Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Banisters” is a must-listen


Image found on Spotify.

Audrey Lai, Editor in Chief

On Oct. 22, Lana Del Rey released her eighth studio album, “Blue Banisters.” The album followed the release of her seventh album, “Chemtrails Over the Country Club,” which only came out seven months prior. Moving away from her signature Americana aesthetic of yesteryear, Del Rey metamorphosizes her music, as well as her image, by stripping it away of its veneer to reveal a more introspective and autobiographical point of view.

In all honesty, I had lowered my expectations for “Blue Banisters” after the release of “Chemtrails Over the Country Club.” Her seventh album was a minor disappointment, as it followed on the heels of the stellar “Norman F—–g Rockwell.” I enjoyed listening to “Chemtrails,” but the album is neither sonically nor thematically as interesting to me in comparison to her previous work. The lyricism retells stories of troubled lovers and the West Coast that we’ve already heard in older albums, and the sound of almost every song melded into each other because of their similarities.

The singles released before the album “Blue Banisters” came out were a mixed bag. The title track fell a little flat to me, as I found the sound somewhat boring. “Text Book,” which later became the album opener, is a relatively upbeat song which details Del Rey’s hopes and fears of her relationship with a man who reminds her of her father. I enjoyed the song, but I definitely wasn’t blown away by it. My favorite single of her first three was “Wildflower Wildfire,” which perfectly showcases Del Rey’s ability to oscillate between her signature breathy high notes and deeper tones.

A month before “Blue Banisters” was released, the final single of the album, “Arcadia,” came out. A cascade of soft orchestral melodies unify with simple piano chords to accompany Del Rey’s soft voice as she sings a delicate melody detailing a metaphor of her body as a map of Los Angeles: “All roads that lead to you as integral to me as arteries/That pump the blood that flows straight to the heart of me.” This ethereal piece allowed me to hope for another exceptional album from Del Rey, as I felt potential from the stunning composition and production. Thankfully, my wishes came true – “Blue Banisters,” though not without its faults, is an impressive album and a successful shift into a more mellow and personal musical style.

Sonically, the album is characterized by muted piano chords and minimal electronic elements, which is a shift away from the more pop oriented music with hip hop influences of her previous albums. Apart from “Interlude – The Trio,” as its reliance on computer generated beats confusingly clashes with the rest of “Blue Banisters,” the album largely focuses on Del Rey’s gentle vocals. Almost all songs on the album are slow and subtle, making it intensely cohesive, but its cohesion comes at a price of lack of variety. Songs which are stronger lyrically and weaker musically, like “Beautiful” and “Living Legend,” blend into the rest of the album similarly to songs in “Chemtrails Over the Country Club.”

Del Rey also shifts her lyricism, abandoning her larger than life persona as a heavy-hearted California bad girl dealing with tumultuous and cinematic relationships in favor of her own identity and experience, unfiltered by melodrama. I love Del Rey’s flair for the dramatic – “Born to Die” was one of my favorite albums in middle school and I still frequently revisit it today – but Del Rey’s organic point of view in songwriting was a welcome change that brought a different kind of depth into her storytelling.

Del Rey details the beauty of the everyday, such as in “Violets for Roses” with lyrics like “There’s something in the air/The girls are running ’round in summer dresses/With their masks off/And it makes me so happy/Larchmont village smells like lilies of the valley/And the bookstore doors are opening/And it’s finally happening” and Del Rey’s complicated relationships with her family, such as in “Wildflower Wildfire”: “My father never stepped in when his wife would rage at me/So I ended up awkward but sweet/Later then hospitals, stand still on my feet/Comfortably numb, but with lithium came poetry.”

In the most revealing song of the album, “Black Bathing Suit,” the singer moves away from her trademark themes of depressed starlets and romanticized dysfunctional relationships to deal with her reflection on the media’s reaction to her controversial social media posts and her weight gain: “My black bathing suit/Oh, let ’em talk about me/They’re just yesterday’s news.”

Though the album marks major changes from the stock of Del Rey’s discography, “Blue Banisters” does not desert Del Rey’s roots – it allows them to grow and cover uncharted territory. Del Rey included outtakes from previous albums which include hints of older eras, such as “Dealer” and “Cherry Blossom,” but fit more tonally with this album. In “Cherry Blossom,” Del Rey discusses her relationship with a fictional child which contrasts her own relationship with her mother: “Little ghost, blonde hair with lemonade tea/There’s much to learn, and so much to see/I push you high/Angelina, on your sycamore tree/What you don’t tell no one, you can tell me.”

The album closes with my favorite track, “Sweet Carolina.” Del Rey pens a message to her sister, who has recently given birth, which is both touching: “We love every hair on your head/Love you like God loves you/And you say that you’re scared/Might be unprepared for havin’ the baby blues” and charmingly funny: “You name your babe Lilac Heaven/After your iPhone 11/’Crypto forever,’ scrеams your stupid boyfriend/F–k you, Kevin.” The song exemplifies what “Blue Banisters” does best – lyricism that is simultaneously beautiful and grounded in authenticity.

I hate to admit judging an album by its cover, but at first, the contrast between the simple cover of “Blue Banisters” felt unpolished in contrast with the dramatic aesthetics that defined her previous albums. However, the cover, as well as the album, reflects that Del Rey doesn’t need her star studded image and the media’s approval for musical success – at her core, she is simply a phenomenal artist.