FKA Twigs, “MAGDALENE”
While 2014’s LP1 was about as rapturously acclaimed as any other debut album this decade, what followed for FKA Twigs was considerably rockier. In the subsequent five years, her relationships and eventual breakups were breathlessly publicized and scrutinized, and she revealed the recent discovery and removal of six uterine fibroid tumors.
All of that physical and emotional trauma is the bedrock of her sophomore album, MAGDALENE, a deeply wounded but fiercely empowered project that strengthens the steely fusion of trip-hop and R&B she mastered on her debut. FKA Twigs enlists an all-star army of producers (Nicolas Jaar, Arca, Skrillex, and Benny Blanco, among others) as well as a guest spot from Future, who sounds just as comfortable on an FKA Twigs song as she does. Far from a distraction, the collaborative spirit only seems to have sharpened her vision.
MAGDALENE doesn’t mark a jarring departure for Twigs, but the pulse is much easier to detect this time around. Her concepts and themes, crisply executed and fearless in their candor, have a clarity and sense of purpose that set these songs apart from LP1. “thousand eyes,” opening the album with haunting a capella vocals and tribal drums, spotlights a relationship on the brink, with Twigs bracing herself for a separation she suspects will devastate her: “If I walk out the door, it starts our last goodbye”; “It’s going to be cold without those eyes.”
Much of the album exists in the shadow of this heartbreak. Sometimes that curdles into anger, as in the abrasive and intense centerpiece “fallen alien”; other times, it becomes an almost uncomfortable vulnerability, as in the remarkable closer “cellophane,” where she is paralyzed by the scrutiny that comes with celebrity relationships: “They’re hating, they’re waiting, and hoping I’m not enough.”
MAGDALENE dances along without ever dipping into easy catharsis, consumed with pain but unwavering in its determination to fight through it.