Lana Del Rey has more in common with Morrissey than any of her other pop-music peers. Like Moz, she possesses a cult of personality that overshadows her musical endeavors. And like the ex-Smiths leader, she’s both brutally candid and completely enigmatic, making her a blank canvas onto which loyal fans can project their own fantasies and desires. It’s a genius way to build a career, but it can just as easily lead to clichéd music.
That’s the unfortunate takeaway from fourth album Honeymoon, which Del Rey co-produced and co-wrote with longtime collaborator Rick Nowels. Like her previous records, this one has no shortage of retro-chilled ’60s pop delicacies—the string- and flute-swept majesty of “Music to Watch Boys To,” the torchy, harmony-stacked title track, the horn-flared, Spanish-pop ballad “24”—merged with modern touches like trap beats and dense, ominous electronic programming. As the leisurely seduction of “Freak” underscores, however, the album is more of a slow burn than 2014’s Ultraviolence, with sparser instrumentation, sleepier tempos and languid rhythms.
The downside is that the second half of Honeymoon slides into monotony fast. Such dullness also infects the album’s lyrics, which tend toward one-dimensional depictions of cunning women, all-consuming eternal romance and dramatic dalliances with bad decisions. Worse yet, the dominant imagery is recycled from other sources with no added wit (a lover described as “cold as ice”; the phrase “nothing gold can stay”)—but plenty of cinematic absurdity (the Italy-set “Salvatore” and its repeated references to “soft ice cream”) and misguided edginess (the “Art Deco” lyric “Baby, you’re so ghetto/You’re looking to score”).
When Del Rey drops the stoic façade on fame-addled desert noir highlight “God Knows I Tried” (“I feel free when I see no one/And nobody knows my name”) or exhibits vocal vulnerability on the trip-hop throwback “The Blackest Day” and the jazzy, Tori Amos-y “Terrence Loves You,” she hits the mark. But overall Honeymoon doesn’t live up to its potential—or add anything revelatory to Del Rey’s mystique.