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FKA twigs and the beautiful ‘MAGDALENE’

| Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Charlie Kenney | The Observer

FKA twigs is one of those musical artists who is elevated above the noise, separated from the pack.

She’s been acclaimed since her first full length release, “LP1” from 2014, although she’s never fully entered into the mainstream pop arena or achieved any degree of wild commercial success. 

Quiet and selective when it comes to interviews, social media and other presentations of self to the public, twigs presents herself similarly to the elusive-yet-renowned Frank Ocean. 

And she’s refused to be pinned down as just a musical artist, making videos and performance, dance specifically, a key part of her artistic profile. She learned pole-dancing for her “cellophane” music video, and before the release of her newest album “MAGDALENE,” she took up wushu, an elaborate style of Chinese martial arts often practiced with a sword — incorporating it into her live shows. 

Through her fusion of spoken and performed art, FKA twigs has been referred to as an artistic genius, a lofty title given to those musicians who rise above the rest in certain “artistic” respects. It is a descriptor that shouldn’t be doled out too often. To earn it, an artist has to do more than just create a mysterious and complex ethos or release a stunningly visual album. One has to create art which has emotional power and weight, art which resonates, art which says something significant. “MAGDALENE” is a record — a work of art — which certainly does all that. 

The album evokes an avant-garde pop fused with elements of electronic music and alternative R&B, bringing to mind innovative artists such as SOPHIE, Perfume Genius and Moses Sumney. The production is fluid, shifting from sonically complex and dense compositions to incredibly sparse ones at a moments notice. Twigs’ sublime voice cascades with these shifts, rising from a hushed and lush whisper to robust, dramatic song.

For each climactic, energetic rush there is an equal and opposite slow lull. The songs are ones that you can dive into and be enveloped by the beauty of. On “MAGDALENE,” twigs acts as a sonic shapeshifter, a vanguard at the forefront of experimental sounds.

Thematically, “MAGDALENE” is a break-up record. Twigs’ relationship with the brooding vampire-turned-indie-star Robert Pattinson, which ended in 2017, is the jumping-off point for an exploration of pain, joy, love and heartbreak — navigating its way through the emotions that accompany such. It is quite emotional.

The heartbreak is expressed with crystal clarity in those dramatic, standout lines that can resonate even if one has never felt it before. “I didn’t know that you were lonely / If you’d have just told me, I’d be home with you.” “I’m never gonna give up / Though I’m probably gonna think about you all the time.” It’s expressed in those haunting questions. “Were you ever sure? / No, no, no, not with me.” “Didn’t I do it for you? / Why don’t I do it for you? / Why won’t you do it for me?” 

Mary Magdalene, the biblical figure and namesake for the album, is a guiding force explored explicitly on her eponymous track “mary magdalene.” For twigs, Christ’s most notable female companion is a representation of womanhood, a figure whose complex history is often overlooked. “She’s a male projection and, I think, the beginning of the patriarchy taking control of the narrative of women. Any woman that’s done anything can be subject to that; I’ve been subject to that. It felt like an apt time to be talking about it,” she said via editor’s notes on Apple Music

“Magdalene, now you stand bigger than I will ever be. Others will dance with you, enjoy you, question you, cry with you. This experience was for you,” twigs says at the end of the Spotify playlist for the album. A sweet, somber statement, fitting for the end of the emotionally dense and audibly complex album that is “MAGDALENE.”

Artist: FKA twigs


Label: Young Turks

Favorite tracks: “home with you,” “mirrored heart,” “cellophane”

If you like: Frank Ocean, SOPHIE, Perfume Genius

Shamrocks: 5 out of 5 

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About Ryan Israel

Ryan is the Former Scene Editor (2020-2021). He is currently washed up. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryizzy.

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