Arts, Features

Review: FKA twigs’ “MAGDALENE” is a masterpiece of biblical proportions

Singer FKA twigs’ second studio album, “MAGDALENE,” is a triumph of artistic expression that explores the journey from desperation and devotion to heartbreak and scorn.  

Singer-songwriter FKA Twigs, shown in a 2015 performance, released second studio album “MAGDALENE” on Nov. 8. COURTESY OF ANDREAS MEIXENSPERGER

The album, released Nov. 8, evokes the biblical story of Mary Magdalene to compliment what is essentially a breakup album built around the singer’s undeniable emotional prowess. It should be noted that this album is the first full-length project from the artist since the end of her engagement to actor Robert Pattinson in 2017.

She kicks off the album with the haunting “thousand eyes.” Here, FKA twigs’ unsettling, hallowed vocals are juxtaposed alongside an increasingly distorted synth line. The track is incredibly effective in setting up the emotionally wrought tone of the album as FKA twigs details the deterioration of her relationship with her lover.

She follows the stellar opening track with “home with you.” In contrast to the previous track, FKA twigs’ vocals throughout the song’s verses are exceedingly growl-like, evoking a powerful sense of desperation. 

This tone is immediately flipped on its head during the chorus, as FKA twigs belts out, “I didn’t know that you were lonely/ If you’d have just told me, I’d be home with you.” Her delivery is nothing short of angelic while simultaneously rife with regret. 

“home with you” also marks the first appearance of the titular Mary Magdalene in FKA twigs’ lyrics. Despite the biblical references present throughout, the album avoids the preachy overtones that usually accompany such allusions. Instead, the project uses the character as an embodiment of the idea of finding catharsis in loving and letting go. 

The album’s third track, “sad day,” further explores FKA twigs’ desperation to please her old flame as she continuously asks, “Ah, would you make a, make a, make a wish on my love?” Being unsure of her lover’s dedication toward her is presented as being as strong as her undying love towards him.

The following track, “holy terrain” begins with a somewhat out of place feature from rapper Future, whose verse takes the perspective of the lover FKA twigs is desperate to keep close. Meanwhile, FKA twigs continues to make biblical allusions in the chorus, singing, “For a man who can follow his heart/ Not get bound by his boys and his chains.” 

The biblical allusions, however, are most prevalent in “mary magdalene,” one of the album’s standouts. The song’s subdued production slowly evolves into chaos, echoing the artist’s transformation from submissive desperation into forceful desire while singing that she’s as “true as Mary Magdalene.”

The song “mirrored heart” explores the first aftershock of FKA twigs’ breakup. A bit past the song’s midway point, the track’s slow rhythm momentarily breaks down in production, resembling a cathartic release of anger that had been surprisingly absent for an album about a bad breakup. 

The album ends with the project’s lead single, “cellophane.” A soft piano ballad, the song explores the newfound isolation FKA twigs has been left in following the collapse of her relationship. 

She wraps the feelings that she once had in the titular “cellophane,” showing that she wants to preserve the memory while also stowing them away so she doesn’t have to think about the pain that is now inextricably tied to them. 

Although the album’s runtime is relatively short — clocking in at just 38 minutes — FKA twigs doesn’t waste a single second. The singer elevates each song with her angelic voice and stellar production ranging from dissonant and brash, to delicate and broken. 

While some elements may sound out of place, such as the project’s sole feature, FKA twigs makes such missteps irrelevant with her impeccable songwriting and brilliant vocal performance.

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