LANA DEL REY BLUE BANISTERS ALBUM REVIEW 💙


For the second time in 2021, Lana Del Rey released yet another incredible album! Blue Banisters is a stunning collection of fifteen songs that are stories of family, friendship, love, loss and new beginnings. "I'm writing my own story. And no one can tell it but me," Lana said on Twitter alongside the album announcement.

Her eighth album was announced just a day after Chemtrails Over The Country Club was released in April 2021. Originally set to be released in the summer and titled Rock Candy Sweet, Lana promised she "wanted revenge" with her next album against the media for the negative press she was receiving at the time, which was overshadowing her music. During the lead-up to the supposed release date in June, she announced a completely different album that was going to also be released in July - neither of those came to be and instead Blue Banisters was officially announced with a release in mid-October. 

I say this with almost all of her albums, but Blue Banisters is some of Lana's best work yet. The music she made in 2021 really is a testament to how talented Lana is as an artist to continuously evolve in her art and by putting out music that is acclaimed to be her best work yet - just for her to turn around and make something even better! Longevity and consistency in that regard is rare to find. Blue Banisters further proves her distinct talent for storytelling through her songs and how she truly is a one-of-a-kind voice of this generation.

The album is made up of new material, as well as songs that were initially written around the time she was writing Ultraviolence in 2013 and Norman F*cking Rockwell in 2017. On songs like "Thunder", "Dealer" and "Nectar of the Gods", those influences are some of the most prominent. 

I love that so many artists are releasing two albums per year now, it gives a different level of authenticicty to the music when it is written, recorded, and released in such a short period of time. Over the past couple of years that format was popularized in pop music by Ariana Grande when within the span of six months in 2018 and 2019 she released Sweetener and Thank U, Next - as well as Taylor Swift's Folklore and Evermore in 2020. Chemtrails Over The Country Club and Blue Banisters are quite different, but so many of the same themes are prominent on both. A few of these songs I would consider to be among her best ever, which is saying something for how extensive and memorable so much of her discography is.

Prior to the album's release, there were three surprise singles that she put out all on the same day - "Textbook", "Wildflower Wildfire" and the title track "Blue Banisters". Upon first listen, I honestly didn't like any of these songs at all and had low expectations for the rest of the album. Thankfully once I heard the album in it's entirety, the creative choices she made on these songs make so much more sense in the context of the rest of the record. 


The album opens with "Textbook", which she sings about the Black Lives Matter protests, as well as wanting to rekindle a lost love. Compared to all of her other album openers, "Textbook" perhaps isn't the most memorable, since it is much more subdued and simple in instrumental and lyrics. I do think she intentionally didn't go with the obvious choices as the opening song because while "Textbook" sonically isn't a bold opener, lyrically it is one of her most personal.


The title track, "Blue Banisters", is one of the highlights of the album. As I mentioned, it wasn't a song I initially liked when it was released earlier but when I listened to the album for the first time in full, I realized just how stunning this song really is. The piano instrumental is so gorgeous paired with the powerful lyrics and vulnerability in Lana's voice. The way that it is written is as if she is telling a story, sharing vivid memories of conversations with her friends Jenny and Nikki, as well as specific details of the flowers that were on the dresser and the pictures on the wall. She is trying to move on from her past and mourning a relationship with someone who "said he'd come back every May, just to help me if I'd paint my banisters blue" and "give me children, take away my pain". 

The symbolism of the color blue in this album is such a subtle detail that ties almost every song together. Whether it is "standing blue with open arms" in the song "Textbook", the "baby blues" of "Sweet Carolina" - or one of my favorite lyrics from "Beautiful", "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". In "Beautiful" she continues by singing, "let me show you how sadness can turn into happiness, I can turn blue into something beautiful". Her comparison towards Picasso is so provoking, drawing a parallel towards their art and the criticism artists recieve. That along with the obvious connections in "Blue Banisters", she uses the color blue as a way of hoping that she found someone to take away her sadness. 

It is a great example of how talented she is as a writer. These themes explored on "Blue Banisters" particularly are also prevalent in her debut poetry collection released in 2020 titled Violet Bent Backwards Over The Grass. Many of the poems featured read as a stream of consciousness, almost rambling, of very specific moments with otherwise minute details of everyday life that would usually go unnoticed. That style of writing was also very prevalent throughout Chemtrails Over The Country Club too. 

The song is also about the power of friendship, "I said the power of us three can bring absolutely anything, except that one thing, the diamonds, the rust and the rain". She continues by singing "Now when weather turns to May, all my sisters come to paint by banisters green, my blue banisters grey", once again using color symbolism to reflect a fresh start with the color green and grey as a symbol of loss. 

In her Instagram caption when announcing the release of this song Lana wrote, "Sometimes life makes you change just in time for the next chapter". 


"Arcadia" was the fourth single that was released alongside the rest of the album. Prior to it's release she said to "listen to it like you listened to 'Video Games'". I absolutely love "Arcadia", vocally it is one of her best performances, with so many beautiful lyrics throughout. Upon its release, she also said in a caption, "Go little Arcadia, may you fly into the hearts of those that need to hear you". The story is one that many can likely relate to and apply to their own lives. She is looking to leave Los Angeles to find herself and the joys of a simpler life. She is escaping with the hopes of finding an idyllic place to be, wherever that is for her. "They built me up three-hundred feet tall just to tear me down, now I'm leaving with nothing but laughter and this town". she sings. Throughout Chemtrails Over The Country Club, she repeatedly sang about her desire to leave Los Angeles for a fresh start, with this song further pushing that narrative forward. 

"Black Bathing Suit" is the fifth song on the album and was originally titled "If This Is The End ... I Want A Boyfriend" and "Grenadine Quarantine". As you can imagine by the original titles, it is about the pandemic, but also addressing the scrutiny she has been getting recently in the media about her body. I love that she used it as an opportunity to reclaim her image and speaking out against unwarranted commentary in such a cool and powerful way by singing "oh, let 'em talk about me" and "your interest really made stacks, so thanks for that". 

Another loosely pandemic-inspired song is "Violets For Roses", which she opens with "There's something in the air, the girls are running around in summer dresses, with their masks off and it makes me so happy, Larchmont Village smells like lillies of the valley and the bookstores are opening and it's finally happening". One of my favorite lyrics from this song is "God knows the only mistake a man can make is try to make a woman change and trade her violets for roses". 


As I mentioned earlier, some of these songs were originally written in 2013 and originally intended to be included on Ultraviolence. "If You Lie Down With Me", "Cherry Blossom", "Nectar of the Gods" and "Living Legend" are the four songs that finally made it to an official release on Blue Banisters. All of these particular songs were co-written by musician and her then-boyfriend Barrie James O'Neill, who also wrote the iconic song "Brooklyn Baby" years ago with her. 

I could tell the first time I heard these songs that they were meant to be for Ultraviolence because it has the distinct quality in songwriting and vocal tone that instantly reminded me of the music she released from that time. 

"Nectar of the Gods" is my favorite out of these, which kind of reminds me of "Gods and Monsters" from Paradise, as if it could be considered somewhat of a sequel to the song. It also reminds me of "Yosemite" because of how captivating the melody is in its simplicity. It is a beautiful acoustic song, best summed up by the final lyrics, "California, homeland of the Gods, once I found my way, but now I am lost". It's interesting that a song as amazing as "Nectar of the Gods" is just now being officially released, I could have seen this working so well for Lust For Life (which apparently it almost was) and even would have made a great addition to NFR!

The essence of "Living Legend" is very similar to "Nectar of the Gods", which is probably the most reminiscent of the Ultraviolence era in my opinion. I haven't heard the leaked original demo but I can imagine that probably not much has changed since 2013 with this song. My favorite part is towards the end when her singing is distorted to sound like an electric guitar solo, that is such a powerful moment in the song! 


"Dealer" is one of the biggest highlights of Blue Banisters and features vocals from Miles Kane of The Last Shadow Puppets. It is so different from any of the other songs on this album, most of which are mellow piano ballads. In the chorus Lana is screaming the lyrics "I don't wanna give you nothing, because you never give me nothing back, why can't you ever be good for something? not one shirt off your back" - the tone she is singing in is so different than anything else we have ever heard from her, which makes this such a stand-out of Blue Banisters.

This song was originally intended to be released as a full album that Lana was writing with Miles Kane, as well as Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys and The Last Shadow Puppets. That project was never released in it's entirety, but my fingers are crossed that it eventually is! A few songs from their collaboration were released through the years, most notably one of my favorite Lana songs ever - "California" in 2018. 

Another one of the best is "Thunder", also originally intended to be a part of The Last Shadow Puppets collaboration album. This song features some of my favorite ever songwriting out of her discography, like "you roll like thunder, you're trying to catch that wind, that lightning in a bottle, that moonbeam in your hands" and "if hello just means goodbye then, baby, better walk away". The song is about a two-faced man who she says acts like "...Mr. Brightside when you're with all your friends, but I know what you're like when the party ends". The arrangement of the instrumentals and the melody is very reminiscent of "California", which I mean in the best way possible. The background vocals at the end are such a beautiful addition to the production too. All of the qualities that made NFR! as an album so special in terms of writing, production and performance are present on "Thunder".


Blue Banisters also features some of Lana's most personal stories, as well. "Wildfire Wildflower", is the first time she fully opens about the strained relationship with her mother, which resulted in her subsequent addiction, both situations she was able to overcome. She sings "with lithium came poetry". The instrumentals are haunting and she sings it with such power in her voice. Not many artists at her level would dare to open up about such personal topics in such a real way, it takes a few listens to fully get the message, but it is so worth it.

The final song is "Sweet Carolina", which was co-written by her father Rob Grant and her sister, Chuck Grant, who is pictured in many of the promotional photos that are featured throughout this post. It is dedicated to Chuck, who was pregnant at the time they wrote it, just a few weeks away from giving birth. It is a beautiful tribute to Chuck and her new journey of motherhood - she sings "If you get the blues, baby blues, just know this is your song, it'll live on and on, way past me and you." 

Her sister is a prominent figure in her music, from being the photographer for Lana's iconic album covers for Lust For Life and NFR! - as well as being featured on the cover of Chemtrails Over The Country Club and mentioned in the album's title track, among others. For so many reasons, it is the best love song she has ever written because it comes from such a deep and heartfelt love for her sister. The lyrics are so touching and absolutely beautiful, making it the perfect closing song for this album.


Thanks for reading! I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below! Since this is my final post of 2021, I want to thank everyone reading this for all of your support this year 🖤 Happy New Year!!




Photo Credit: Neil Krug, Lana Del Rey, Interscope Records



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