The countdown to the release of Honeymoon has been building for some time now, with the release of the video for “High By the Beach” causing a fever pitch of anticipation. And so, as with all things long awaited, the question is: Was it worth the wait? The answer, happily, is yes.
The dark and brooding title track establishes exactly what Del Rey wants to do for this album: secure her position as the only artist of her kind and create a nostalgic effect rife for providing a corresponding video for each track. Rich and evocative, Del Rey wields the use of color to turn the auditory into the visual with lyrics like, “Say you want me too/Dark blue,” “There are violets in your eyes” and “There are roses in between my thighs.” It is the perfect opener to segue into the contrasting message of “Music To Watch Boys To,” which favors a lustier, voyeuristic approach to love. Throwing a nod to “This Is What Makes Us Girls” from her debut, Born to Die, Del Rey makes mention again of “Ribbons on ice” and continues to hold the view that women “don’t stick together ’cause we put love first.”
The third song on the album, “Terrence Loves You,” is possibly the most elusive. Echoing the style of “Shades of Cool” and “Cruel World” from Ultraviolence, it is careful and calculated in its slow build to the crescendo. Showing reverence for David Bowie, she throws in “Ground control to Major Tom” for good measure, rounding out an ardent chorus that expresses the sort of wistfulness that only she can.
Trying to commune with god, Del Rey searches for redemption on “God Knows I Tried.” With its stripped down vocals and minimalistic musical production, the song finds her at her most optimistically defeated as she croons, “God knows I live/God knows I died/God knows I loved/God knows I lived, begged, borrowed and cried.” The simplicity of her lyrics allow her voice, which has come a long way since the Saturday Night Live incident, to truly shine through.
The provocatively titled “Freak” is LDR at her most cult leaderesque. Beckoning to her lover of choice, she urges, “Come to California, be a freak like me too/Screw your anonymity/Loving me is all you need to feel like I do.” The ironical declaration of self-love in this coaxing is an indication of how much she’s embraced her Svengali persona, seducing all who listen to her into idolizing her.
“Art Deco” is the aural personification of this decor movement from the 1920s and 1930s that saw its renaissance in the 60s, a decade Del Rey seems to relate to all too well. A sweeping backing track provided by producer Rick Nowels (known for his work with Madonna, Marina & the Diamonds and Lykke Li) is complemented by her most narrative lyrics on the record: “Young thing on the downtown scene/Rolling around at night/Got things that’ve yet to be seen/Like you’re rapper’s delight/A little party never hurt no one, that’s why it’s all right/You want in, but you just can’t win.”
“Burnt Norton (Interlude)” is simply Del Rey showcasing her literary prowess by reciting a T.S. Eliot poem called the same. Del Rey’s propensity for regurgitating renowned works of fiction and poetry has been a constant in her work, and is, in part what makes it so lush.
Focusing on one of her most beloved themes–obsession–“Religion” tells the story of a girl who treats the object of her desire as an entity to be worshipped, explained by the benediction, “You’re my religion/You’re how I’m livin’/When I’m down on my knees, you’re how I pray/Hallelujah, I need your love.” So you see, there’s even a blow job innuendo to reveal her growth as an artist.
And, speaking of the man who is her current religion, Francesco Carrozzini, an Italian-born photographer, it seems Del Rey has taken a shine to his culture by offering a song called “Salvatore,” grand and “filmic” in its scope. It also displays a certain love of food as she mumbles phrases like “cacciatore” and “soft ice cream.”
“The Blackest Day” discusses another preferred topic of Del Rey’s: breaking up. She whisper-sings, “Give me all, got my blue nail polish on/It’s my favorite color and my favorite tone of song” (this can be attested to by Ultraviolence‘s “Shades of Cool.” Her self-referential lyrics are interesting to consider when contemplating how relatively new to the mainstream she is. Nonetheless, expressing a fondness for qualifying a noun with a color (e.g. “Got my red dress on tonight”) seems to be one of her lyrical signatures.
The aptly titled “24” finds Del Rey channeling her inner jilted 60s mistress as she sings, “There’s only twenty-four hours/And that’s not enough to lie like you lie or love like you love.” The tone of the track prompts one to envision her as she is at the introduction to the video for “Ride,” alone on a stage with a microphone and pouring her heart out to anyone who will listen.
The tongue-in-cheek title of Del Rey’s second to last song on Honeymoon, “Swan Song,” causes one to wonder if this album might perhaps be her last. Heaven knows she’s certainly been fantasizing about a premature death to make the challenges of living up to her reputation disappear. In any case, she again uses a color to describe a noun as she instructs, “Put your white tennis shoes on and follow me/Why work so hard when you could just be free?” Cajoling her lover to join her in a life of leisure and liberation from the pressures of the world, she promises, “I will never sing again.” Whether or not this is a foreshadowing remains to be seen.
To close out Del Rey’s “most mature” album to date (as much as I hate to use that phrase, it’s true in this instance), she reinvents “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” originally recorded by Nina Simone in 1964. The track seems to be a direct jibe at her critics, and anyone else who has ever tried to classify or define her. Her interpretation is earnest in its insistence, “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good/Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.” With Honeymoon, Del Rey may have finally achieved her longstanding feat of being accepted.