LANA DEL REY’S BLUE BANISTERS
A Review of Lana Del Rey’s Eighth Studio LP
by Talia Zakalik
On October 22nd, Lana Del Rey returned with her eighth studio album Blue Banisters. The album was highly anticipated by Del Rey's fan base, however it suffered very little media attention. This is due to the fact that her previous album, Chemtrails Over The Country Club, was not very well received, so expectations were low for Del Rey’s follow-up album. Yet it is safe to say that Blue Banisters exceeded all possible expectations.
Some of Del Rey's greatest music exists in her unreleased vault. It is unfiltered and dramatic. She belts her heart out on those tracks, but this typically does not carry over to her studio albums. Instead, they are slightly more reined in and over-produced as production value is prioritized over raw vocals. Del Rey’s 2019 album Norman Fucking Rockwell! was aided in its success by hit-maker Jack Antonoff who served as co-producer and co-writer of the album. However, for Blue Banisters, Del Rey did not utilize the help of Antonoff—this served her well. Norman Fucking Rockwell! is clearly a much more polished album, but it is not as personal as Blue Banisters. Her latest release sees Lana on a return to her unmilled modes of expression seen in her early unreleased tracks. Del Rey sounds more secure with her artistic abilities on her latest album. She does not need to rely on extravagant production to produce quality music, and it seems that she has finally understood that.
That sentiment is best represented on the standout track of this album “Dealer.” It starts with a digestible drumbeat that carries on throughout the song. Miles Kane sings, “Please don’t try to find me through my dealer. He won’t pick up his phone. Please don’t try my father either. He ain’t been home for years,” as the opening lyrical sequence. Kane is not officially credited on this song, and while his smooth and low voice adds to the song, it by no means overshadows Del Rey. The song seamlessly transitions from Kane and Del Rey singing together to Del Rey belting her solo, “I don’t wanna live. I don’t wanna give you nothing. Cause you never give me nothing back.” The pain in Del Rey's voice is haunting. However, even as emotional as she sounds her voice never fades or cracks. This is a true testament to how talented Del Rey is. Instead, she cleanly belts, and while it is clear that she is distressed and heartbroken, her confidence remains. “Dealer” in particular is the most reminiscent of Del Rey's early unreleased tracks where she takes more risks with her vocals.
“Text Book,” “Blue Banisters,” “Arcadia,” and “Black Bathing Suit” are the other 4 best tracks off of the album. They are all emotional, yet peaceful at the same time. Del Rey is vulnerable in all of these songs. They follow the same themes as most of her music—toxic relations, love, and loss. On Blue Banisters, Del Rey sounds more sure of herself. It is clear that she is a happier woman than when she had released her debut album Born to Die. She has grown as an artist and because of the success she has received, she is now able to take more risks with her music. Sometimes these risks pay off, like in the case of Blue Banisters, and sometimes they falter like in Chemtrails Over the Country Club.
However, while Blue Banisters is good, it is far from perfect. Not every song is as incredible as “Dealer.” It is obvious that Del Rey at this point in her career is so successful that she does not rely on editors and producers to fine tune which songs officially end up on the album. There are a few that Blue Banisters could have done without. “Sweet Caroline” and “Nectar of the Gods” did not contribute to the success of this album, as they lacked that intangible quality that makes a song great.
Del Rey’s riskier music is welcome in the mainstream. It is refreshing to hear her step away from her cookie-cutter albums and take a chance on less refined music. Her loyal fans will appreciate Blue Banisters and those who are not familiar with Del Rey will enjoy that this is not your typical pop album.