First Listen #23: FKA Twigs’s ‘MAGDALENE’

TWIGS. TWIGS. TWIGSSSSSSSSSS. She’s just….amazing. I’ve been listening to her a while, actually. It started back when Google Play Music was my primary music streaming platform (and I used to have to download the cover art for each project and fix the tracklists because they were out of order from wherever I downloaded the albums – #hackerz). There used to be these playlists that Google would put together with songs from new artists. It would be about 20 songs on each playlist that were free to download. I believe “Water Me” from EP2 (2013) was the song that I was introduced to Twigs through.

It was sooo different from anything else I had listened to before, but around that time, I was experimenting a bit with my musical tastes. So I was kind of into it; there was something so dazzling about her voice that I kept listening to her ever since. I loved LP1 (2014), M3LL155X (2015) was stunning, and I had been waiting patiently to listen to a new project from her, ever since she dropped “Good to Love.” I wanted to wait a little bit before I listened to MAGDALENE (2019), though, because, from what I heard from friends and online, I needed to be in a good headspace to listen to this project. And I didn’t want the hype around it – and what the project was supposed to be about – to impact how I listened to it. But something moved me to finally listen to it the other day. And so listen I did.

Photo Credit:


(via Genius)

I’m in love with this project. In LOVE. Like, ready to buy a ring and marry it. Sometimes when I listen to songs or albums for the first time, I check to see if there’s been a music video released for it. That way, I can listen to the/a song, while also watching the music video – two birds, one stone. So I ended up checking out “holy terrain” first; I was interested in what a song with Twigs and Future would sound like. And HOLY COW! It’s an absolutely gorgeous video. And so are all the other ones for this project. It’s gonna take me a while to figure out the symbolism, but one thing that I caught onto almost immediately is the FEMININE ENERGY that every single video exudes.

Didn’t I do it for you?
Why don’t I do it for you?
Why won’t you do it for me
When all I do is for you?

FKA Twigs, “cellophane”

And listening to the lyrics more closely (I literally didn’t allow myself to do anything else but read the lyrics and listen to the songs because you can miss stuff EASILY if you’re not listening to Twigs closely), it’s clear that this is an album centered on women. Of course there are conversations around love and self-reflection that can be extended across genders (Twigs’s material always has a fluidity to it), but MAGDALENE is very obviously a musical space for women who have been pushed to the side for love, done more for others than they have for themselves, or overshadowed. It’s an album where vulnerability takes centerstage – as it always does with Twigs – and you’re left feeling raw afterwards. There are times where the production and Twigs’s voice sound so strained and tired that it almost brought me to tears.

Something that I think is extremely important to recognize with Twigs is where she stands musically. I feel like the kind of dream/art pop, avant garde space that she exists in is usually reserved for white women. Black women and other women of color don’t typically get the same kind of love for making weird music (and I mean weird in the best way). I’m reminded of when Tyler the Creator talked about how Black folks always get grouped into R&B or hip hop, even when their projects fit neatly into neither of those spaces. Those are the places that are reserved for Black music, and there’s a bit of ostracizing of things that exist outside of that – by Black folks and non-Black folks. And Although I do think it’s easier for her to inhabit that gray area because of the way she looks (light-skinned, (conventionally) attractive, thin), I do appreciate her for making room for herself in that space. We need more weird Black girls to make music.

As a woman, I can be, innocent and pure and fresh, and I can also be, dangerous and all-knowing and seductive and powerful, and these things can happen at the same time. In modern-day society, women are often put in a position where we have to choose one, and that’s a shame. We’re the most powerful women, we can be both.

FKA Twigs, “FKA Twigs Live at Maida Vale

Another thing I want to mention is how beautiful the music videos are for the songs on this project. It’s going to take me a couple more views to actually understand the symbolism in them, but overall they’re extremely well-made. I just couldn’t help but think of how AMAZING of a dancer Twigs is. Like, she is so TALENTED, and it’s obvious that she takes dancing just as seriously (if not more) as she does music. She’s so wonderful to watch. The control she has over her body, the way she makes such a STRONG body move so gracefully, the emotion that she’s able to convey through movement. LOVE TO SEE IT. And the dancers in her videos are just as talented; I’ve always loved how much space Twigs gives them in her videos. I’m not sure if it’s always the same group of dancers every time, but they’re just as mesmerizing to watch. I think it speaks volumes that they aren’t just in the background or props – a lot of time the camera is on them, instead of her.

As far as features on this project, there’s only one lol. But Future was so good on “holy terrain.” I’ve never been the biggest fan of Future’s music – ever since I heard him on “Loveeeeeee Song” by Rihanna and “Kings Dead” by Jay Rock, I just can’t take him seriously lol. His music has just never really attracted me like that. But I enjoyed his verse on the Twig’s project; I loved the slight raspiness he added in contrast to Twigs’s soft voice. The production on the MAGDALENE was also amazing. I’m always in awe of how sounds are put together on her projects. I don’t know if anyone else could pull them off like she does. And I like that she isn’t afraid to try out different things and experiment; every time I hear something from her it sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before, and I think that’s what makes her so interesting to listen to.

Sigh, Twigs is just so great. I hate that it took me so long to listen to this MAGDALENE, but I’m gonna make it up by listening to it every day for the next year. About to go listen to “cellophane” right now.

Overall Project Rating

Featured Image Credit:

(listen to MAGDALENE on spotify by clicking the image below)

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