Jillian Banks, known by her stage name Banks, began posting music on Soundcloud in 2012 before she finally signed her first record deal a year later. After her first official single under a record label was played on BBC Radio 1, Banks’ popularity rose.
Soon afterward, Banks released two EPs, one called “Fall Over” through IAMSOUND Records (home to Florence + the Machine and Charli XCX) and another entitled “London” through Harvest Records. The EPs received extremely positive reviews from both critics and fans. Praised by the likes of Ellie Goulding herself, Banks seemed to be on the rise to fame.
Coincidentally, Banks’ popularity rose even more after her track “Waiting Game” was featured in a Victoria’s Secret holiday ad campaign. The track was written by Banks and British musician Sohn and produced by Sohn as well. Of all of the songs Banks had released so far, “Waiting Game” was probably her best. The beginning vocals were at once haunting and intriguing. The addition of Banks’ sad lyrics about staying in a relationship in which both people are busy with industry life, plus a bit of heavy bass made the song a hit. As far as foundations go, this song provided a strong one.
Flash forward to 2014, and Banks’ first full-length effort is just as solid. Featuring all of the tracks from the London EP and two off of her “Fall Over” EP, each track is an electronic soundscape driven by hip-hop and R&B beats, a style Banks has become known for.
Despite being a product of a minor branch of Capitol Records (Harvest Records, created in England in 1969), the album is also rife with big names from the music industry. Sohn and English songwriter-record producer Justin Parker, who is known for penning Rihanna’s hit “Stay” and numerous tracks on Lana Del Rey’s eponymous first album, both lend their talents to the production of Banks’ debut.
However, Banks is not just singing someone else’s lyrics over someone else’s production. The 26-year-old actually has writing credits for every track on her debut. Banks is known for saying that the music she creates is very personal to her, and it shows in her lyrics. Whether she is admitting that she’s too crazy to love like she does in “You Should Know Where I’m Coming From” or scorning a man too foolish to realize what a great woman he had in the title track “Goddess,” Banks proves herself as an artist.
Her combination of shaky high notes and low crooning mixes well together within each track. Even more importantly, none of the songs on this album feature any other artists. As the album plays out, it’s all Banks, all the time. This shows a sense of confidence that most new artists lack.
None of the tracks on “Goddess” are broken up by added verses from rappers, nor are they shared with female artists offering a catchy hook. By showcasing her own talent without the help of a big name attached to every other song, Banks is showing her fans that this is a real outlet for her — she’s looking for more than a few radio hits.
Banks’ breathy, ethereal vocals coupled with her hyper-personal, relationship-focused lyrics make the album relatable. Additionally, the blend of synths and heavy bass on most of the tracks add punch to each song, which in turn makes the album more memorable as a whole.
The album doesn’t just feature downtempo songs about heartbreak, however. More upbeat tracks like “Beggin For Thread” and “Fall Over” break up the slower tracks on the album quite well. Rounding everything out are the mid-tempo tracks “Warm Water” and “Before I Met You.” Amidst so many slow songs, it’s nice to have these few breaks that Banks offers. Due to the structure of “Goddess,” none of the tracks blur together. Each has its own identity, which is something that’s hard to accomplish when the songs share common subject matter. However, Banks should add thematic variety in her sophomore effort if she doesn’t want to bore her fans.
As for growth, Banks’ debut does not stray from the theme or architecture of her previous EPs. Many of the songs are still slow and heavily influenced by electronica and R&B, just as they were in her earlier releases. Although nothing noticeably new is brought to the table, this album does serve as a strong foundation for Banks. Forming a distinct, personal sound is important in the early stages of any music career, and she has definitely accomplished this. Despite many comparisons to her counterparts in the alternative R&B genre, such as The Weeknd and FKA Twigs, Banks proves that she has a voice of her own and is a musical force to be reckoned with.