Lana Del Rey cruises to her own hum

Last summer Lana Del Rey released her second album Ultraviolence upon the masses. It was commercially prosperous and critically venerated. It went on to debut at #1 in twelve countries including the U.S. It has sold well over one million copies. Just when you thought you might have had to wait many years for another album, she’s back with Honeymoon.

It debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart be selling over 116,000 copies. No longer with producer Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys, but instead teaming up with songwriter and record producer Nick Nowels who helped out with her 2012 debut Born to Die. She has somewhat returned to a more “pop” sounding record with added hip-hop beats to the mix.

One huge difference from her past albums is the very noticeable orchestral and string arrangements. It’s like listening to a soundtrack at times. Just like the last album, but unlike her debut, this one has a cohesive flow from beginning to end with maybe the exception of “High By the Beach” which was the first official single released. It has some trap elements to it that remind us of the first album. It debuted at #51 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August to critical acclaim.

“Honeymoon” is the opening track. At first listen it’s a bit of a bummer. However, give it another chance and maybe it’ll give you the feeling like you’re watching some weird foreign avant-garde film from the early 1960s. It evokes a relaxing and somewhat dour tone that only Lana can truly make a masterpiece out of. It’s like a lost classic.

“Music to Watch Boys To” was released in September and is a clear highlight on the record. “(I like you a lot) putting on my music while I’m watching the boys / (so I do what you want) / Singing soft grunge just to soak up the noise.” The track is very hypnotic and has a slight tropical summer vibe. It was originally going to be the title to the new album as of late last year when Lana was toying with the idea.

“Terrence Loves You” is a fantastic song that incorporates a faint background guitar with an upfront string arrangement featuring a horn that fades in and out. Someone in the comment section on a lyric sits suggests that it’s about David Bowie’s step brother Terry Burns who committed suicide. Hence the “ground control to major Tom” reference. The song follows the late summer melancholy effect that continues throughout the album. “But I lost myself when I lost you / but I still got jazz when I’ve got those blues.”

Another highlight is “God Knows I Tried.” There is a great sense of personal struggle with the character in the song. It’s woeful with an urge of heartbreak that gets more aggressive toward the end. “On Monday they destroyed me, but by Friday I’m revived. Put on that Hotel California, wear my blinders in the rain. I’ve got nothing much to live for ever since I found my fame.”

“Freak” showcases the need for some man to visit her on the sunny west coast. Just like “High By the Beach”, it too has hip-hop components while conjuring up visions of soft porn and black and white erotic images of sand, tequila, and your lover(s). “Art Deco” feels the same way. “You’re so Art Deco, out on the floor. Shining like gun metal, cold and unsure. Baby, you’re so ghetto. You’re looking to score.”

Following an interesting full on reverb interlude comes“Religion”, which is the weaker track. Following that is the Italian influenced “Salvatore.” A standout toward the end is “The Blackest Day”. The lyrics are grim but superb. “Ever since my baby went away, it’s been the blackest day, it’s been the blackest day. All I hear is Billie Holiday.”

Was “24” supposed to be in a James Bond movie recently? Sure sounds like it could have fit in. Just like “Religion”, “Swan Song” is the only other filler song. It’s still not that bad though. Honeymoon ends with a cover of Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” The surf noir is quite mouthwatering in this song.

Lana Del Rey is the most interesting pop star in the 2010’s era. She’s seen very rarely in public even when her popularity seems to keep growing. The obscurity helps drive the mystery and curiosity that always surrounds her. There is no doubt that this new lonely sounding record will achieve immense success.

This could be her best work yet because nothing seems to be overwhelming or too kitschy. At this point Lana is too cool to care about the naysayers. As heard in “Honeymoon”, “We both know that it’s not fashionable to love me, but you don’t go cause truly there’s nobody for you but me.” Don’t be surprised to see this record at the top of many “best albums of 2015” music publication polls by December.  My rating is 4.5 out of 5 Stars