“Tell me what you want from me. I think you need a weaker girl, kinda like the girl I used to be,” sings Banks on “Weaker Girl,” with a voice that is both reflective and self-assured. The song is from The Altar, Banks’ new album due September 30th on Harvest Records, and embodies a new kind of strength for the artist–not one that she didn’t have before, but that she’s now embracing in full.
“This is me looking in the mirror and being present in the moment,” she says. “Not being scared of change, and not being scared of my own strength and my own power.”
When Banks broke out with 2014’s Goddess, she became the world’s most blogged about artist, with a voice compared to the likes of Fiona Apple, Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill, and a sound that took alt-pop and R&B to electrifying new places. With every song written and controlled creatively by Banks, The Altar pushes those edges even further, and pulls no punches. It’s an inspiring confrontation of complicated love, pain, and self-doubt.
“I pushed myself. I pushed my boundaries. I found my own strengths while making this album,” she says. “I found that when I needed a shoulder to lean on, I could be that shoulder for myself.”
The album opens with Banks alone on piano, her voice distant and reverberant. “And to think you would get me to the altar,” she sings on “Gemini Feed.” “Like I’d follow you around like a dog that needs water. But admit it you just wanted me smaller, if you woulda let me grow you coulda kept my love.” And then grow she does–the song swells with core-shaking beats, and her stirring voice turns resolute: “Open up your eyes.”
Nowhere is Banks’ fearless self-confrontation more evident than in “Fuck With Myself,” which Zane Lowe premiered in July as a Beats 1 “World Record.” “I fuck with myself more than anybody else,” sings Banks, cutting through propulsive beats and ominous grooves. In the powerful, jarring video she dances and struggles with contortionists wearing her image–it’s hard to watch, but it has to be faced. “In the video I’m looking in a mirror, because it’s like looking at myself with open eyes. My hair is not in my face anymore. I feel less scared to be seen.”