Lana Del Rey Shows a New Side In Recent Album

Lana Del Rey, well-known indie rock singer, released her second album, Blue Banisters, this year.

Lana Del Rey Shows a New Side In Recent Album

Grae Stockhausen, News Section Editor

In the beginning of the year, Lana Del Rey released Chemtrails Over The Country Club, an album that just didn’t fit well with Rey’s style. The album was missing the elements that make Lana’s music so alluring, such as powerful vocals, light instrumentation, relatable self-deprecation, witty-yet-wacky lyrics, and the emotional intensity to her songs. It didn’t seem to do a good job of following up her amazing fifth album. But while the rest of the world was processing the heartbreak and intensity of quarantine, Rey tapped into her own raw emotions to write songs for her newest album, Blue Banisters. The album that dropped on October 22 has a bit of each of her musical eras that she has passed through while also showing a more mature side of Rey and her music. 

The  opening track, which was released as a single, is “Text Book”. “Text Book” tackles Del Rey’s fraught relationship with her father and break-up with recent ex, Sean Larkin. The first line of the song, she mentions looking for the father that she never had. Later in the song, Lana mentions rewriting history, which hints at her ex, Sean, because she wants to rewrite the history of that relationship with her current relationship.. The instrumentation is splendid as well, showcasing many string instruments as her backup, as well as a bit of piano. 

In the next song, “Blue Banisters”, Rey cites her good friend and collaborator, Nikki Lane. “She said, ‘Most men don’t want a woman / With a legacy, it’s of age.’, She said ‘You can’t be a muse and be happy, too / You can’t blacken the pages with Russian poetry / And be happy.’” 

The lyrics symbolize that Lana’s reputation in the music industry, as well as her success, can be unnerving for a new romantic partner who may be intimidated by her. Contemporarily, the word “muse” is used for a woman that inspires a man, usually because of her beauty. It’s a brief description of the historical role of women in art: being an inspiration, but not the creators.

Throughout the record, Lana seems to be at a crossroads with her relationships. She wants to settle down and have a family, which she references in “Cherry Blossom”, but she also wants to be able to have a simpler life without the stresses of having a family. 

The main theme in this album is Rey coming to terms with the fact that fame complicates relationships, and brings this up in many of the songs, such as “Violets for Roses” and “Wildflower Wildfire”. Violets are commonly blue, which is a color that Lana symbolizes as happiness in many of her songs. She says that she is like a violet, unique and special, but the man she is in a relationship with wants her to be a rose, a product sold to the masses. The man wants to change her, to take all the genuineness out of her because her success and reputation scares the man. And in “Wildflower Wildfire”, a different kind of relationship is referenced. Rey mentions her mother’s abuse towards her in the second verse. Lana does not want to become like her mother, always arguing and getting mad, like a “wildfire”. This is why Lana tries to avoid controversy with the public, though she doesn’t seem to do the best job of that either. 

Banisters seems to be a sort of breakup album where Del Rey comes to terms with the split of her and Sean Larkin, her most recent ex. Larkin and Del Rey split in March, with the reason being that their schedules were too busy to stay together. Breaking up is most shown in her song “Black Bathing Suit” where she sings about wanting a boyfriend to “eat ice cream with” because she’s tired of this stuff, such as being alone. Parts of this song also harken back to her Born to Die era, where she wanted bad boys and complicated men. “He said I was bad, let me show you how bad girls do / ’Cause no one does it better,” which pokes fun at how the media presents her as an unstable girl who has issues and is a “maneater”, or a girl who has issues with being used by men. But now Del Rey has matured and is the one seeking stability to bring into her life. 

The songs seem to revolve around the emotions that Lana has been feeling during lockdown, which is a longing for love and connection, but not all of the songs in the album were made in lockdown. Some are old, such as “If You Lie Down With Me” and “Nectar of the Gods”, both of which are about seeking passion, with references to being “lit up like the Fourth of July”. Both songs were also written by an old ex of hers, Barrie James O’Neill. 

“Beautiful” wasn’t as much of a musical punch, but lyrically, it was impactful. With its twinkling piano, the song discusses how her pain is not in vain: “Let me show you how sadness can turn into happiness / I can turn blue into something / Beautiful, beautiful / Beautiful like you.” Talking about how she healed and found people, like her friends and mentors, to bring happiness and light into her world and turn her sadness into wonderful music and happiness. Sadness and pain can cause a person to grow into someone stronger, which happens frequently in relationships and daily life.

A surprise song on Del Rey’s album was the song “Dealer.” Originally, the song was meant to be part of a scrapped collaborative album between her and The Last Shadow Puppets. It features a downtempo hip-hop beat and livens Banisters up amidst the sea of ballads. 

A very large part of Del Rey’s albums and life is her family. Del Rey is known for her “daddy issues” type of music, singing about absent father figures and older male partners. Giving a deeper look into her parental issues in “Wildflower Wildfire”, Del Rey discusses how her father wouldn’t stop Del Rey’s mother when she raged at her as a kid, and in “Sweet Carolina”, she assures her sister that motherhood will work out for her. Her sister, Chuck, had given birth in August to her firstborn named Phoenix. Many of the lyrics tie into postpartum depression, and doubts about motherhood due to their trauma with their mother. 

In my opinion, the album was much better than Chemtrails and should get the recognition it deserves. The vocals are sweet, soft, and breathy, with the strong backing of pianos, guitars, and violins. The way Del Rey expresses her sadness and feelings through lyrics are hard-hitting and catchy. Overall, this album is definitely a top 3 out of the seven albums she’s released so far.