“If this is the end, I want a boyfriend,” Lana Del Rey sings on “Black Bathing Suit,” one of the standout tracks on her eighth album, Blue Banisters. The pop balladeer has long mooned over romantic apocalypse, but with this collection, she gets to set explorations of doomed relationships against the backdrop of global crisis. At their best, Del Rey’s ruminations in an emergency extend her range on all levels — lyrics, vocals, dynamics, and candor.
Throughout her prolific, decade-long career, Del Rey has leaned into nostalgic fantasy with a faded silver-screen sheen — writing Gatsby cosplay, tragic Hollywood heroine apologias, and references to the unhinged end of the 1960s that make it sound like it happened yesterday. (Didn’t it?)
But on Blue Banisters, Del Rey weaves the relatable banal aspects of our present moment into her sad-chic tapestry. “Grenadine, quarantine, I like you a lot/ It’s L.A., ‘Hey’ on Zoom, Target parking lot,” she sings on “Black Bathing Suit,” before clever and moving lines about lockdown weight gain and the tension and comfort of insulation/isolation. The song opens with cawing crows and ultimately spins out with a ragged, black-humored call-and-response that wouldn’t be out of place on a Fiona Apple record. “The girls are runnin’ ’round in summer dresses/ With their masks off and it makes me so happy,” she later sighs on “Violets for Roses.”
Perhaps the tenor of the outside world finally matches the drama of Del Rey’s interior. Whatever inspired the shift, the inclusion of the current day has expanded the songwriter’s scope beyond obsessive straight romances and “sometimes submissive or passive roles” of women in those relationships (a source of much distress and discourse).