Lana Del Rey’s Honeymoon sounds sluggish

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      Lana Del Rey
      Honeymoon (Universal)

      Steering ever further from the winning formula she concocted with her 2012 breakthrough, Born to Die, Lana Del Rey has returned with her sprawling fourth album, Honeymoon. You will find no “Summertime Sadness”–style hit on this record. But as fascinatingly as always, listening to the pop diva’s music is like getting stoned and swigging Jim Beam in the dark of your bedroom, while you play reels of old home movies and tragic Hollywood classics.

      Screeching into view like a swerving Cadillac with Hitchcock-pitch strings and romantic melodrama, the title track sets the stage with lavish set pieces of dilapidated L.A. daydreams. Warbling with her trademark honey-dunked, lethargic pipes, Del Rey sounds more controlled and mature than ever before.

      The music is still heavily produced in a beautiful, sumptuous way, the guitars plucked as if underwater in a seedy motel pool. The tracks “Terrence Loves You” and “God Knows I Tried” go nowhere, but the journey is strangely divine. The cover of Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” sounds surprisingly fresh and apt for Del Rey’s mysterious persona.

      That said, the ongoing hype remains unjustified. Honeymoon is sluggish to the point of Quaalude-induced extremes, and the lack of memorable melodies only deepens the sloth of the record’s latter half. Del Rey’s lyrics are vastly improved, even poetic. But she continues to glorify domestic abuse while singing husky odes to violent men, sadly embodying the sexist image of tortured vixen who loves to be punished.

      Del Rey has an intriguing musical vision. She is clearly in ultimate control of the dew-sparkled web of myths she has woven for her self-described “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” alter ego. If Del Rey can break out of the male-fantasy mould she appears stuck in and focus more on songwriting than on style, she may be able to pull herself back from the brink of staledom.