Arriving just seven months after “Chemtrails Over the Country Club,” all signs were that Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Banisters” was a backing piece. Proximity, it turns out, is all they have in common. While “Chemtrails” found Del Rey channeling the singer-songwriters of yesteryear with dreamy reveries of Laurel Canyon, his latest is imbued with the urgency of reclaiming his own narrative, anchoring it in the here and now. She does this by putting together a musical autobiography that documents family ties, friendships, love stories, her connection to Los Angeles, and even her interpretation of her art.
Del Rey made his intentions clear from the start. “I’m writing my own story,” she tweeted, while first teasing “Blue Banisters” in April. “And no one can say it except me.” Her need to set the record straight stems from a series of negative articles that attacked everything from her brand of feminism to her choice of face masks. Feeling the need to explain created a transparency that made the album an exception in Del Rey’s discography. She has always been an expert at building worlds, but never has one of them felt so lived and true.
“Text Book,” the album’s opening, tackles two recurring themes in Del Rey’s work: his absent father and the resulting daddy issues. Only this is not a simple exercise in self-therapy. The artist actively joins the dots, showing the causal relationship between the two as well as his inability to undo this emotional programming. For someone accused of wallowing in misery (she addresses this accusation directly on the aptly titled “Beautiful”), “Text Book” offers hope – however weak – that something healthier is, in fact, possible. . The song is also distinguished by its very modern setting. “We were there screaming ‘Black Lives Matter’ in the crowd,” she sings in the chorus, the first of many carbon references dating the 2020-21 album.
Perhaps the most notable example is “Black Bathing Suit,” a sprawling five-minute master class on self-analysis and observation. On that subject, Del Rey mentions quarantine, Zoom and Target parking lots in the same verse before hinting at locking in weight gain. “The only thing that still looks good on me is that black swimsuit,” she jokes memorably on the pre-chorus. “Black Bathing Suit” is also notable for its dizzying output, which reflects an ambition and a willingness to experiment sonically – the song ends with a literal growl that would make Samuel T. Herring proud – never seen since “Honeymoon” largely under- estimated in 2015.
“Violets for Roses” is another time capsule of pandemic life. “The girls run in summer dresses, without their masks and that makes me so happy,” begins Del Rey. “Larchmont Village smells of lily of the valley. The setting is idyllic, but the relationship presented is quite the opposite. However, instead of succumbing to the lure of self-destruction, “Violets For Roses” is all about detaching yourself from a toxic situation, making it yet another refutation of the claim that it glorifies the dark and the dark. despair.
She continues with this theme on “Mr. Brightside” referencing “Thunder” by presenting a crater love story that turns into an uplifting tale. “If hello just means goodbye, then baby you better go.” , she advises. Perhaps the most evolved and philosophical rumination on love is “Wildflower Wildfire” produced by Mike Dean. Built on wisdom born of mistakes, the song captures the awareness that love can be nurtured but never guaranteed. It is full of hope in a way weary of the world. These are no longer the daydreams of an ingenuous, but rather an adult woman who understands that happiness is fleeting .
While the references are timely, the themes are timeless. The painfully charming title song is an ode to female friendship, while “Arcadia” unveils Del Rey’s borderline spiritual affinity with Los Angeles. Not only does she feel inspired by the City of Angels, but she also sees herself reflected in the jagged geography and the accumulation of lost souls in search of Something. It’s Del Rey’s poetic way of repudiating the statement she hid behind a character. The singer-songwriter might not be a California-born girl, but her influence on her is genuine and deep.
The album’s scrapbooking approach is underscored by the inclusion of a handful of tracks recorded in 2013 with ex-boyfriend Barrie James O’Neill. Originally intended for “Ultraviolence”, the songs “If You Lie Down With Me” and “Nectar of the Gods” found their perfect place on “Blue Banisters”. Instead of describing her personal story, Del Rey literally shares part of it. The experience is akin to reading old love letters: intimate and deeply touching. Another unearthed demo, “Cherry Blossom,” this time co-written by longtime collaborator Rick Nowels, is a singing lullaby that fits perfectly into the moving album closer.
Co-writing with his sister and father, “Sweet Carolina” finds Del Rey singing for an unborn child – with references to cryptocurrency and an iPhone 11. It’s the kind of lyrical potluck all his own. . “Blue Banisters” may lack the majesty of “Norman Fucking Rockwell” or the commercial brilliance of “Born To Die,” but it offers a rare glimpse of an artist securing his legacy, one song at a time.
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