Blue Banisters is Lana Del Rey’s most vulnerable album

In Blue Banisters, Lana Del Rey’s latest album, she experiments with different music styles and themes, making it more impressive than her previous album. This is Del Rey’s eighth studio album, released on October 22, 2021, and her second album released this year, coming out only seven months after Chemtrails over the Country Club

Unlike her past albums, this album did not have as much promotion, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this seemingly rushed album. Despite the lack of promotion and time between albums, Blue Banisters sounds cohesive and polished, possibly from the help of a number of unreleased songs that were revised and added to the album.

Overall, I enjoyed this album, but I think Del Rey could have branched out more in some areas of experimentation. This includes more collaborations, key changes, different instrumentation, or more powerhouse vocals. We get hints of each of these aspects, but then Del Rey seems to shy away from them. I think she could push herself more in future albums.

This album takes a very autobiographical route, including details about her life over the pandemic, failed romance, family relationships, and friendships. Del Rey continues to keep the folk and jazz feel on this album, similar to her last album. 

“Text Book” is the opening song for this album. It starts with minimal background music and focuses on Del Rey’s vocals. The background music becomes upbeat in the chorus and dwindles again during the verse. The title “Text Book” reflects the idea of a classic love story. Del Rey reflects on her childhood relationship with her parents and how it has influenced her love life: she is looking for a man like her father. At first, I wasn’t sure if I liked this song because I am not a huge fan of the verses, but I find the chorus very catchy, which saved this song for me.

The song “Blue Banisters” felt like Del Rey was taking me through a story. She sings about her friends’ support when the man she was with broke up with her, signaled by him not coming back to paint her banisters blue. I liked how she used the color of the banisters and the people who painted them to indirectly show how her relationship with this man was progressing. I also enjoyed the piano added to this song. The themes in this song make it feel like a sequel to “Dance Til We Die” from Chemtrails over the Country Club.

“Arcadia” is one of my least favorite songs on this album. I’m not a huge fan of the chorus and the whole song is a bit boring and uninteresting to me. It could use a bridge to add some contrast to the verses. I do like the instrumentals that give the song a dreamy and beautiful feel, though.

When I first heard “Interlude – The Trio,” which is the shortest track on the album, I was quite surprised, confused and almost startled. I even thought that my music was starting to play something other than the album since it did not sound like the other songs. As the title suggests, this is an instrumental interlude after the first three songs that are grouped together. The song starts with some strong instruments, including a trumpet, and then a trap beat comes in. Surprisingly, I found that the trap beat fits in with the instruments but I was not expecting it on this album since trap music is associated with hip hop and rap, a very different style from Del Rey’s typical music. The track ends with the music tapering off. I thought that this track might be serving as a transition to tracks with heavier instrumentals on the album but it did not. I didn’t see the need for an interlude on this album. I do not like this track very much and think it does not fit on the album. With a little research, I found that this track interpolates “The Trio,” a piece of music composed by Ennio Morricone for the 1966 film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  

One of the songs I was most looking forward to was “Dealer” after hearing about the dynamic vocals that would be showcased on this track. Before releasing the album, Del Rey had said in an Interview Magazine article, “I think I need to add that song ‘Dealer’, where I’m just screaming my head off. People don’t know what it sounds like when I yell, and I do yell.” “Dealer” definitely lived up to my expectations. Del Rey builds up to the belting by making her way up the octave and then belts out, “I don’t wanna live / I don’t wanna give you nothing / ‘Cause you never give me nothing back / Why can’t you be good for something? / Not one shirt off your back.” The raw emotion in Del Rey’s voice matches the heaviness of the lyrics. This song is also a collaboration with English musician Miles Kane. Kane’s part of this song depicts someone who is trying to get away from society and not wanting to be contacted by anyone, even important figures in their life. Del Rey sings about her frustration in giving everything to someone, shown as money, and getting nothing in return.

Del Rey uses “Thunder” as a comparison to how the man she was dating felt: wild and unpredictable yet mesmerizing. Del Rey repeatedly tells her lover to “just do it” – break up with her, with a chorus echoing her in the background. She knows he will do it eventually from his habits of not being in town often and wandering off with friends and wants him to get it over with. The beginning of this song starts minimalistic with piano and soft guitar, keeping with her melancholic theme, but picks up for a more upbeat and lighter song. This is one of my favorite songs on the album. 

“Living Legend” is a sweet song that is an ode to one of Del Rey’s friends. I liked the bridge which brought some diversity to the rest of this song. I also really loved the ending to this song with the instrumentals picking up. This song is much like her other songs: slow and melancholic. Even though I enjoyed this song, it is not very distinct from her other songs on this album.

“Cherry Blossom” is one of the more subdued songs on the album that presents as a lullaby with a beautiful melody depicting the love and endearment shown in this song. Del Rey is presumably comforting a child who she has nicknamed “Cherry Blossom” while pushing her on a swing: “I push you high, cherry blossom on your sycamore tree / What you don’t tell no one, you can tell me.”

“Sweet Carolina” was co-written with Del Rey’s dad and sister. This song is a dedication to her sister and newborn niece. This song demonstrates her high range and beautifully poetic lyrics. It reminds me of the song “Cherry Blossom.” This song adds some refreshing difference from the other themes on this album. I thought this was a sweet track to close off the album. 

Blue Banisters does a good job of taking the listener through Del Rey’s life in the past couple of years. The lyrics are beautifully written and the instruments in the backing tracks support her delicate voice. Blue Banisters is definitely worth listening to. 

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