FKA twigs’ sophomore album Magdalene defies genre

By YOOSOO YEO | November 14, 2019

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I find myself listening to music all the time, whether it’s while working out or just sitting on my bed, but once I get hooked on one song, I will continuously play it on loop until someone begs me to stop humming the earworm-triggering tune. 

I tend not to be a big explorer when it comes to music, and I’m also not necessarily a fanatic of one particular genre either. However, in an attempt to step out of my comfort zone, I decided to listen to an album from an artist I had never listened to before. 

The peculiar cover of FKA twigs’ new album Magdalene, which was released on Nov. 8, immediately caught my attention, and I knew in an instant her songs would, at the very least, not be boring. Headlines of album reviews praised twigs amidst concurrent discussions regarding her breakup with Robert Pattinson, which happened two years ago, but influenced her sophomore album. 

twigs is an English dancer-turned-singer-songwriter and producer who has been making disorienting and genre-transcending music since 2012. Magdalene’s release marked a long awaited comeback after a four year hiatus.

Magdalene, which is a breakup album, begins with “thousand eyes,” a song with medieval-like elements that capture the fear and anxiety of separation. “daybed” is another song that expresses her acceptance of not being able to control the pandemonium of a particularly hard time in her life, but nevertheless feeling at peace. 

“holy terrain,” featuring Future, weaves the artist’s rap verses with twigs’ unique voice. While the track is neither light not happy, it gives an overall sense of reassurance — that despite all of the setbacks and pain in your life, you will be okay. 

While this album sends a positive message in a very different and highly complex form of artistic expression, to be frank, I can’t say I was able to fully immerse myself in the unconventional and heavier nuances of the tracks. 

Regardless of my personal preferences, the album is much more than a mere compilation of songs. twigs’ use of various instruments, voice alterations and production techniques create what is like an entire theatrical performance within an album. 

When taken as an artwork beyond the conventional bounds of music, it is worthy of all the praise it can get. Her compositions reveal an exceptional degree of musicality, and she clearly does not fold into mainstream music standards. 

The title of the album is also a direct allusion to Mary Magdalene, an underappreciated biblical figure. 

Although she was the first person to recognize Jesus’ resurrection, she is often misrecognized and overshadowed by male apostle figures. 

Her lack of recognition seems to parallel twigs and her struggle to be acknowledged as an artist without being constantly associated with her ex-boyfriends. 

“No matter what you’re doing or how great your work is, sometimes it’s as though you have to be attached to a man to be validated,” she said in an interview with Vice.

In an interview with NPR, twigs explained that she wanted to subvert conventional gender roles.

“I started to explore the concept of the virgin-whore, which is the idea that, as a woman, you can be pure, and you can be innocent, and you can be like a fresh flower — nut at the same time, you can be dangerous, and seductive, and all-knowing and healing,” she explained on the show. “You don’t have to choose. But I am both, and that is stunning.” 

While I initially did not fully comprehend her songs, I’m always supportive of music that supports female empowerment. 

I recommend at least taking one listen to these songs, because I can guarantee, for better or for worse, they’ll sound very unique in comparison to the music you’re used to. 

It’s definitely not an album you can casually turn on as background music to whatever else you’re doing. You need to be fully present to take in the songs for all of the elements involved.

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