Banks: Heartbreak & Self-Discovery

It’s 2014, and I happen to stumble upon a playlist on Soundcloud. The playlist has songs from a variety of artists, but one artist stands out to me with her unapologetic attitude. She goes by the name of Banks.

It’s now the summer of 2017, and I’m at Governors Ball watching her perform. She shares the stage with two dancers, covered in black mesh from head to toe, who are clinging to her and pulling her away. She starts off with a poem that reflects her personal battle with depression.

While performing each song, the 28-year old Los Angeles native uses a different tone of voice. Banks, whose first name is Jillian, speaks about self-discovery, heartbreak, femininity and her own strengths throughout her music. Her hooks include words like “Ima need a bad motherf*cker like me.” Her persona includes mostly all black attire with strong winged eye-liner.

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During her teenage years, she went through a rough time with her family, and the only way she could cope was though writing. As a teenager, she found inspiration by listening to Fiona Apple and Lauryn Hill. Song writing helped her create something empowering when feeling helpless.

“Mother Earth,” which is the eighth track from her recent album, The Altar, was partially inspired by the unrealistic expectations placed on women. She mentions how society, the world, and the music business make women feel. It made her feel sick and powerless at one point. Her sister had recently had a baby girl, which sparked the feeling of being scared for her niece and wanting to shield her from these feelings. According to Banks, this song means the most to her. 

“It has a big message that I believe in and I think women need to f*cking hear. I wrote that because I needed to hear it,” she said in a 2016 interview with Harper's Bazaar. “There was this weight on my back, and sometimes the best gift to myself is to write songs that I wish somebody would tell me. I needed to say those things in order to believe them even more, and now every time I listen to it, it brings me back to that center.” It has lyrics that include: “Follow me, and when you fall, follow me.” It’s as if Banks is a healer who wants to give off her energy and hold the hands of women that are feel the same way.

On “Gemini Feed,” she addresses a boyfriend who seems to be assertive and controlling: “To think you would get me to the altar,/ like I’d follow you around like a dog that needs water,/ if you would have let me grow,/you could have kept my love.”

In “F**k With Myself” she takes away the power from manipulators. The music video shows Banks toying with a bald mannequin of herself and dancers wearing masks of her face. Her visuals showcase religious iconography along with spiritual imagery, which reflect her desire to convey something otherworldly.

Banks utilizes her platform to address complicated relationships, self discovery, and hardships women go through today. Her music creates an atmosphere and a mantra for her fans. The Altar is an album that reclaims a women’s right to be as aggressive as she wants to be. Banks reminds us that every woman can be queen of their own underworld.

“Weaker Girl” reminds me not to take any man’s nonsense, the soothing words of “Mother Earth” bring me back to my own calm place, and “27 hours” brings up a distant memory of a former lover who wasn't for me.

On my lowest days, I put on a Banks song, pick myself up and get ready to take on the day.