It is hard to describe an album like “Goddess,” as it seems to tear emotion out from under the heaviest of personalities. Jillian Banks, otherwise known as Banks, hails from Los Angeles. Her nominations for the BBC’s The Sound of 2014 and MTV’s Brand New for 2014 awards might have earned her some recognition, but her name is still quite underground. In an interview with the BBC, Banks revealed that she taught herself how to play music to cope with a period of depression. The fact that she kept her musical talent a secret until graduating college contrasts surprisingly with the dark honesty of her lyrics.
The 27-year-old’s soulful debut album, simply titled “Goddess,” has not received the acknowledgment it rightfully deserves. The hour-long album is more of an experience than a pop, R&B, or alternative compilation. Her sound can be categorized as trip hop, which is defined by Merriam-Webster as “electronic dance music usually based on a slow hip-hop beat and incorporating hypnotic synthesized and prerecorded sounds.” Her fusion of dark, heavy, tantalizing rhythm and blues with electronic melodies separates Banks from other pop artists. Her powerful, soothing vocals are incredibly unique but could be compared to those of pop and R&B icons Aaliyah, Adele, and Fiona Apple.
Banks’s absence from social media leaves most of her true identity a mystery. Yet after sampling a few of her 14 tracks, listeners might feel like they know her and can relate to her experiences of heartbreak, depression, and loneliness.
Banks’s powerful charisma distinguishes her from today’s platinum pop artists. When she sings, she reveals her inner emotions and secrets – and she doesn’t seeming desperate or ignorant, but instead, human. With her uprightness, Banks has provided a new and improved version of the classic break-up song. The themes of her songs do not wither in self-pity or put her above others. Instead of writing and singing upbeat melodies with a message of victimization and entitlement, Banks reveals her feelings in an incredibly relatable way. In “Goddess,” she inspires: “’Cause she’s a goddess, finally saw this/And now you’re back, trying to claim her/’Cause she’s gone and now without her/You’re all alone, ’cause she’s a goddess.”
Her message is one of practicality and feminism – with metaphors of beauty and worth sprinkled in – in a fusion that is far from cliché. Up-and-coming Banks soothes, distracts, and entertains listeners while relating to them on topics that every young adult has faced.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.