FKA Twigs brings pop from the future on ‘MAGDALENE’

"MAGDALENE" album art

Kati Morris

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An eccentric, multi-faceted artist, Tahliah Barnett, better known as FKA Twigs has earned a dedicated following since her 2014 debut, “LP1.” Her work, often seen as genre ambiguous, experiments with trip-hop, R&B and electronic music. Now, Twigs turns emotional turmoil into triumph with the beautiful and visceral “MAGDALENE.”

On her new album, Twigs seeks to evoke the spirit of Mary Magdalene. As the album’s figurehead, Mary is a woman of courage. She is described in The Gospel of Luke as the one to deliver the news of Jesus’ resurrection. Despite playing such a prominent role, Mary Magdalene remains an enigmatic figure existing only relative to a more powerful man.

Twigs uses Magdalene as an expression of her own courage. After enduring a highly publicized breakup with actor Robert Pattinson, she describes being at the mercy of public scrutiny on opening track “Thousand Eyes.”

“It’s gonna be cold with all those eyes / I’m so cold with all those eyes,” she sings, in a melody inspired by Gregorian chant — the sacred music of the Roman Catholic church.

As the closer and lead single, “Cellophane” feels like Twigs is baring her entire soul. An emotionally frank break-up ballad, it describes her relationship with Pattinson as one that was packaged and put on display for the public to see and ultimately scrutinize. “Why don’t I do it for you?” she asks. Stripped down to just her vocals, she reveals her fear of not being adequate.

Though her relationship can be seen as a catalyst for so much of what the album is about conceptually, it’s really about Twigs herself. In private, Twigs was also was fighting a battle with her own health that involved undergoing surgery to remove fibroid tumors from her uterus. Through everything, she rises as an apostle for self-love.

Anchored by a trap beat and a guest feature by rapper, Future “Holy Terrain” finds an assertive Twigs demanding “A man who can follow his heart / Not get bound by his boys and his chains.” She is empowered by personifying personifying her body as this “holy terrain” that few men can withstand.

“MAGDALENE” is Twigs at her most vulnerable, weird and experimental. Where she excels most is in its intricate production choices, meshing choir and classical music with futuristic electronic sounds. For Twigs, who not only wrote and produced the entire album, but also directed its videos, it’s another enormous feat that feels like it belongs in a league of its own.

Rating: 5/5

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