Only Lana Del Rey Could Make A Honeymoon This Twisted Sound So Beautiful
Lana Del Rey has always been more of an artist than a pop star. Traditionally, pop stars belong to one of two camps: either, they’re like Taylor Swift, and devote their life to singing supposedly genuine songs loosely based off their own life, or they’re like Katy Perry, and their songs embrace an escapist, campy euphoria. Lana Del Rey doesn’t do either of those things, and from the beginning her music has confounded critics who embrace this rigid definition of how pop musicians are supposed to behave. Blurring the line between the heroines she sings about and who she is, Lana Del Rey’s music explores the darker side of euphoria – the landscape of lovers whose relationships are doomed to fail, but can’t help but resist the beauty, and the madness.
Starting off her album with the mournful, cinematic strings of the album’s title track, Lana Del Rey introduces us to the themes and sounds that dominate Honeymoon. If you’re familiar with Lana’s music, you already know what they are: doomed relationships, self-destructive heroines, troubled bad boys, drugs, California, melancholic introspection, nostalgia, and the love and lust that holds it all together. Whereas traditionally pop stars are expected to reinvent themselves from album to album, like a true auteur Lana Del Rey keeps tracing over the same themes, going deeper and deeper with each successive exploration. Even if you don’t understand exactly what her phrases mean (like, “you’re so art deco”), her voice is so expressive that you can’t help but see them, and by seeing them, you create your own meaning. Part of Lana Del Rey’s appeal lies in her ability to craft songs that walk the line between being vague and being hyper-specific, allowing her interpretations and imagery to exist side-by-side with your own.
In the context of the album, even the songs Lana Del Rey had already released can take on new meanings. For instance, whereas before “High By The Beach” seemed like an escapist pop song about Lana choosing drugs over love, on Honeymoon, it’s an empowering song that’s as close to a feminist anthem as we can expect from Lana. After four songs full of vivid depictions of a longing, lovesick woman orbiting around the memory of lost lovers, Lana takes a break from the introspective haze and comes back down to Earth. In “High By The Beach” she lets us know that she can in fact see through the bullshit that she always finds herself getting caught up in. With the words, “I’ll do it on my own / don’t need your money to get me what I want,” Lana asserts her dominance, and following it up with “all I want to do is get high on the beach,” makes it clear that she’s just going to do herself for a while. However, this moment of determination and clear-headedness doesn’t last for long. Poor Lana Del Rey is forever doomed.
Even though “Music To Listen To Boys To” and “Freak” may be the catchiest songs on the album (and “Salvatore” the most entrancing), for me, the pinnacle of the album is “Religion.” Nestled into the back half of the album, “Religion” perfectly illustrates Lana Del Rey’s appeal, and why we can’t help but be drawn to her music.
In “Religion”, Lana tells her lover, or maybe just herself, that “it was never about the money or the drugs, for you there’s only love / it was never about the party or the clubs, for you there’s only love because you’re my religion” later clarifying that “you’re my religion, you’re how I’m living / when all my friends say I should take some space / I can’t envision that for a minute / when I’m down on my knees you’re how I pray.”
Like most of us, this is a feeling I understand so clearly. I’ve been in troubled relationships I knew were doomed from the start and yet…never gave up hoping for. Every parting was sad, and seemed like it could be the last time we ever saw each other. Every coupling was tortured, ending up with one or both of us in tears. At nights, I’d find myself praying for an answer. I knew the smart thing would have been to stop, but the lust between us was overpowering. The feeling that we should know better only made the highs more high and the lows more low.
This is the emotional landscape where Lana Del Rey’s heroines call home. The reason behind the resonance she’s created with her fans is because she writes songs that capture how we feel at the time completely devoid of the shaming feelings that wash over us after the fact (all “I knew you were trouble when you walked in” and none of “so shame on me now”). These aren’t the relationships we’re supposed to want, or ever supposed to get joy from, but the truth of the matter is, from time to time we all do. What’s refreshing about Lana Del Rey is that she doesnt shy away from this. Like her male-counterpart, The Weeknd, Lana Del Rey’s success is rooted in the fact that her songs explore the darkest sides of our desires that we spend most of our lives striving to avoid succomding to. The songs that resonate the most with us are the ones that intersect dangerously with our own reality. And as she makes clear on her interlude “Burnt Notion,” time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future,” in our memories, all time is eternal.
We can never escape the beauty, nor the madness that surrounds us – all we can control is how susceptible we allow ourselves to be.
Order your copy of Honeymoon here.