Lana Del Rey Honeymoon

[Interscope; 2015]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: bridges, Hotel California
Others: Lizzy Grant, Nina Simone, T.S. Eliot


“It’s longer than I like and mostly drags, but there are some bits I’m very fond of.”
MIT page about T.S. Eliot’s “Burnt Norton”

“And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.”
– T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton,” Four Quartets

“I lost myself when I lost you”
– Lana Del Rey, “Terrence Loves You,” Honeymoon

I write this in blue typeface. I write this having you in my wilderness. I write this after flirting and falling out of love with Born To Die, a nothing-record shimmering with the promise that it’s not better to have loved then (sic) lost. I write this after getting hitched to Ultraviolence, admitting that my fascination with her (Lana’s) alienated self-loathing might equal love. (Enduring.) I write this on our Honeymoooon, under a Blue-blood harvest moon in the winter of our endless summertime sadness. The neon bust of a love-life loss-loop, a stunning paradise of ruin, a monument to Lana Del Rey: our honey moon, sweet and luminescent, a celebration of commitment that may never be attained. Autumn’s leaves litter the beach, and, after all, you’re just “dreaming away your life.”

That’s how Lana closes the opening title track, which is maybe her strongest statement of purpose yet, on this, her most listenable and eventually unlistenable release. Honeymoon clicks to life with an electric hum, washed in grayscale waves until the melody crosses its covered bridge like a Mulholland Dr. wormhole to Hotel California. Self-referencing verses fade to “dark blue,” maybe a shade deeper than what was cool on the last album. It colors the noir arrangements that guide so much of Honeymoon.

In the blank spaces of Honeymoon breathes the profound hope that each and every one of these songs will collapse/relapse into the bridge. The first five songs are among her very best and so tread in magical malaise through the choruses and verses till reaching for the stars on the bridge. Her structural inversion of the pop formula — so that the hook, the transcendent high, is buried as an intervention or daydream in the bridge — gives Honeymoon a drudge as it progresses.

Lana has long dreamed of the Hollywood love life, kicking sandy constellations out of the bioluminescent microorganisms that washed in with the tide. But now, she’s actually got a Hollywood love life and found her fame, which leaves her with nothing to live for. The beach is in her backyard. She only wants to get high by it (“by” meaning not even on it, but maybe near it and through it). The chopped-and-screwed blue reflection of the waves is a portal from her confounding dispossessed star life back to the confounded dream life that conjured up her dimensionality. I mean, Lana is a person, right?

To know so is to feel her lo$$, the depressive animus of these songs.

Then again, the Honeymoon videos silence the critiques that have pretended to know her. In “High By The Beach,” her only time actually on the beach is to recover a guitar-encased weapon, her music refigured with disruptive power. We witness Lana blowing shit up (not like Taylor or Rih), when before it was hard to imagine her having the energy to blow a kiss. Then in “Music To Watch Boys To,” she meets our preconceived gaze with her own classically out-of-time staring smile.

The first lines concede/meme that it’s no longer fashionable to love her. The only thing worse than being the other woman is being another woman — maybe why feminism is of no interest to her (despite her standpoint epistemology, “I know only what the girls know”). She shoots for the stars (Hollywood legends), which live forever (or never die). She’s disillusioned with her con/temporary fame at the same time she’s starstruck by the images of dead stars that will last our lives and whose endings we’ll never see.

Honeymoon’s fascination with time as a symptom of love is most explicitly articulated in the dreamy interlude of “Burnt Norton,” which quotes T.S. Eliot like a fitter happier, with its voice fixed on the illusory movement of aging. But the stillness of timelessness, the tension between permanence and displacement, is breathed to life in the wordless hummed codas and intros and segues, like memories of the bridge whose edge she stands on at her loneliest. Like she’s humming to herself around an empty home.

Or that’s the idea: at this point, can she still be misunderstood?

When “High By The Beach” is resurrected in the hazy suicidal vision of “Swan Song,” we’re forced to consider that these 65 minutes are more than poorly edited bloat, that they might actually be designed as an overwhelming helping of unhelping sadness. No matter her self-presentation, her grip, the music is relentlessly Sad — and exhausting in its sadness. I will continue to listen to this album, in all of its ornamental excesses and bourgeois despair.

It was the best of Lana albums, it was the worst of Lana albums. Her voice is immaculate and the music soars. Mediocrity elevated to mediocrity, our best of times glowing like a neon sign against the darkling landscaping of our worst of times, sober and opiated, praying to the unredeemable passage of time: A middle-aged queen at 15 if she was born to die before 30, she looks into the camera and smiles. Sadly smiles.

And it’s not enough. Or at least not until the next pin-light bent over the bridge.

Links: Lana Del Rey - Interscope

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