It’s strange to think that, once upon a time, the fuss about Lana Del Rey all hinged upon reinvention. As word of her old-timey heartache-pop spread quickly in October 2011 with the phenomenal viral success of ‘Video Games’, so did debate about just how “real” the character on-screen was. The transformation of New York singer Lizzie Grant into the “gangster Nancy Sinatra” saw her accused by some of the terrible, treacherous crime of inauthenticity. “It’s all an act!” cried commenters, as her past was dragged up by internet sleuths. One of the most magical things about pop music is how it allows people to make their own beginnings and choose their own stories, whether it’s Brixton lad David Jones becoming a dangerously sexy and androgynous rockstar alien or a dour Manchester youth called Steven Patrick ditching his first two names and become a provincial romantic poet instead. Like Bowie, or Morrissey, or Madonna or Prince before her, Del Rey was just evolving into something else.
Which makes it interesting that, for the past four years, Lana has stuck pretty rigidly to the same blueprint. Sure, there’s been the odd cosmetic change – a Black Key roped in on production duties here, switching clunky hip-hop affectations for laid-back desert rock there. In the end though, her aesthetic has stayed pretty much still, honed and honed towards arresting torch song perfection. ‘Honeymoon’, the first taste and title track from her forthcoming third album, suggests it’s not going to change any time soon, either. This new track, dropped earlier today, is a sultry waltz with velvety strings that swell and sting, with Del Rey’s voice sounding richer than ever before. We’ve been here before with Lana: a sweeping, gorgeous ballad that’s big on faded glamour and fancy danger, that sounds like it could have been lifted from the Blue Velvet soundtrack or blaring out of the radio between news bulletins on the Black Dahlia murders.
Some might express disappointment that Del Rey isn’t scribbling outside of those same old lines. And alright, she returns once more the lyrical tropes that have appeared on so many of her songs before – bad boys and the women who follow them around with puppy eyes. “We both know the history of violence that surrounds you,” she croons. “But I’m not scared, there’s nothing to lose now that I found you.” You can’t help but wish she’d rip up the script and tell him to sling his hook, to stop wasting her time, that she could probably do much better without him because she’s Lana Del fucking Rey. But then, there’s also something comforting about those old ticks and references, too, from the idea of her and her beau cruising around “Wilshire Boulevard” as they listen to the blues on the radio to the point where, four minutes in, a soft, splashy snare roll starts up that’s practically a dead-ringer for the closing sequence in ‘Video Games’, too. And there’s that killer opening line, in which Del Rey seemingly makes a snarky reference to all the snark she’s faced down over the years: “We both know that it’s not fashionable to love me but you don’t go cause truly there’s nobody for you but me.” Fashions, of course, come and go. On ‘Honeymoon’ Lana doesn’t really push her style forward, but nor does she need to when the emotional thrills and spills are as cinematic and sublime as they are here. Album three can’t come soon enough.