Less than a year after the release of “Chemtrails Over The Country Club” (2021), Lana Del Rey returns with her eighth studio album, “Blue Banisters” (2021). Just two years ago, Del Rey released her widely-acclaimed “Norman Fucking Rockwell!” (2019), and now, Del Rey shows she still has much to offer.
It’s not often that artists are able to rebound so quickly after what many consider to be their magnum opus, but Del Rey does so swimmingly. With an array of prereleased singles, deactivated social media and numerous release teasings, “Blue Banisters” finally dropped on Oct. 22.
Kicking off the album are three of the four singles: “Text Book,” “Blue Banisters” and “Arcadia.” In true Del Rey fashion, her songwriting ability shines through on these simple tracks. Their production is less grandiose than her cinematic epics such as “Young and Beautiful” (2013), but what has sharpened is her ability to hone in on emotions through beautiful, precise language.
Ultimately the best interlude in her catalogue thus far, “Interlude – The Trio” is an incredible combination of horns and trap beats reminiscent of her earlier works in “Honeymoon” (2015) and “Lust For Life” (2017). The interlude segues from the first three singles into the greater body of the album.
“Black Bathing Suit” finds Del Rey explaining to her lover that controversy enwraps her life. As she describes her tumultuous life, it’s not her relationship with the media or her own thoughts that makes love difficult, but her “karmic lineage.” She croons, “So I’m not friends with my mother, but I still love my dad/ Untraditional lover, can you handle that?” It’s a theme all too familiar to her audience, as Del Rey has cited her relationship with her parents on former tracks such as “Old Money” (2014) and also on “Wildflower Wildfire” later in the album. On the latter, she sings, “My father never stepped in when his wife would rage at me/ So I ended up awkward but sweet.” Though Del Rey‘s mysterious image is much of her celebrity, there’s a piece of genuine soul searching when she opens up about the influences of her life in her songwriting. It’s refreshing when the doyenne of sadness reflects on her experiences.
The next three tracks after “Black Bathing Suit” dive into the cinematic nature of Del Rey‘s craft with “If You Lie Down With Me,” “Beautiful” and “Violets for Roses.” The same horns permeate into “If You Lie Down With Me” as Del Rey toils with a romanticized vision of love. On “Beautiful,” Del Rey pens some of the greatest lines in her discography. She pleads with her lover to stop asking her to be happy when she’s not. Her sadness is art, and she poses, “What if someone had asked Picasso not to be sad?/ Never known who he was or the man he’d become/ There would be no blue period.” Del Rey‘s strength is in her ability to describe those emotions often harbored below the surface. Rather than crafting a body of work focused on the bright moments in her life, she embellishes the beauty within her own sadness. “Violet for Roses” accomplishes the same task of acknowledging her own self-worth despite facing struggles.
“Dealer” may be one of the greatest songs released by Del Rey in the entirety of her career. A song reminiscent of her “Ultraviolence” (2014) days, equipped with stellar songwriting and passionate vocals unheard in years, “Dealer” does it all. With the vocal rasp of Miles Kane opening the track, Del Rey soon wails on the chorus, “I don’t wanna live/ I don’t wanna give you nothing/ ‘Cause you never give me nothing back.”
As is further evident on tracks “Thunder,” “Living Legend” and “Cherry Blossom,” dynamic instrumentation and cutting lyrics are all Del Rey needs for a masterpiece. The three tracks benefit “Blue Banisters” in their ability to highlight the dramatics and beauty in Del Rey’s lyricism. Acknowledging her past recklessness on “Living Legend,” Del Rey reflects, “I was just living on the edge/ Right between Heaven and Hell/ And I’m tired of it.”
Rounding out the album are “Nectar of the Gods” and “Sweet Carolina.” The former is reminiscent of a soft rock outtake from “Ultraviolence,” and the latter is already buzzing online from its genius lines, “You name your babe Lilac Heaven/ After your iPhone 11/ ‘Crypto forever,’ scrеams your stupid boyfriend/ F— you, Kevin.” The two serve the record well and close out an incredible chapter in Del Rey‘s discography.
It’s uncommon for a songwriter to craft so many noteworthy albums, but Del Rey accomplishes the feat flawlessly with her current masterpiece, “Blue Banisters.”