During her previous III album tour Banks was diagnosed with the autoimmune condition Hashimoto’s Disease, the consequences of which lead to her taking steroid shots to enable her to perform. Overcoming and getting to grips with this is what inspired the album’s snake-themed name – “Snakes represent rebirth and the shedding of one’s skin,” the singer explains “They just move on, and I think that’s what life is about.”
One thing that is undeniable about Banks is that her voice is an absolute powerhouse, and Serpentina sees some new vocal styles for the artist, particularly on the rapturous “Holding back”, with its Nao-like pitched-up vocals. The singer grew up with ’00s/’90s pop and R&B, citing them as an influences, this can be heard clearly on songs like “Meteorite”, “Fuck Love” and “Deadend”, which are all robust pop tracks. However, for an album that was created off the back of such a troubling time, its overall themes are very much similar to the singer’s past releases. It doesn’t feel like there is anything very strikingly different.
As we move into the second half of the album there are a series of slower ballads, which would not be out of place on a circa 2004 era Christina Aquilera or Usher album. Closer “I Still Love You” is an especially simple and understated track, and written by Banks over a decade ago at just 20 years old. Expect to hear it on a rom-com montage any day now.
On paper, Serpentina is everything you need in a pop record – there are heart-felt love songs and catchy floor fillers, but not all of them are killer. It may even be her most purely pop release to date – like a bass-heavy Christina Aguilera’s Stripped, but without taking the same risks. Not quite pop perfection, but it has its moments.