Review

Review of FKA Twigs’s ‘Magdalene’ and ‘Caprisongs’: A Comparison of Vulnerability in Showcasing the Artist’s Emotion

It starts off in black and white grainy shot of a busy London street, the camera pans past several pedestrians and FKA twig’s back up dancers walking before landing on the leading lady herself. With a full-face of makeup, huge ears and a silk scarf cover her head, she exudes confidence. Spinning mid-stride as her girls hype her up, there’s a smirk on her face and yet the set up leads the viewer into a sense of comfort and familiarity while still exuding glamour. It seems more like a clip of friends on their way to a club rather than a crew on their way to shoot a music video. The soundscape of cars fade into the first song of twig’s newest album – Ride the Dragon.

The candid carefree attitude of this mini music-video (one of many that twigs has published for her new album) sums up the mood for her newest album, something intimate and unpolished but something made for the listener. Twigs whispering, ‘Hey, I made you a mix-tape’ highlights this sense of nonchalant fun, a far cry from her prepared and performed vulnerability of her previous album. While some may see it a step down in terms of the intimacy she bore, in my opinion she showcases herself in a radically different way.

Whilst 2019 ‘Magdalene’ began with the song ‘thousand eyes’, which was a clash of unique non-traditional sampling of heaving breathes and what sounds like the crashing of metal distorted. This paired with the operatic voice creates a breath-taking dynamic, the instruments and vocals stutter and overtake each other in volume at different points in the song. It results in a chaotic sound that represents the conflicting emotions of twigs, an overwhelming raw impression of feeling. On first listening to it, I was struck by this intro, especially with having knowledge of the album’s genesis.

The artist was in a long-term relationship and engagement with the high-profile Robert Pattinson, before and after its end she was subject to intense racist and misogynistic bullies on twitter which she openly spoke of the huge effect on her mental health, resulting in a deterioration of her self-image. This, leading to the creation of ‘Magdalene’ in which she bares her soul exploring the desperation, grief, anger and hopelessness that can come with a break-up amplified when you are in the public eye.

As a listener it is often rare that we get to hear something so intensely and enduringly emotion shown in such a polished way, balanced with such an artistic talent. ‘home with you’ we see her range, the richness of her voice in the verses in comparison to the chorus where her soprano takes centre-stage – the artist said singing this track was like ‘flying with your voice’ – and this song is certainly a journey well-explored. The lyrics referencing Kate Bush (‘I’d be running down the hills to be with you’) reflect the regret that one often has in a relationship, going over all the things you could’ve done better with what you know now.

‘daybed’ in comparison is not as impressive when analysed vocally, but had much more of an emotional impact to me. In form, it is a departure from traditionally structured songs and to me it resembles a poem with AB rhyme scheme, FKA twigs’ vocal performance is understated but this allows the listener to hone in on the lyrics.  The lines ‘lonely is my hoping’ and ‘aching is my laughter’ both set the narrative of the song of being in a state of heavy sadness that weighs down your hopes and joy, something that most people have or will experience. The personal nature of this song is what makes it so beautiful and so painful, ‘possessive is my daybed’ is a line repeated throughout, which for me symbolises being in such a state of grief/heavy emotion that you can’t get out of bed – you are paralysed from moving. The backing vocals of this song is sporadic, often pitched up and glitched, there is no solid bassline; still, the song begins quiet and builds up a crescendo before lowering slowly again, the circular change of volume and the lack of structure in the song also reflects the emotionality.

‘Magdalene’ was undeniably an experimental art-pop album, outside of clear music genres, whilst ‘Caprisongs’ is an album that entertains the listener with a host of musical influences: hip-hop, grime, RnB and pop sounds, and the drastic change in sound for me represents the personal growth of the artist herself as well as her artist voice. As a fan of FKA twigs, and after the covid-19 pandemic, this upbeat album is a much needed departure for both twigs and listeners. ‘and when I feel me, it feels good’ this line in ‘Ride the Dragon’ is part of one of many voice notes scattered around the album, it encapsulates the spirit of this album – feeling good and growing despite hardships.

The song ‘meta angel’ touches on the type of vulnerability and grief she expressed in ‘Magdalene’ but with a new perspective, beginning with a voice note of twigs chatting with friends about wanting to be more confidence. Then the sound effect of a cassette tape rewinding (linking back to ‘Caprisongs’ being a mixtape) with the familiarity of twigs’s voice ‘I wish I had help from a deeper force’, the idea of being without a sense of direction or guidance in this world resonates as I think it is a universal feeling that people have growing up.

To me ‘lightbeamers’ is an instruction of how to build yourself up, delivered in a way that makes the listener connect to twigs’ words ‘this is for the hard dreamers … all the indigo and lightbeamers’. ‘papi bones’ is a dedication to the music genre dancehall and letting go of pretences to dance and let loose;‘darjeeling’ a drill inspired tune about leaving your hometown. These songs all inspired me, as they are all relate to me in some way. And in listening to these songs I developed an understanding that it’s okay to be lost in this world and that one can go through intense struggle and overcome it too.

Overall, I think her music exudes vulnerability and emotion that is reflective on universal human experience, while still showcasing her unique artistic voice. The impact of these two albums: ‘Magdalene’ and ‘Caprisongs’ respectively in my life cannot be overstated.

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