After much delay, genre–bending artist FKA twigs released MAGDALENE on Nov. 8, her first album in four years. Between MAGDALENE and her last album, M3LL155X EP, not only did twigs and now ex–fiancé Robert Pattinson break up, but she also had six fibroid tumors removed from her uterus last winter.
Twigs first opened up about the excruciating pain of the tumors through her single “cellophane,” which was released along with an accompanying music video in April of this year. “Cellophane,” the closing track of MAGDALENE, was received with critical acclaim upon its release, mainly due to twigs’ heavy–hitting vocal performance. The music video was also momentous, in that it featured twigs bending her body elegantly and powerfully, showing off her pole dancing abilities to represent her recovered strength from her tumor removals.
FKA twigs is largely known for her avant–garde electronic pop style and distinct soprano voice that weaves through bizarre melodies that are difficult to replicate. In MAGDALENE, twigs presents a rollercoaster of subtle sadness and agonizing pain, but still manages to achieve thematic coherency. For one half of the album, twigs seems to be whispering to herself in an empty room, and for the other she's screaming—empathetic and unleashed.
MAGDALENE begins with the song “thousand eyes,” where twigs sings in a delicate pianissimo, as if in peaceful religious meditation. She whispers regretfully, “If I walk out the door, it starts our last goodbye.” It's psychedelic and almost calming, until she climaxes towards the latter half of the piece, increasing her dynamics and tempo while repeating the lyrics, “It’s gonna be cold with all those eyes.”
In contrast, the track “holy terrain” is much faster paced, with collaboration from rap artist Future—the only feature on the album. The beats in “holy terrain” are heavier and more distinct right from the start, where Future opens with a few bars, his spacey voice recognizable as ever. Throughout the song, twigs interweaves her energy, asking her lover the question, “Will you still be there for me / Now I'm yours to obtain?”
Meanwhile, one of twigs’ most raw personal moments can be felt in the track, “mirrored heart.” The song is painful to listen to, as twigs’ emotions are as transparent as ever. She begs in a pleading soprano voice, “And for the lovers who found a mirrored heart / They just remind me I’m without you.” Ultimately, “mirrored heart” is about unreciprocated love, shown on one side but not reflected on the other. Twigs uses this song as an outlet to release the heavy emotional baggage she's been carrying all along.
The title of twigs’ album comes from the story of Mary Magdalene in the New Testament, as she is a criticized and misunderstood character. Twigs, who went to Catholic school, interweaves herself with this ancient character who is often branded in biblical studies as “the prostitute.” In a Rolling Stone interview, twigs says she believes that Magdalene was “this incredible herbalist, healer and doctor” that is “important for women to embrace.” Twigs draws parallels between her and Magdalene, as she explores her sexuality and celebrity status, which has often been portrayed under the wing of her male companions.
MAGDALENE is a reflection of the turmoil and growth that twigs has experienced over the past year. It’s clear that she has emerged a different woman than the one who created her 2014 debut, LP1. In MAGDALENE, twigs masters the translation of cutting emotional pain into new power, making this album her most vulnerable and complex work yet.