“We both know it’s not fashionable to love me,” sings Lana Del Rey at the very start of her new record Honeymoon. Well, quite. With every successive release, the world has slowly twigged that Lana has given up the ghost of alternative pop gems like National Anthem, instead preferring to bask in the maudlin, old Hollywood, string-laden schtick that popped up on The Great Gatsby (yep, add this to the list of crimes that the film has to answer for).
In her defence, she sounds more comfortable in this element than, say, performing Blue Jeans in a public setting. That title track feels like a lost Bond theme, with Del Rey taking great leisure in her delivery and comfortably switching scales. But while she may largely have given up the red-dress, gangter’s moll persona (at least in those actual words), she’s taking far too long to get to the self-indulgent points she’s trying to make.
And so we have tracks like Music To Watch Boys To, if said boys were in a wheelchair and being directed by Terrence Malick. Speaking of whom, he could well be the Terrence in Terrence Loves You (“Hollywood legends will never grow old”) – like Malick, Del Rey’s palette is vivid and her style inimitable, but focuses so much on the minutiae of perfection that she forgets to leave in some of the charming rough edges in the big picture. “I still get dressed when I’ve got the blues,” she sings, romanticising depression in perhaps not the healthiest of ways (though admittedly it is one of the strongest tracks on the album, funnily enough alongside one called The Blackest Day).
Any attempts at being subversive don’t quite work for her either. Even if her voice is still her most magnificent asset, High By The Beach‘s “you could be a bad motherfucker/ but that don’t make you a man” jars from someone who, up until this point, has traded off being a victim. Similarly, Freak‘s invitation to “come to California, be a freak like me” would be easier to swallow from Miley Cyrus than the pristine sheen of Lana Del Rey.
Ultimately, it seems, Lana Del Rey is having an identity crisis. She’s stuck between this idealised image of quietly powerful, old-school glamour and that bluesy self-destructive side of her first two albums. But the sleeve advertising a Hollywood bus tour ends up the most adequate parallel to Honeymoon, in that it’s a rose-tinted take on our perception of matinee idols, almost an anachronistic leisure trip in the age of social media and TMZ.
But while we’re expecting a defining star of our generation to encase her inspiration in some sort of modernity, Lana Del Rey insists she’s in the 1940s as the downtrodden nightly entertainment in the cocktail lounge of Chateau Marmont. That’s great in a small crystallised dose – although it could do without a foray into Salvatore‘s ridiculous ‘soft ice cream’ line – but a cover of Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood is ironically enough to finally understand where Lana Del Rey sees herself in 2015. Sadly she isn’t yet Nina Simone, and Honeymoon proves that she needs a lot more fire and originality to get anywhere close.
Honeymoon by Lana Del Rey can be ordered here.