By Aaliyah Hamilton
The first thing that comes to mind for most when BANKS is mentioned is usually the financial institution that holds their money. But for me, I think of the dark alternative R&B artist that I feel like everyone should know about.
Jillian Banks, or better known as BANKS, is an artist that I’ve been following since 2017, but she has been making music far before that. As a native Californian, she started songwriting at only 15 years old, when a friend gave her a keyboard to help distract her amid her parents’ divorce. Fast Forward 10 years later, as a fresh USC grad, BANKS began to post the songs she had in her writing vault onto Soundcloud. One of those songs just so happened to be “Before I Ever Met You,” which started gaining attention after Zane Lowe from BBC Radio 1 caught wind of it.
Since then, she has released four studio albums and even went on to open for The Weeknd on two of his tours, as she has a very similar sound to his, especially with his earlier albums. Her debut album, Goddess, was released in 2014, and her sound is consistent throughout the entirety of it. The intro track, “Alibi,” intrigues you with heavy synths, thanks to electronic artist SOHN’s infamous touch, and gives you a taste of what direction the album is heading. The synths and bassline alone were enough to captivate me, so much so that her sultry yet powerful vocals caught me off guard in the best way possible. After being left in a trance-like state following “Alibi,” the title track “Goddess” fills your eardrums immediately after. “Goddess” was the first song I heard that introduced me to BANKS’ creative mind. While the track is quite ominous, it is lyrically uplifting in a sense as she sings from a third-person perspective about someone who had taken their previous partner, who is deemed a goddess, for granted. According to BANKS, the goddess-like essence that the partner referenced in the song possesses is “somebody who is 100 percent and embraces every feeling they have, whether it’s dark or whether they feel fragile or strong. It’s someone who just thinks for herself,” which is such a moving message for women or anyone really. I could talk about this album and each track on it for eternity, as I can come back to it at any point in my life and it still resonates with me.
With a debut as dynamic as Goddess, it can be hard to follow up, but she managed to do so as a true artist would. She evolves gracefully through each album while still maintaining a sound that has become her signature. Her emotions are displayed in such a raw manner within her voice and songwriting abilities that I can nearly feel whatever emotion she is portraying to a T.
I had the privilege of seeing her live back in July for her Serpentina Tour, named after her most recently released album. In all honesty, it was the best concert I have been to so far, and it is going to be extremely hard to top. The best part was that I managed to get front-row seats to the show. All those synths that had once just played through my ears suddenly infiltrated my whole body, which was an experience like no other. Her stage presence captured the personality that she created through her music perfectly.
I think anyone who is a fan of experimental R&B or unique lyrical content would be extremely fond of BANKS. All it took for me was one listen to fall in love with her style, and I’m sure others would too.
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