"We both know that it's not fashionable to love me." Thus begins the opening track of Lana Del Rey's third album, Honeymoon. A sly nod to those who revel in denouncing her talent, perhaps? Or just Del Rey slipping further into the self-deprecating submissiveness she holds so dear. Either way, it's an arresting start.
What follows is an album of greater subtlety and restraint than many might have expected. Nestled somewhere between the minimalist trip hop of Born To Die and the scuzzy, riff-heavy Ultraviolence, the album betrays the supreme confidence of a musician who is entirely uninterested in winning anyone over. There's no urgency, few obvious singles, and little fanfare. It demands repeated plays from its listener, and has no doubt that they will oblige.
And so the melodies, such as on 'Terrence Loves You', are often stretched out so languidly that they risk coming to a standstill. In fact, Del Rey often seems more interested in using her voice, wavering and soaring around notes that don't entirely tie together, as simply another instrument - one designed to fade into, not stand apart from, the orchestral musings underneath.
Dripping with a sort of imagined nostalgia, Honeymoon still holds tightly to the themes with which Del Rey has always been so enamoured - Hollywood movies, jazz, beat poetry, and a heavily romanticised, all-consuming passivity. Occasionally, in fact, it risks straying into self-parody. "I like you a lot," she sings on 'Music To Watch Boys To', "So I do what you want."
Listen to 'Music To Watch Boys To' below
Of course, to take this at face value is to miss the wry self-awareness that sometimes smurks beneath the surface. "I've got nothing much to live for / Ever since I found my fame," for example, seems an unmistakable reference to last year's notorious 'death wish' interview.
But the persona Del Rey has created does eventually begin to wear thin. When she sings, on 'Religion', "You're my religion, you're how I'm living / When all my friends say I should take some space / Well I can't envision that for a minute", it's difficult not to stifle a sigh, and quietly will her to reconsider her friends' advice.
The trap and hip hop-influenced 'High By The Beach', then, comes at just the right time. It's a reinvigorating kick of energy, and a rare moment of defiance - "The truth is I never bought into your bullshit / When you would pay tribute to me cause I know that / All I wanted to do was get high by the beach." With that over though, Del Rey slips from the song's assertive grasp and settles back into her old sorrowful ways.
With its melancholic, wavering melodies and relentlessly meek lyrics, there is little in Honeymoon to win over sceptics. But, one suspects, that's just as Del Rey intended.