I hope, for her sake and mine, that it’s a complete lack of self-awareness that lies at the bottom of the faux-depth Lana Del Rey throws our way. “All I wanna do is get high by the beach.” “Baby if you wanna leave/ come to California/ be a freak like me, too.” The first excerpt belongs to a song called Get High by the Beach. The second one’s from… Freak. Then there’s Art Deco (“You’re so art deco/ out on the floor… baby you’re so ghetto/ looking to score”). One of the songs is called Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood. I really hope it’s because she truly believes that she’s this drifting sepia-tinted free-spirit lost-soul emo-hipster caricature. Depressing as that is, the alternative is much worse.
The alternative is that everything about the music is fraudulent. That she’s using artificial nostalgia — a direct reflection of how tired and derivative the music gets — and laughable gimmickry for attention. With pop music — good pop music at the very least — it’s an open secret where you know you’re being manipulated into visceral appreciation and the realisation dawns only later, with not nearly as much force. It’s like a good cricket match: it’s been fixed and everyone knows but you still enjoy the spectacle. Here, though, you feel at a very early stage of the process that the music is manipulative and falsified and that you’re being misled, conned into an experience that comes from a place of at least partial dishonesty.
It’s not like every single song on Honeymoon is objectively terrible; far from it. And it’s not like Del Rey is a bad singer as such. She’s got a style and a voice that does in fact set her apart a little in the pop world. She’s also got a clear retro sound that suggests a kind of individualism to the music. A song like The Blackest Day (applause at the name, of course) does have its moments. But my (possibly irrational and misplaced) problem here, besides the repetitive nature of Del Rey’s songs and her delivery, is the overarching sense of deception when I listen to Honeymoon; that I’m a lab rat. Maybe I’m wrong and her musical façade comes from a place of deep anguish, creativity and honesty. But I doubt it.