentation on this album is one of its strong points. In “High By The Beach,” Del Rey strings her chorus with a sassy face on, not caring about the weird organ in the background or the faster tempo. “Art Deco” absorbs the essence of Paradise, using space beats and brass to help create the identity of the singer’s latest badass. In “Religion,” there are good percussive elements and melancholic strings that try to revive Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah,” while “Salvatore” has an Italian sound to it created by its violins and vocalizing. This latter track feels inspired by the Born to Die song “Carmen.” On the topic of early influences, “The Blackest Day” has a tendency to mimic a speed that’s on her single “Blue Jeans.” While her music has a vapidity and anachronistic flavour to it, Del Rey shows some command when it comes to building on old songs of hers and seeing the importance of culture in other songs (David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in “Terrence Loves You” and the Eagles’ “Hotel California” in “God Knows I Tried”). On one hand, she wants to be America’s woman; on the other, she doesn’t give a damn about what others think.
This album fails to work as a gateway to the artist’s material, mostly because the work still has a tendency to feel monotone, hollow, and greyed out. When she hits high notes, songs still manage to sound artificial. When songs do, listeners will more often than not passively listen to Honeymoon. Lana Del Rey shows her love for the early 20th-century, without really caring about widening her demographic. She’s not a villain, but when I saw Bon Iver dethroned on his proverbial Indie seat by Del Rey, I felt okay with it.
I still am.
Dustin Ragucos is a writer of things fictional, poetic, and musical. His main loves include Death Grips and Indie music. Dustin’s blog is host to a weekly blurb about albums old and new.