You may think that R&B singer BANKS has had a fair share of heartache in her life. Her love of music was actually derived from heartache, having discovered the keyboard in the wake of her parents’ divorce. It didn’t take long for a fan base to grow – largely amassed over the internet – which propelled BANKS to widespread fame within the alt/indie community. She’s toured internationally with The Weeknd as well as on her own, and has released two prior EPs Fall Over and London. At last, BANKS is set to release her full length album Goddess – and it’s as powerful and rousing as the title suggests.
The most remarkable feature of BANKS’ sound is undeniably, her vocals. The various pitches of her voice reminds you of other artists, yet her own distinct sound can be heard too. In Alibi she’s a gentle crooner with a beautiful falsetto, singing over an exotic beat. It’s clear that BANKS is going for a more low-key form of R&B, relying largely on studio- produced beats for that sultry vibe. Goddess is ghostly and soulful but also not as memorable. However, we ought to commend BANKS for her fierce attitude as she reflects on her empowerment post-breakup; it’s very reminiscent of Aaliyah, only more subdued. The ever-popular Waiting Game showcases BANKS in a more vulnerable side, yet she also manages to be sultry at the same time. The hums of her backing vocals definitely set a candlelight mood, as well as the contribution of low registered piano chords. It’s definitely one of the stronger tracks of the album, characterised by BANKS’ trademark tones and falsettos.
If we were to be blatantly honest, the majority of the tracks on the album follow a similar structure. Most of them kick off with a haunting, cooing introduction, followed by a subdued R&B beat. Then each layer of sound is strategically placed upon the other, until the track builds up to a marvellous crescendo. This formula applies to tracks such as Brain and Stick. While it works, it’s unfortunately predictable. But what BANKS has going for her is the raw emotion that she bleeds onto each track. Take This Is What It Feels Like, for example. While it does drag on for a bit, its sweeping strings and evocative harmonies make up for it. BANKS is a relatable character here, as she sings “when you saw I felt the same, you pulled away.” Or how about the raw and sombre piano ballad, You Should Know Where I’m Coming From – no auto-tune, no studio effects. Just BANKS and in all her powerful, heartfelt glory. The best part is the final chorus, where the layer of rumbling drums only heighten the intense pain she conveys. Truly a marvel.
Even if not all the songs are spot on, there are more than a few cherry picks. Begging For Thread is unapologetically clever, quirky and seductive – this track will surely get into your head even if the others don’t. It’s mainly due to BANKS’ perfectly tuned wails, which are both spooky and sultry at the same time. She laments on yet another love affair turned sour, cooing over dramatic synths and a steady pulsating beat. Someone New features just the acoustic guitar, complimenting the rougher tones of her voice. Essentially, it’s an ode to unconditional love in the form of a delicate lullaby. The gem of this track is that you can tell she’s both physically and emotionally investing into it. Exquisitely raw and personal, and it sends chills down your spine because you know that this is it, the real heartfelt deal. Granted, it’s simple and a little bare compared to the other tracks. But BANKS doesn’t hold back, and the fact that this song means something to her is enough to make it a standout.
At 26 years old, BANKS has penned an album reflecting on the highs and lows of love, as well as life in the spotlight. Each track is beautifully written with lyrics that not only mean a lot to her, but also to listeners who too have experienced similar scenarios. “Writing,” she says, “was the only way to feel empowered through my weaknesses.” No doubt after listening to Goddess, we’ll all feel a little bit empowered too.