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Lana Del Rey
Honeymoon Guia Cortassa , October 1st, 2015 08:29

Embodying all the complex and contradictory facets of the American Dream, one at a time, Del Rey has managed, so far, to leave everyone pondering how much is true and how much is made up not only in what she sings but also in herself, even in her appearance. On the cover of her latest record, Honeymoon, we see the singer, red, wide brimmed hat and sunglasses on, standing inside one of those open-top vans belonging to Starlite, the company that takes tourists on tours among the Hollywood stars estates in Beverly Hills and Bel Air. What is she doing there? Wasn't she supposed to be a villa-owner, rather than a visiting everyman? That is, for the reality hunger generation, truth and lies can lie side by side with no boundaries needed, and still be real. Someone even gave it a name: metamodernism.

The collaging technique Del Rey crafts in her lyrics: continuously quoting from novels, poems, titles and songs, including her own – moves a step further when is seen in its entirety. She builds endless, intertwined narratives, each one with its own main character, plot and setting – a sophisticated jazz singer, an old time Hollywood diva, a urban Lolita with her sugar daddies – in which she will always be the lead role. Mingling fiction and reality in a unsettled pastiche, she leaves us to decide what's real about what's before us. Del Rey is uninterested in revealing the truth. Her work speaks for her.

With that in mind, Honeymoon seems no different from its predecessors. But it is. While the extreme quotation persists, now the singing voice is that of only one, actual woman. And Del Rey's voice is definitely more confident here than it has been on previous albums, to the point that it could easily be labelled as self-indulgent. The jazz singer she always claimed she wished to become finds its way in the vocal takes, with her operatic trained voice going full-on. But the result is, at times, out of control, lost in flourishes and embellishment that loose the jazz to affectation, even in the best tracks of the album.

Del Rey plays a winning strike with Honeymoon's four opening songs: powerful ballads, lain on ethereal and soft arrangements made of smooth strings and jazzy winds. From the promising title track, followed by the Portishead sounding 'Music To Watch Boys To', to 'Terrence Loves You', the album's masterpiece, with its orchestral score and silky clarinets. It's with 'God Knows I Tried,' a West Coast love song made from a Tequila sunrise and Hotel California, that the grip to this new musical path starts to loosen, sliding back to a lazy, hip hop informed sound in the second half of the album.

If 'High By The Beach' still can sustain its four-minutes length, the same unfortunately cannot be said for the most of the following songs. Tracks like 'Freak' or 'Art Deco', winking to a slow psychedelia, end up being dull rather than hypnotising. 'Religion' and 'Salvatore', the latter with some awkward Italian lines and rhymes, finds Del Rey going back to her "lost baby" ways, made more humdrum by the abated arrangement. It's only with 'Swan Song', the penultimate track of the record, that the right, full, balanced sound the listener expected throughout this album finally comes up: the voice is focused and strong over a Bond-esque, slow score in which all the mannerism of the record is put aside, reaching the closest point, though still with a considerable gap, to 'Young And Beautiful' or the Paradise EP intense and magnificent atmosphere. The poetic intermission, with the singer reciting T.S. Eliot's 'Burnt Norton', is just another reminder of the missed opportunity: its impressive words on a light background, the popping mimicking a vintage vinyl record and muffled voice are probably the most effective psychedelic episode on the album.

"Please, don't let me be misunderstood," Del Rey now asks with a trembling voice at the end of the album, covering a classic from Nina Simone and, once again, trying to make us overturning our perception of her. If Honeymoon feels like the first glimmer of the person going beyond the persona, its flaws and achievements can only make it more human. But, alas, that's not enough to spare us the disappointment for the stodgy morsel. At the end, what we are left with it's a "bitter moon", one where the supposed fresh romance and carelessness turn into an unfortunate, melodramatic, overblown experience of struggle.