One of the highlight moments of Lana Del Rey’s new album, Blue Banisters, is the song Black Bathing Suit. The album that came out on the 22nd of October this year continues the singer’s melancholic ride, yet still manages to bring something new to the table. Lana Del Rey is an artist who manages to re-invent herself with each of her eight records, constantly switching things up and evolving, even if a lot of the progress isn’t as flashy or visible to the outside eye. Those who follow her career closely though, know how prolific and hardworking she is, and that her perspective is not set on only one point of view – it keeps evolving and changing according to the current state of the world.
So it is not that surprising that the new album does reflect the pandemic times a lot. For something so significant and universal, it’d be strange if it didn’t. Even when we are dealing with an artist who, for a big portion of her career, used a persona and settings that evoked and centered around the past. In a way, it was a good stepping stone for Lana Del Rey. The nostalgia of the things long gone was a key element that would spice up her melancholic tunes and add yet another layer of alluring magic. It also aligned with the image of a person she choose to represent – somewhat distant, sometimes self-mythologizing, always miserable. But, on recent records, we see a change from that course. The first signs of happiness started appearing way back on Lust For Life, then 2019 brought the brilliant Norman Fucking Rockwell, which did subtly but very significantly reflect on the climate crisis and the source of anxiety and discomfort that it evokes in part of the population. Blue Banisters furthers this, and Lana Del Rey has become more human than ever, more present than ever. The result is often mesmerizing – the combination of past and present, personal and distant, creates a mosaic for us to decipher. We have to look closely and wonder and pick what is true and what is fiction, what applies to us, and what doesn’t.
An additional point
Black Bathing Suit feels like one of the album’s core pieces – it is the fifth song in the tracklist, following immediately after the Interlude, and starting with a sample of crows singing. It is something that Lana does not overuse, apart from her first album Born To Die, so it instantly grabs the listener’s attention. The very first lines mention quarantine, which anchors the track in current time and space. The singer then continues, “and if this is the end, I want a boyfriend” and it is a sign of yet another newer trend that she picked up – that is, not taking herself as seriously, often including little jokes or irony. If you were not that well acquainted with her progress, you might miss these moments or think she’s being dead serious. But those little details do matter because they make her character so much more multi-dimensional. Not only is she able to convey the wider spectrum of moods and emotions now, but her vocal delivery is also constantly progressing and she tries new things on each record. Be it the whispery lines on the opener of her previous album, or when she almost screams in the song Dealer from this new outing. It is very refreshing and can break the monotony that her music can sometimes fall into.
“ It is very refreshing and can break the monotony that her music can sometimes fall into. ”
What doesn’t really change is the slow tempo of the majority of her songs. She is skillfully placing the faster tracks far apart so the album can keep the listener’s attention better. Black Bathing Suit is one of those faster songs, though it starts off slow. It is most likely one of the first tracks you will notice on your initial listen, because it is quite different from the rest of them, in a good way of course. Once the song picks up, it gets incredibly catchy, yet still contains many switch-ups and surprises (which is a good characteristic of the whole record). At times it feels like there are four different melodies and four different songs stitched together, but strangely it doesn’t feel unnatural or forced at all, just extremely intriguing. In addition to all that, the lyrics are also interesting, probably referencing pandemic-influenced weight gain.
Again, in this context, it is clear that when Lana Del Rey sings that “The only thing that still fits me is this black bathing suit,” it is an exaggeration and is not to be taken literally. More so, it’s a kind of self-deprecating humor probably meant as a response to the many untasteful articles and critiques that she had to face and deal with over the course of her career, again intensifying in the last few years. After all, when Lana Del Rey first announced the inception of this album (back then it was supposed to be named Rock Candy Sweet and come out sooner this year) it was stated that it’d be a direct response to all this backslash. But perhaps it is a good thing that somewhere along the way, she changed her mind, and the focus of the album shifted a lot. Although it is for sure Lana’s most personal album, and they're definitely are those moments of defiance, its reach and protentional are much wider.
The song still features the classic themes of longing and wishing for someone to see us and accept us as we really are. But it is also witty and cleverly structured. And when Lana starts to almost scream at the end and her voice breaks just a little bit, as if she loses her composure for a while, it is pure bliss, a real highlight of another great record of hers.
With that said, I rate the Lana Del Ray's Blue Banisters album as follows: