Earlier this year, Lana Del Rey said that her third album ‘Honeymoon’ would be “very different” to her previous release, 2014’s underselling ‘Ultraviolence’.
That album had seen the ‘Video Games’ singer work with Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach to strip away the more modern elements of 2012 debut ‘Born To Die’ in favour of a vintage, smoky feel. The constant was the character that Del Rey – real name Lizzie Grant – has fostered: a brooding femme fatale, a stray extra from a Tim Burton film, the sultry face of sadness.
Three albums in, the challenge of ‘Honeymoon’ is not only to reconnect with the audience who bought ‘Born To Die’ but also to see how far she can push that character before it becomes a caricature. It’s the album on which she can widen her world or typecast herself for good, but the words “very different” were an exaggeration – bad boys, sadness, mortality and the myth of California are still on the menu, even if its crisp beats snap the album back to 2015.
The grainy video for the title track has the singer reclining on a bank by a freeway, battered paperback in hand; the song has sounds like the theme for a desolate Bond film directed by Lars Von Trier. Del Rey was, apparently, in the frame for Spectre at one point, and spy soundtracks inform much of the album, from the pensive ‘God Knows I Tried’ to the quietly powerful ‘Terence Loves You’. Out of Bond mode, the mood is languid and tortured, the pace slow and intense even when underpinned by trap hip hop influenced beats as on ‘High By The Beach’.
An intoxicating listen, ‘Honeymoon’ is designed for the red neon glow of a smoky cabaret bar, a Californian answer to the chanson tradition. Its lyrics are pulled from the jaws of tragedy, and its melodies evoke the uneasy state between wakefulness and dreaming. Lana seems more fragile, and more human this time. And it makes you think: perhaps it’s not a character after all.