Lana Del Rey: Honeymoon

The enigmatic star's third album gets catchier without breaking her dark, sexy spell

Credit: Neil Krug

A honeymoon with Lana Del Rey is more sticky than sweet: Get ready to enter a world of truly tortured romance, complete with enough bitterness, lust and violence for a one-woman revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? If the pop star's guitar-laced 2014 LP, Ultraviolence, was a one-night stand with a new sound, her follow-up is the morning after — the moment when Del Rey gets back to what she's best at. The moody, cinematic string arrangements on the title track and the wistful highlight "Music to Watch Boys To" recall her 2012 debut. She goes further into pop on the supercatchy single "High by the Beach" and the excellently sultry "Freak"; the latter song's steady bass thump and druggy abandon evoke her recent collaborator the Weeknd in particularly exciting ways.

Del Rey flirts with countercultural touchstones throughout Honeymoon, referencing Bowie's Major Tom on "Terrence Loves You" and reciting a T.S. Eliot poem that sounds like a hippie-dream monologue on the interlude "Burnt Norton." The biggest surprise here comes in the closing number — an unexpectedly upbeat take on Nina Simone's classic "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" that reads as a not-so-veiled shot at her critics. Whatever her intentions, they've led to her most genuinely thrilling music ever.