Words About Music
The world of dark, heady, cloudy, trip-hop influenced R&B has its share of excellent artists, even as our iPods and computers become saturated with the vastly-aging sound. I am a big fan of The Weeknd and FKA twigs, as well as artists like Yung Lean and Spooky Black that take it to more experimental and eccentric territories. The latest artist to come along and try their hand at the sound is American singer Jillian Banks, otherwise known as just Banks. The name of her debut album is “Goddess” (take that to mean whatever you like) and it’s a full hour long, something pretty ballsy for a pop singer. Not the fact that it’s an hour, but the fact that she’s only released EPs up until this point and going for a full hour on a debut is both expecting a lot from your fans and implying that your album is good enough to be an hour long.
Well, “Goddess” is not good enough to be an hour long. There are some good songs on here, but it would be much more consistent as a 10-track 40-minute album than a 14-track 60-minute album. It’s pretty hit-and-miss for the most part. The music of Banks is sort of an amalgamation of Lorde, Lana del Rey, and FKA twigs. The only problem is that Banks doesn’t have the songwriting chops of Lorde, the personality of Lana, or the musical range of twigs. There’s some excellent production on here from the likes of SOHN and Shlohmo, but a lot of the songs eventually blend together. Banks doesn’t really offer anything to me that the past year’s best R&B and pop records don’t already offer. I don’t need this album in my life because it’s average compared to the year’s best R&B records.
That’s not to say that Banks isn’t at least decent. If she put this album out two or three years ago I’d probably enjoy it more. But as musical evolution continues, trip-hop influenced R&B is sort of one the decline at this point. Those that are still making music like this successfully are either established names (The Weeknd, Lana del Rey) or go about it in a thought-provoking and experimental manner (FKA twigs, How to Dress Well). Banks sits right in the middle. She’s probably at least mildly famous at this point, but she’s going to need to change her style a bit if she wants to cash in on pop trends. You know what that means? Throw some trap-style hi-hats and rolling snares in there! Get Lex Luger and TNGHT and Rustie on this record.
At the end of the day, “Goddess” is a victim of its own length. You can listen to the first half of the album and get a pretty good idea of what the second half sounds like. I wouldn’t say this is a bad album because a good portion of it is definitely listenable, but it doesn’t really offer me anything that I haven’t heard before. It’s just another singer cashing in on a sound that hit its peak in 2012 and is fading. It’s unfortunate that Banks is late to the game and perhaps even more unfortunate that musical trends start and end so abruptly (who remembers witch house?). This album isn’t a failure, but it’s not spectacular. If you’re waiting on the next Adele/Lorde/Drake/The Weeknd/whatever album, then this might tide you over. No promises, though.
SCORE – 5.5
FAVORITE TRACKS – Waiting Game, Brain, You Should Know Where I’m Coming From, Fuck Em Only We Know, Drowning, Begging for Thread