Lana Del Rey’s ‘Blue Banisters’ is lyrical heaven, her best work to date

Photo of the Lana Del Rey album cover
Universal Music/Courtesy

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Grade: 4.5/5.0

Just seven months since the quarantine release of Chemtrails over the Country Club and Lana Del Rey is back again — this time stronger than ever. Blue Banisters marks her seventh studio album and is an obvious amalgamation of Del Rey’s past, present and future. Combining her classic, reverb-drowned vocals with her more current, dialed-back production, the record grabs listeners’ attention through Del Rey’s impressive musicality but forces them to stick around through her ever-expanding knack for songwriting and lyricism.

Dealing with her fair share of controversy over the past two years — from the infamous “Question for the culture” Instagram manifesto to an unfortunate lace face mask at a Barnes and Noble book signing (yes, you heard right) — Del Rey’s career and reputation seemed to be on the downfall. Yet, in the following months with the release of a critically acclaimed record and an apparent star-image-reset, fans and casual observers alike have become well prepared for a second-coming of Lana – and She has risen.

Kicking off the album with “Textbook,” Del Rey’s vocals are put on full display as she sings “I guess you could call it textbook/ I was lookin’ for the father I wanted back,” coupled with a singular bass guitar. A song about Los Angeles, childhood nostalgia and daddy issues, the content of the track is quintessentially Lana without feeling played-out or tired. The song’s minimalistic production pulls focus toward Del Rey’s outstanding vocal performance, with slips in and out of falsetto and emotion-induced tonal imperfections only adding to the impassioned feat.

Similarly on “Arcadia,” instrumentation of only delicate piano and strings allows the listener to fall deep within Del Rey’s love story. Filled to the brim with metaphors of freeways and maps of LA, Del Rey belts lines such as, “All roads that lead to you as integral to me as arteries/ That pump with blood that flows straight to the heart of me” and “I can’t sleep at home tonight, send me a Hilton Hotel/ Or a cross on the hill, I’m a lost little girl.” Del Rey’s most impressive lyrical work to date, the song holds the ability to be played over and over again, with listeners finding new easter eggs within each and every listen.

One of the best songs, if not the best song on the tracklist is “Dealer,” featuring Miles Kane of the British rock duo The Last Shadow Puppets. Del Rey and Kane’s voices blend perfectly together, with Kane’s rockier creative influence seemingly luring Del Rey out of her typical alternative-folk bubble. With Del Rey near-screaming the lyrics “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 track is angry and heartbroken, yet beautiful and honest all at the same time.

The album’s closing track “Sweet Carolina” is yet another one of Del Rey’s most skillful lyrical ventures yet. Cowritten by Robert and Chuck Grant — Del Rey’s father and sister — the song is a joyful, humor-filled conclusion to the record. With the instantly memeable lines, “‘Crypto forever,’ scrеams your stupid boyfriend/ Fuck you, Kevin” Del Rey proves to be in with the times all while holding onto her classic, romanticized songwriting style. Bringing the unquestionably emotional record to a close, the song serves as a near-perfect send-off for the 15 song track list.

While Blue Banisters is a definitively long listen (one hour and two minutes to be exact), it by no means feels in need of editing or trimming down. Each individual song on the record has its own purpose, and Del Rey’s vocal and lyrical abilities shine throughout the album’s entirety. Entering a new era of Lana — one of minimal production, near-unaltered vocals and entrancing songwriting galore — the LP is Del Rey’s best work yet and is certainly worth being thrown on repeat for months, even years to come.

Ian Fredrickson covers music. Contact him at [email protected].