Lana Del Rey’s eighth studio album, “Blue Banisters,” exemplifies her alternative-indie sound, capturing themes of self-love, melancholy and estranged relationships. Opposed to its predecessors, “Blue Banisters” is more experimental and steers away from the all-American glamour aesthetic border of the ‘60s and ‘70s, shifting the focus to more modern topics and issues such as activism, California wildfires and the pandemic. This 15-track album romanticizes American culture and the chaos following flawed, dysfunctional love through delicate, blissful ballets accompanying piano instrumentals.
“Text Book,” the album’s opening track, is one of three singles that were released before the rest of the album. Similar to her two previous records, “Chemtrails Over The Country Club” and “Norman F***ing Rockwell!,” it begins with a more country-inspired sound before switching to indie rock. The song tackles love and growth in relationships while enhancing her echoed vocals and changing the trope towards modernity. Evident in the lyrics “And there we were, screamin’ ‘Black Lives Matter’ in the crowd / By the Old Man River, and I saw you saw who I am,” the singer takes on a new era of activism with her inclusion of the Black Lives Matter protests, a very prominent social movement striving for equality and the end of police brutality towards Black Americans.
Another take on modernity is Del Rey’s nod to the global pandemic in “Black Bathing Suit.” The song is more folksy, detailing life during quarantine and her search for love. The first verse, full of piano melodies, highlights her distaste for the way pandemic life has shifted our ways of communicating, singing, “It’s LA, ‘Hey’ on Zoom, Target parking lot / And if this is the end, I want a boyfriend,” followed by “I’m tired of this s**t.” Rather than continue with her typical Gatsby-esque aura, her ballads reference current issues and ideals of American culture. The most notable aspect of the track is the reasoning behind its name. The track was originally titled “If This Is The End … Then I Want A Boyfriend” and “Grenadine Quarantine” before finding its name “Black Bathing Suit,” which is referenced in the track’s lyrics: “The only thing that still fits me is this black bathing suit.” Throughout the pandemic, Del Rey has been criticized and ridiculed by the public for her weight gain and is normalizing bodily changes with her graceful and angelic indie-folk vocals.
The album’s title track serves as an ode to the Midwest, closely detailing a past memory in her life. Evident in the lyrics, “There’s a picture on the wall of me on a John Deere” and the repeated line “Oh, Oklahoma,” there remains to be an increasing country influence throughout the song as well as previous ones. The corresponding music video is both dreary and heartfelt, beginning with a clip of Del Rey riding a John Deere tractor followed by a dreamy setting of her painting banisters blue and baking with her pregnant sister and a friend. It offers a very dim and dark style, capturing the essence of joy she shares with these women amid the mountainous views. The song observes the theme of past relationships and the lust that accompanies those memories. Through soft piano notes and an achy emotional tone, she uses the lyrics of “[a]nd now my blue banisters are green and grey” to possibly symbolize her attempt at moving on from the downfalls that erupted in her relationship.
“Dealer” fully embodies Del Rey’s avant-garde style, exemplifying the album’s achievement of rewarding the singer with the most No. 1 alternative albums on the Billboard charts. This past year alone, with April’s “Chemtrails Over The Country Club” and October’s “Blue Banisters,” the singer’s prolific nature and poetic prose has demonstrated her as an influential alternative artist in the music industry.
Perhaps the boldest move on “Blue Banisters” is Del Rey’s inclusion of the fourth track, “Interlude – The Trio,” which is entirely instrumental, inserting Ennio Morricone’s “II Triello” from the movie “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” It veers away from the rest of the album’s soft-pitched indie sound, consisting of roaring hip-hop beats that nod to songs in her previous albums such as “Lust For Life” and “Summer Bummer.” This enhances her exploratory deliverance of the album, shifting the overall tone to that of original and visionary.
“Blue Banisters” is the second record Del Rey has put out this year, continuing her creative and inventive nature. Although this indie-alternative album includes a similar country-like and folksy tone as its predecessors, it focuses on more pressing and relatable topics surrounding modern life and social and political issues. Del Rey is more authentic than ever before, transforming vulnerability into something that can be viewed as romantic and strengthening.
McKenzie Boney is an Entertainment Staff Writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.