Mirabella Miller ’23
When FKA Twigs released “Cellophane” last April after a three year musical lull (punctuated only by a feature on A$AP Rocky’s 2018 album “Testing”), fans and critics were shocked at how vastly the song varied from the rest of her discography. An artist known for her willingness to push boundaries, Twigs’ songs are often distinguishable by their overwhelming mechanical sound effects and other chaotic production elements that leave the listener reeling. In contrast, “Cellophane” is unadorned by extensive production, allowing her unhindered voice to whisper and soar to all of its peaks and valleys.
Twigs’ power lies not in her lyrics, but her delivery. She has a way of infusing even the simplest of words with meaning and power, which she does expertly throughout “Cellophane.” On the bridge, she sings “And I, just want to feel you’re there / And I don’t want to have to share our love / I try, but I get overwhelmed / When you’re gone I have no one to tell,” as if saying the words is physically hurting her, or as if she’s crying. The emotion is raw and vivid as she begs the central question on the chorus: “Why won’t you do it for me? / When all I do is for you?”
Twigs stayed true to her pattern of releasing visual accompaniment to her songs with “Cellophane,” which was accompanied by a music video depicting her performing an extremely complex pole dancing routine, executed so flawlessly that it is hard to believe she took up the art only a year ago. In an interview, she revealed that she began learning how to pole dance purely to include in it in the “Cellophane” music video, which she had envisioned long before the song was conceptualized and recorded. The pole morphs into a vine as she climbs higher and higher until she is knocked down by a robotic version of herself. She falls into what is presumably the underworld, where she is healed by a group of women. This story of an epic fall and rebirth directly connects with the name of the album: “MAGDALENE.” In the New Testament portion of the Bible, Mary Magdalene was said to have been one of Jesus’ most loyal followers and also a repentant sinner. After her healing, she dedicated her life to spreading the word of Jesus. She is also regarded as the first to witness his resurrection. Twigs portrays herself as Mary Magdalene, but instead of witnessing Jesus’ rebirth, she’s witnessing her own.
The power of “Cellophane” unquestionably lies in its vulnerability, but the strength of “holy terrain” (the next single, released in early September) lies in its adaptability, showcasing Twigs’ ability to shine regardless of genre. This single is a collaboration with Future, who lends a verse with substantial depth that adds body to the song. “holy terrain” finds Twigs interrogating a potential partner over a heavily trap-influenced beat. She details what she wants in a partner, singing “My love is so bountiful / For a man who can follow his heart / And not get bound by his boys and his chains.” On the chorus, however, she expresses her wariness at the idea of opening herself up to someone and trusting them with her emotions. “Will you still be there for me / Now I’m yours to obtain? / Now my fruits are for taking / And your fingers are stained / Do you still think I’m beautiful / When you light me in flames?”
The music video for “holy terrain” showcases Twigs’ dancing prowess. She actually started out as a backup dancer, performing in many a music video for other artists before creating music of her own. In the video, she performs intricate choreography in a barren desert while an apocalyptic thunderstorm rages overhead. About halfway through the video, night falls, and the scene glows orange as she continues dancing by firelight. At this point, the dancing becomes more sensual and less regimented, begging the question: is the “holy terrain” the world FKA Twigs occupies, or her body itself? Either interpretation connects back to the themes of vulnerability, and wariness about that vulnerability, she explores in the lyrics of the song.
The final single “home with you”, released on Oct. 7, is most similar to Twigs’ previous work. Otherworldly and eccentric, her voice starts out distorted by a buzzing sound effect. “Never seen a hero like me in sci-fi / But I’d save a life if I thought it belonged to you,” she sings. After two verses, the production scales back and her voice rings out clearly: “I didn’t know that you were lonely / If you’d have just told me I’d be running down the hills to be with you.” On the “you” her voice ascends impossibly high, showing off her enviable vocal range. She concludes the song on a whispered “I would have told you I was lonely too.”
The “you” she is singing to is kept vague by the song, but becomes starkly clear on the accompanying music video. The video opens with a sensory overload of a club scene. She escapes with her friends, and drives out to the countryside, where she is greeted by a group of women dancing among clotheslines holding white sheets flapping in the wind. Then, adorned in an impossibly large white dress, she runs down rolling green hills, thrashes through a forest, and wades through a river, all in a frantic quest to rescue a young girl trapped in a well: her inner child, as she explained on her Instagram story. It all combines for a powerful message- follow your gut home to your inner child.
Through these three singles and accompanying videos, FKA Twigs offers us an enticing snapshot of her upcoming album. “MAGDALENE” is slated for release on Oct. 25, and if it’s anything like the singles that precede it, it promises an extraordinary listen.
Image Credit: Rolling Stone
10/30, Volume XXIX, Issue 3