The Death Of Ultraviolence And The Rise Of Lana Del Rey

By Anna Brüner

Honeymoon, the much anticipated fourth studio album from Elizabeth Grant (better known by her glamorous alter-ego Lana Del Rey), came out on September 18th after a summer of teasing and sneak peaks, just like a burlesque performer. In the wake of last summer’s edgier, sulkier, grungy Ultraviolence, which was the go-to album of 2014 for crying while looking cool, Honeymoon arrives like a warm tropical breeze. It’s dreamy, sexy, cool, and heartbreaking…but it’s all things we’ve heard before from Miss Grant. It’s not as gritty as Ultraviolence, and fails to capture the fun of Born to Die or the theatricality of Born to Die: Paradise Edition. However, Honeymoon may very well be Lana’s most finely crafted album to date, if only we didn’t have her previous albums to compare to. It is certainly the most “Lana Del Rey” that Lana has ever been, and it feels as though she’s finally arrived. 


Long gone are the days of the short-short wearing, pink bubblegum chewing, diet mountain dew drinking Lolita that defined Lana Del Rey’s style and iconography in her earliest studio works. What Honeymoon projects is the image of a made woman, an old-Hollywood style star who is both mob wife, mistress, and first lady. While all the familiar imagery is evoked (Lana still croons of JFK and James Dean, and says “soft ice cream” like it’s never been said before in the track “Salvatore”), the persona that is Lana Del Rey has matured into a softer, classier, stronger manifestation of the romanticized American dream. It is the next chapter for a character who has gone from playful young girl, to directionless vagabond, to struggling poet, to both victim and criminal, and has emerged a starlet nostalgic of the bad as much as the good. 


While at times it feels as though Lana is parodying herself, that self awareness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Songs like “Freak” and “High By The Beach” deliver a dose of cool a la “Florida Kilos” from Ultraviolence, while “Music To Watch Boys To” is as flirty and bouncy as the Born to Die days. By honing her intricately orchestrated sound and image, Lana Del Rey seems to know exactly what the people want, and even if it feels a bit recycled at times, at least it is still more, and it is on a new level. “God Knows I Tried” is as beautifully authentic as the earliest EP’s of “Yayo,” and a smokey, The Doors-esque cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” is a solid closer to the whole album as well as a gorgeous stand alone tribute. However, the title track “Honeymoon” falls a bit flat, and the “Burnt Norton” interlude feels like a Jim Morrison-style impromptu monologue…without the poetry or pain of Morrison’s or the 60’s influence. 


In truth, Honeymoon is a great and beautiful album that firmly establishes Lana Del Rey as a timeless artist. She captures her character as expertly as Marilyn Monroe and invokes a vision of California through both rose colored glasses and opium smoke. It’s only a shame that it took four albums to get here.