Lana Del Rey’s most tragic album yet, “Honeymoon,” exudes seduction, grace and sophistication. The album demonstrates Del Rey’s new sense of experience as a seasoned femme-fatale singer — a genre she pioneered.
In 2012, Lana Del Rey coined herself the gangster Nancy Sinatra after masterfully blending her signature smoky, coquettish vocals with soft hip-hop beats while recalling the glamour of 1950s Americana on her stunning debut “Born to Die.” In last year’s “Ultraviolence,” Del Rey traded the beats and extravagant productions for hazy electric guitars and an overwhelming aura of doom and gloom, helmed with the assistance of Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach.
With her new album “Honeymoon,” released Friday, Del Rey doesn’t veer off into another new direction. Instead, she combines the highest caliber vocal techniques of both albums, with production from long-time producer Rick Nowels and engineer Kieron Menzies, to create what is possibly her most moving work yet.
The overwrought title track fails to leave a lasting impression, but its follow-up “Music to Watch Boys To” is an immediate standout. The brooding piano and dreamy instrumental harks back to her debut, while the bluesy guitar and gritty vocals of “God Knows I Tried” panders to those who adored “Ultraviolence.” A trip-hop inspired trio in the middle of the album displays a newfound sense of power and defiance in Del Rey’s music, as evidenced by the ultimate kiss-off anthem “High By the Beach” and the sensual lures of the seductive “Freak.”
However, the true heart of the record lies toward its end: an intense, emotional set of tracks that combines grandiose orchestral productions and drawn-out structures with Del Rey’s cinematic sensibilities. She sings some amateur Italian lyrics and croons about soft ice cream in the nonsensical yet charming “Salvatore” before slamming the listener with a cutting double chorus on “The Blackest Day.” “24” plays like the best James Bond theme that never was. The penultimate track “Swan Song” stuns as Del Rey proclaims “I’ll never sing again” against sweeping strings and horns. It’s a simply epic quartet that truly shows off Del Rey’s talent and gravitas.
The one thing that seems to be missing from this album is a sense of progression. Lyrically, as with her previous album, Del Rey demonstrates little progression from her previous work. There may be no mention of queens of saigon or pale moonlight to be found, but she still mourns losing her boyfriend throughout the album, a Lana signature at this point. Musically, there is nothing new to be found in terms of experimenting with different tones and voices. This is a slight letdown considering that her early demos show that Del Rey is capable of much more than meets the eye.
While “Honeymoon” may leave the listener wanting something they haven’t heard from her before, the album shows that Del Rey has mastered her signature sound within the limitations that she set. Never before has she been more comfortable, more emotional or more confident on a record. Del Rey proves that she is dedicated to her craft, and it sounds more beautiful than ever.
A version of this article appeared in the Sept. 21 print edition. Email Jake Viswanath at [email protected]