On October 22nd, 2021, Lana Del Rey released her 8th studio album, titled Blue Banisters after the second track on the record. It received much acclaim and many have been calling it some of Lana Del Rey’s best work.
The album was released only 7 months after her 7th album, ‘Chemtrails Over the Country Club.’ The sister album has therefore been subject to many comparisons.
Tatiana Tenreyro, a columnist and music critic for AVClub.com, went as far as to definitively call it the better of the two albums. And it appears that that has become the general consensus. The album also received great reviews from Rolling Stone, Spin, and Clash Magazine
It was also complimented for its raw honesty and how it reveals Del Rey’s vulnerability more than ever before.
It is a 15 track, nearly 62 minute, record and has as much complex lyricism as to be expected from a Lana Del Rey album. Initially, the size and complexity of a project like this can seem rather intimidating. However, the soft and soothing vocals and its incredible cohesiveness make it a surprisingly easy listen.
Textbook is the first song on the album and it sounds like it was designed to be. It opens with a soft but deep beat that prepares the listener for the album. The song is called “textbook” because the story in it could be considered basic or already done like out of a “textbook.” In this song, Del Rey addresses an unnamed lover, to whom she speaks vulnerably and truthfully about her own emotions.
She also hints at problems with her father; a theme throughout much of Del Rey’s discography. In the chorus, she talks about being at a Black Lives Matter march, “All the things I couldn’t want for [my father], I screamed for them”, she sings. This is her describing how she is tired and wants change to happen already. She says she doesn’t want to be sad anymore. She doesn’t want to have to miss her lover and her father anymore. She compares losing her lover to losing her father but you can tell that she has distance from it. She has healed.
Blue Banisters, the namesake of the album perfectly describes what the album is about. It shows that Lana has been through pain but she is finally healing.
Blue Banisters are a metaphor. The banisters represent Del Rey and her personality. In the song, a man comes into her life and says that he will do things for her like fix her weathervane, give her children, and help her take away her pain. But only if he can “paint my banisters blue” says Del Rey. Lana Del Rey has used the color blue to describe both happiness and sadness throughout her discography making the meaning of blue banisters intentionally ambiguous. I believe that she is describing how he made her happier but eventually her changing for him to be what he wanted didn’t actually satisfy him and he left. But she describes in the song that eventually, with the help of her friends, she has healed.
Arcadia starts by beautifully describing how Del Rey feels she is connected to Los Angeles, the city she once dreamed of living in. She personifies different parts of the city to show her deep emotional connection with it. This includes the first line of the song, “My body is a map of L.A.”. Later in the song, Del Rey makes the point that she is lost, not because she lost Los Angeles, but because the people who made Los Angeles her home betrayed her. She describes how she is trying to find her way to Arcadia, a city outside of Los Angeles. But ultimately we can tell that she is ok because she sings, “So i’m leavin’ with nothing but laughter, and this town” showing the audience that even if Los Angeles isn’t her home anymore it will always be a part of her.
Lana has said that the song was originally a poem and she is considering putting it in her upcoming poetry book titled Behind the Iron Gates – Insights from an Institution. The song has a distinct Americana tinge that is connected to the next track.
Interlude -The Trio
This song is a brief 1:14 long instrumental. It ties perfectly into Arcadia by continuing the Americana theme but it is much more thrashing and intense. It transitions the album into the upcoming upbeat section.
Black Bathing Suit
Black Bathing Suit is Lana describing how she doesn’t care anymore what the world thinks of her. The theme of the bathing suit most likely is a call back to when she was “fat-shamed” after being spotted in her bathing suit on vacation. She is saying that she wants to be able to be vulnerable and be herself and not be judged by the world. She sings, “the only thing that still fits me is this black bathing suit” what this means is that even if things have changed she is still the same person and she still feels the same way.
In this song, Del Rey also talks about the way that the pandemic has affected her. She describes how she was only able to see her friends over Zoom and in a “Target parking lot”
If You Lie Down With Me
This song is a beautifully sincere love ballad sung to a past lover. In the chorus, she sings, “And don’t say you’re over me when we both know that you ain’t”. She juxtaposes the calling she is making to her partner with the apparent rejection she is receiving. She describes how she wants to do things like ride horses, dance, twirl, get picked up at eight, etc.. This leaves the audience in the dark for the moment on where the relationship actually stands.
The first line of the song is, “Lets keep it simple, babe”. Which is exactly what she did with this song. She laid out her emotions simply, not shrouded in her usual cryptic lyricism. She asks to be allowed to show her emotions and be sad if she wants to be sad. My favorite line in this song is, “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”. This is in reference to the artist Picasso’s “blue period”, a time where the artist painted numerous paintings in a monochrome blue to reflect his own sadness. This is also a reflection on the criticism LDR herself has experienced because she makes “too much” sad music.
Violets for Roses
This song has some of my favorite symbolism from Lana Del Rey. She sings in the song how she has finally gotten over her ex, “And, boy, does it feel sweet”. She also sings “You made me trade my violets for roses”. What this metaphor means is that her ex-love made her trade her violets, a symbol of herself, for roses, a symbol of romance. Simply put he put himself first and tried to make her change for him.
Dealer is the only song on this album that has substantial vocal contributions from another artist. Miles Kane repeats a line throughout the song. He sings to Lana, “Please don’t try to find me through my dealer, he won’t pick up his phone” letting the audience know that he has vanished and he doesn’t want to be found.
In this song, Lana Del Rey gives some of the rawest and emotionally charged vocal performances of her discography. Belting out the lines, “I don’t wanna live, I don’t wanna give you nothing”. To me this line symbolizes how Lana Del Rey isn’t sad about losing her love anymore; she’s angry. She’s angry because he treated her so poorly but she loved him anyway.
The song Thunder describes Lana Del Rey’s ex-lover. The song compares Lana’s ex to thunder, lightning, and fire all of them can be extremely beautiful but also very dangerous. These three symbols also are extremely fierce representing the passion in their relationship. In this song what she is saying is that even though she loves her ex like how she loves lightning, thunder, and fire she knows that she can’t get too close because she will get hurt. Her comparisons also give an insight into her lover’s persona more than any other song on this record.
In the song, Lana Del Rey describes the trials and tribulations that she has experienced throughout her life. She compares herself to a wildflower because she has always been able to hold on and survive. She sings in the song, “Baby, I run like a wildflower I live on sheer willpower”.
Nectar of the Gods
Nectar of the Gods is a classic Lana Del Rey love song. Lana creates beautiful imagery to describe how much she was in love but she also talks about the pain involved. She sings about her partner driving her crazy; in a good way. She sings, “I used to dream about people like you, now I don’t know why”. This lyric clearly explains the theme of this album; there was love, then heartbreak, and finally healing.
The placement of songs on LDR albums is always extremely intentional. So that is why I believe this song has more to it than what you find in the lyrics. She sings about someone who appears to be a partner in the song but given the linear storytelling (and her describing getting over her ex in the previous song), I think it could be someone else. In my opinion, Del Rey could be singing to her father. One of the lines that I believe hints to this is, “But you never cared about my name”. I think this could be describing her father because LDR’s real name is Elizabeth “Lizzy” Woolridge Grant so that is what her father would know her as. He wouldn’t care about Lana Del Rey, he would care about Lizzy Grant.
Some fans have speculated that Lana Del Rey is singing to a future child. I personally do not agree with these theories but it is up for interpretation.
This song somewhat supports the motherhood theory in Living Legend. She creates the imagery of pushing someone called Angelina on a swing. The lyric that confirms this theory the most is, “And when you’re scared, I’ll be right here You feel afraid, mommy is there”. I personally believe the theory that this song relates to Lana’s longing for motherhood because it is so explicitly stated. But, I do not think this supports the theories surrounding Living Legend. I think she put these songs next to each other on the album because she is describing the family she wants through describing the family she was raised in.
The song could also be describing Lana’s younger sister. However, this makes the usage of “Angelina” in the line, “I push you high, Angelina,” confusing because Lana’s sister is not named or known to be called “Angelina”.
Lana Del Rey has confirmed that this song is about her younger sister Chuck Grant. Lana sings about the love her and her family have for her little sister. She also exposes her nurturing and protective nature. She sings about hating her sister’s boyfriend in the classic older sister way. This song is the happiest song on the album and in my opinion, it is a great song to start with if you are not a LDR fan.