by Emma Turney
Nothing about FKA Twigs’ latest record, MAGDALENE can be singularized — it’s not about the voice, the lyrics, the production, or the videos — instead it’s the cinematic way Twigs combines each element to create an emotion so concrete it could be grabbed out of the air MAGDALENE lives in. In the five years since her debut album, LP1 (YEAR), Twigs has catapulted into fame (for better or for worse) through her oddly uncomfortable public relationship and eventual break up with Robert Pattinson. She then underwent surgery to remove fibroids from her uterus and built herself back up into the most athletic shape the dancer has been in yet. MAGDALENE, an allusion to the biblical Mary Magdalene whose iconic legacy has been overshadowed by the man she was associated with, is likewise an expression of Twigs’ visceral anger and defiance at her first record being clouded by the image of the man she herself was with.
Whatever anger this has caused Twigs to feel, she never quite expresses it in full confidence. Instead its a kind of honest anger — displayed through pain and self-doubt before building herself back up. Sounds from a medieval church open the record on “thousand eyes” where the introduction to the story is set as Twigs repeats “if I walk out the door it starts our last goodbye.” The record continues as a movie, climaxing as Twigs’ pain turns into complete defiance.
The direct frustration is most palatable on the ironically delicate “home with you” and the furious “fallen alien”. On the latter of which Twigs refuses to hold the entire burden for her failed relationship: “I’m a fallen alien//I never thought that you would be the one to tie me down//But you did.” The light religious tones continue on “fallen alien,” a creative, tongue in cheek reference to a fallen angel.
Her visceral anger and disappointment is conveyed through varied production, all connected through the slight whisper and gutted belt of Twigs’ voice. “holy terrain” features Future (in the least sell out way possible) and trap beats as Twigs delicately sings over it coyly threatening her partner that she will give her love to the one who will “stand in my holy terrain.” On “mirrored heart” a similar emotion is felt, displayed in greatly contrasting atmospheric production with Twigs’ gospel-like falsetto questioning what she has put herself through: “did you want me?//No, not for life//Did you truly see me?”
“Cellophane,” the first released single off MAGDALENE, feels like the summation of this chapter of Twigs’ life, a desperate call for answers that she’ll never receive. In the end, however, it becomes clear that this only has made Twigs stronger and more aware of her self-worth: in the single’s music video, she shows off her incredibly athletic pole dancing skills in a performance aimed at those that criticized her public relationship, but performed for herself. “Cellophane” is once again cinematic: a metallic, crystallized noise releases Twigs from her cocoon followed by a simple, demanding bass that propels her through the thick atmosphere created through her crackling voice. The honest, sometimes desperate emotion in MAGDALENE suggests a new chapter for Twigs: one where she refuses to let anyone rob her of her own legacy.