Finding her sound and sticking to it no matter what.
Lana Del Rey, more than any other major artist currently around, is truly a one-note performer.
It's an exceedingly interesting note, one that is executed well enough, especially on record, to hold the interest of even passing music fans -- a heady mix of laid-back, dreamy vocals and icy, hip-hop-inspired beats.
She does it again on "Honeymoon" (Interscope), her third collection of melancholy, often savvy, poetic songs. But, at this point, her pretty, mysterious, disaffected rebel act is stretched a bit thin.
"We both know that it's not fashionable to love me" is her opening declaration in "Honeymoon" 's title track -- gorgeously minimal, featuring stacks of her vocals, a string section and the occasional drum flourish. The single "High by the Beach" returns to the successful formula from "Summertime Sadness" and "Born to Die," combining dry-but-dramatic vocals with hip-hop beats. "Salvatore" handles the mix even more effectively.
However, because all the atmospherics -- the production, the tempo, the delivery -- all tend to stay the same on "Honeymoon," the focus moves to the lyrics to set the songs apart. And that doesn't do her any favors in undercooked songs like "Art Deco" ("Baby you're so ghetto, you're looking to score") or "Swan Song" ("Put your white tennis shoes on and follow me").
Her struggle with material becomes even more noticeable when she applies her style to the classic "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," showing how well her voice holds up even when she's singing more than her usual handful of notes.
"Honeymoon" is uneven and falters in comparison with similar artists like Lorde or Melanie Martinez. Del Rey is counting more on her mysterious rebel persona than her actual songwriting to make this work, but she would be better off playing to her strengths and simply releasing a series of singles or EPs, accompanied, of course, by striking, controversial videos.
THE GRADE B-