Honeymoon is inexplicably, hauntingly beautiful – a thought-provoking record, created with absolute artistic mastery. This inexorably fascinating record boasts the most mature, passionate lyrics and sound that Del Rey has offered us, to date.
Honeymoon may be comparable in tempo to its predecessor, Ultraviolence, but the tone and feeling it emanates are utterly incomparable, with Honeymoon suggesting a more begrudging, melancholic acceptance of the true nature of time and the pain of lost or unrequited loves. The themes of regretful longing and lustful desire that we encountered in Ultraviolence have changed too, to heartbroken acceptance, passionate reminiscence, melancholic nostalgia and hopeful infatuation. Honeymoon is markedly different and offers many tracks certain to become Del Rey classics.
Honeymoon, with its timeless, soulful, dream pop sound, is a far-cry from the self-described “gangster Nancy Sinatra’s” up-beat, Americana, debut major-label album, Born To Die, which sparked our interest in Del Rey, just over three-years ago.
Poignant and thought-provokingly reminiscent, Honeymoon transcends the realm of the contemporary vintage-inspired records of which we’ve recently become accustomed. Del Rey cleverly incorporates overt references to her musical inspirations into this body of work, the inclusion of these inter-textual references has become almost a signature of hers.
In ‘Terrence Loves You’ we hear references to David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, mentions of the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’ in ‘God Knows I tried’, and references to one of her most cited inspirations, Billie Holiday, in ‘The Blackest Day’. Del Rey also cleverly chooses to finish the album with a cover of Nina Simone’s ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’, making Honeymoon her second consecutive album to finish with a Simone cover.
Honeymoon boasts many highlights, the first of which is the slow and soulful, opening, titular track, which successfully welcomes you into the ‘world’ of wistful, nostalgic, dream pop that Del Rey has created. This track showcases Del Rey’s powerful, enchanting, emotive and easily adaptable vocals – which change frequently throughout the record from effortlessly passionate, to entrancingly ethereal. Another album highlight follows this, in the form of the relatively upbeat, laid-back, sunshine pop track, ’Music To Watch Boys To’.
In the slower, more solemn tracks following this, ‘Terrence Loves You’ and ‘God Knows I Tried’, Del Rey masterfully employs her dynamic, commanding, expressive vocals to perfectly portray the seemingly-lost, yet hopeful, half-heartbrokenly optimistic voice of the lyrics. Her emotive repetition of the chorus line, “God knows I tried”, in the song of that name, is a flawless, awe-inspiring example of this.
Another album highlight is the ‘interlude’, which features Del Rey, reading, in her soft, hypnotic speaking voice, the first stanza of ‘Burnt Norton’, a poem by American poet and playwright T.S. Eliot. This ‘interlude’ is a beautiful piece of poetry recitation that’s also deeply fascinating, as the chosen poem has such a poignant, seemingly relevant message – to make the most of the present moment, as “all time is unredeemable”. The use of this recitation in the middle of the album, is yet another example of Del Rey’s unparalleled talent for intelligently incorporating works that have inspired her, into her own body of work.
The upbeat, bitter-sweet beauty of ‘Salvatore’, is a personal highlight of this album – every element of it is exquisite and timeless. From Del Rey’s sorrowful, yet powerfully passionate vocals and hypnotic lyrics that perfectly encapsulate intangible, ethereal enamourment; “I adore you, can’t you see, you’re meant for me?”, to the semi-solemn, string-based baroque pop instrumental, it’s an instant Del Rey classic and difficult not to put on repeat.
The only downside of Honeymoon, is that it seems to just trail off a bit at the end, with the last couple of songs being a little less memorable than those that started the album off so impeccably. However, ‘Salvatore’, track ten, is a very tough act to follow. So, these final, softer, slower tracks, ‘The Blackest Day’ and ’Swan Song’, the slightly more upbeat, ’24’ and Del Rey’s finale cover of Nina Simone’s ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’, may just seem less impressive due to their unfortunate place in the track-listings – placing them in the metaphorical ‘musical shadow’ of ‘Salvatore’.
Overall, Honeymoon is an intelligent, impeccably well-written, captivating album. Del Rey, in creating Honeymoon, has not only produced a piece of unrivalled contemporary musical art, but also metaphorically shaped her own figurative, hybrid musical location, that her music transports her listeners to. This record seems to take you to some beautiful, fascinating figurative town with the perfect blend of the sunny, laid-back Californian coast, the bustle and glamour of metropolitan New York and the warm moonlight of some quiet, picturesque town in Europe. Honeymoon is practically flawless.