Banks
III


3.0
good

Review

by PistolPete USER (50 Reviews)
July 16th, 2019 | 41 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Undoubtedly a smorgasbord of interesting ideas from an inspired and hungry pop artist, but fails to materialize into a cohesive and consistent package at the end of the day.

III is one of those albums that is agonizing to review. Banks may represent one of the few modern pop artists I follow with the same sort of attention I give to my rock/metal/hip-hop fetishes; a delicate, dark, and luring creature that artfully balances the concepts of innocence and vulnerability with confident, sticky (almost predatory) seduction. Since her emergence in the early 2010s, it’s been remarkably easy for a wide variety of music listeners to get on board with her style and direction. She was among the big wave of artists at that time fusing pop/R&B/hip-hop as it became more popular. Goddess was simultaneously a relatable deep-dive into the mind of a scorned and maturing woman learning that love is not always the pretty and beautiful thing it’s painted out to be; yet also fashioned itself as the embodiment of every man’s sultry sexual fantasies. She speaks to both sides. The Altar understood this as well, adding a welcome undertone of female empowerment into the mix on songs like single “Fuck With Myself” where Banks divulges the obsessive attention she gives to herself (both qualities and flaws). This is easy music to love and be excited about in a day and age where the filter held over pop has long been lifted and out has poured a plethora of empowering, honest, dark, and sometimes twisted lyrics. Perhaps though, this hype has all come at a cost, a cost that appears in the form of “high expectations” on poor Jillian. After a self-imposed hiatus post-Altar tour from feeling burnt out, she’s returned with maybe her most experimental offering to date. It’s hard to fault those of us that succumb to this anticipation because she’s always nailed that aforementioned balance up to this point. Her latest album is the first time that’s been called into question.

When III works, it is everything we waited three years for, the balance is perfect. Lead single “Gimme” is a dark banger of a track and could not have raised the hopes higher for this release. It rivals anything on Goddess and may be the most confident-sounding song of her career. Its fierce themes of getting what you want, sung over a throwback early 2000s synth wash is the quintessential version of her more playful, empowering side. Immediately after, she appeases the opposite side on “Contaminated”. This ballad feels tortured and sorrowful, sung with deep pain and grief over a love she knows needs to end, but keeps going because the two lovers almost revel in how tainted and contaminated it is. “Godless” is a song perhaps most akin to her earliest work, a simple yet effective breakup song about a rejected party who thought of the other person as their “god” and now is “godless”. And then there’s “The Fall”, a late-album stunner, with an interesting clash of acoustic guitar and haunting melodies that all get stomped on by smothering, distorted synths on the chorus similar to something Billie Eilish would perform. There’s another foray into a rap verse here too, something she briefly grazed on Altar’s absolute banger that was “Trainwreck”, and is yet another example of her many talents and versatility done right.

Too often does III falter though. Given that “Gimme” is the second track, the opener “Till Now” has to be either one of two things: a grandiose entrance, or a tantalizing lead-up to lay the ground for the single. It is neither. In fact, it feels instead like a prolonged noodling session and platform for Banks’ vocal acrobatics, stops far too abruptly and trips over itself, with “Gimme” essentially picking up the pieces afterward (“Nothing to see here folks! Enjoy the show now!”). It begs the questions as to why it exists at all. “Look What You’re Doing to Me” is an unfortunate result of Banks’ recent desire to experiment with several different vocal strategies and get out of her comfort zone more. In all likelihood, Banks deliberately wanted her voice to sound like she’s being driven insane, and maybe it’s too realistic of an impression" Her voice whines and cracks often in the opening moments with an auto-tuned glaze over gospel-like finger-snaps and claps; a horrid mix that is borderline unlistenable at points. And “Stroke”…has that deep voice that pops in to say “STROKE!” every so often. Banks often dabbles with altered and distorted vocal samples, this song I guess I’ll chalk up to Banks’ team being a bit too trigger-happy with them, ruining what could have been a competent song with too many unnecessary additions and tricks. And of the remaining tracks, it’s hard to avoid thinking that some ideas here are either failed attempts to conjure old magic (see “Propaganda”), or an underwhelming experiment (“Alaska”) that leave little to no impression.

I applaud pop artists for venturing out of their comfort zones. This genre requires people to do that, as for every pioneering idea, 100+ copies and parodies rush out the gate shortly after, drowning good ideas in a sea of their own filth relatively quickly. Banks is an artist who very much wants to still shock and awe audiences with new ideas and for that, III will undoubtedly keep her interesting and high-profile. Her surplus of adventurous vocal acrobatics and tonal alterations make for a listen that certainly won’t feel monotonous. But it’s hard to ignore the downward trajectory she seems to be on since the dark pop spectacle that was Goddess back in 2014. Littered with equally promising and awkward moments, III is about as mixed a bag as it gets.

III / 5, if you will.



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user ratings (55)
Chart.
3.3
great
related reviews

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Comments:Add a Comment 
PistolPete
July 16th 2019


5023 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

In reality, I’m still seeing her VIP style in Sept when she comes to Toronto and will gleefully take pictures with her to commemorate my fanboyness.

Is it too early to call “Gimme” soty?

Album’s more like a 3.2 if it means anything.

PunchforPunch
July 16th 2019


6953 Comments


soty material? I need to hear it.

DoofDoof
July 16th 2019


4833 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Gimme a 1



Ok then

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 16th 2019


31942 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

"Album’s more like a 3.2 if it means anything."

You don't say ;-)

Great review by the way, you captured exactly how I feel about this album.



Digging: Off With Their Heads - Be Good

PunchforPunch
July 16th 2019


6953 Comments


Nah bro, soty is still Cellophane by FKA Twigs for me. Good song though.

PistolPete
July 16th 2019


5023 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Sowing you should listen to Goddess her first album it’s better.

liam2404
July 16th 2019


1 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I’m confused about the comment saying she’s been on a downward trajectory since Goddess. You guys gave The Altar 4.9/5, .1 off a perfect score and higher than the 4.5 you gave her debut. How can you call that a downward trajectory? Idk, I feel like the narrative of this very forced and contradicts a lot of the comments you’ve made about her work in the past. I’m kinda baffled by the 3.0/5 tbh.

grannypantys
July 16th 2019


2037 Comments


Gimme is definitely the video of the year

PistolPete
July 16th 2019


5023 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah I wasn’t the one who reviewed her back in the day, they were staff reviews. My own ratings were not quite THAT high for those albums. Acad always gave out that token 4.9 rating XD

Nomos2
July 16th 2019


368 Comments


Good review man. Had no idea this was coming out. I was more a fan of her first album than the second, so this might work for me just as much as it doesn't. Excited to hear some more experimentation at least.

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 16th 2019


9962 Comments


This was a wonderful read and absolutely deserving of a feature. Great detail is provided to showcase what makes this record click but at the same time what holds it back. Honestly, those kinds of records--the ones occupying an average, 2.5-3.0 spectrum--can be more frustrating than downright poor or awful releases. At least you know with those types of albums that they're outwardly lacking, but more middle-ground products are vaguer in terms of what went wrong.

Digging: WRVTH - No Rising Sun

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2019


31602 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

honestly its a forced critic's narrative that shes on a downward trend... its too easy to write off a stylistic shift and more poppy songs that way... Bottom line is that both this and Altar have some songs that are much better than certain songs on Goddess.

alamo
July 16th 2019


1607 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

well written review, although i disagree



"fails to materialize into a cohesive and consistent package"



to me it's the exact opposite. while this doesnt reach the peaks of goddess or altar, i always find myself skipping many tracks on those albums while this flows perfectly. its like these songs hug each other



only track i disliked was "look what you're doing" but aside from that everything bangs and i think her sound translated well into a poppier direction with a cohesive and consistent package

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2019


18862 Comments

Album Rating: 2.1

"Forced narrative"



A decent majority of people think she's on a downward trend



bloc
July 16th 2019


57050 Comments


Send a man in, badda boom badda bing

Digging: Ultravox - Vienna

PistolPete
July 16th 2019


5023 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I would hope I'm not in the minority by thinking she's on a downward trend lol that was pretty much the sense I got outside this site too back when The Altar came out. Without a doubt there's some songs on The Altar and III that surpass Goddess. But Goddess was tighter on quality control by a landslide.



This was bound to be a pretty polarizing album given the three singles she led with, all very different from each other and pleasing/displeasing different fan groups. I think that's what spurred me to write something to begin with, so much to say.

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2019


31602 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

A decent majority of people think she's on a downward trend




yea, i dont know what this is meant to address... i'm not saying anything about what a majority take is (side note: this is currently her best reviewed album to date, and that is without deviant and my inflated review scores...) - - mainly bc you can manipulate a majority howrver you want... i just think a lot of people on here who probably listen to better music just kinda say 'damn i wish shed just make GODDESS II: THIS TIME IT'S PERSONAL' and I kinda like elements of the new stuff enough to say I'm glad that didnt happen...

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2019


18862 Comments

Album Rating: 2.1

I suppose people were expecting something different, mainly considering how Gimme turned out. Really, it only makes me appreciate The Altar a lot more since that took more risks.

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2019


31602 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

agree, for the most part - the altar was basically GODDESS III: SELECT DIFFICULTY

PistolPete
July 16th 2019


5023 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Lol love the Periphery references



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