Anniversary: FKA Twigs’ “MAGDALENE,” Four Years Later
Written by Sophie Nimberger on November 17, 2023
November 8 marks the four-year anniversary of FKA Twigs‘ Magdalene. Although four years is a relatively short amount of time, the album had such a large impact upon its release that one could believe it is much older.
FKA Twigs’ sophomore album, Magdalene, showcases an experimental approach to pop and classic club beats. The album’s themes were heavily influenced by Twigs’ 2017 split from actor Robert Pattinson. Twigs said she “never thought heartbreak could be so all-encompassing” in a press release concerning the record.
Feelings of grief and despondency are very apparent in the sound of the album, from the delicate trembles of Twig’s vocals to the airy instrumentals. The album’s production even goes so far as to convey her sense of melancholy through the way each song reverberates, giving the impression that Twigs’ is singing from an empty void.
The album opens with perhaps the most unique song on it, “thousand eyes.” The track is a melodic hymn that introduces the subject of the album with the repetition of the line “If I walk out the door, it starts our last goodbye.” The overlapping vocals of the song begin rhythmic and steady before growing shriller as the instrumentals reach a crescendo. This works to convey Twigs’ desperation to save her relationship before her reluctant acceptance, as seen in the song’s soft fading out.
Although the topic of each song is overall quite similar, each song expresses a unique facet of Twigs’ suffering. For instance, in the song “fallen alien,” she uses venomous lyrics about being “tied down” to express her resentment towards how she was treated in her relationship. In contrast, the song “mirrored heart” conveys a reserved yet vulnerable acknowledgment that even though her relationship is over, she will “probably think about” her former partner “all the time.”
The standout track of the album in both critical success and production is ”cellophane.” The song showcases Twigs’ soprano in the form of a harrowing ballad. The song is largely believed to specifically be about Robert Pattinson’s lack of defense for Twigs when she was heavily degraded by tabloids and fans because of her relationship with him. The song has a music video that features Twigs pole dancing accompanied by stunning virtual visuals. Both the song and video convey Twigs performing alone, on display for the world in her most vulnerable state.
The song is particularly distinctive as it abandons Twigs’ usual electronic sound in favor of a minimal piano and rumbling instrumental. Her vocals are at their most breathy here as well, as each line is warbled out between gasps of air as if the words take tremendous effort to get out. Multiple times throughout the song, Twigs’ voice reaches a falsetto, effectively conveying the emotional distress she is in.
Overall, the album has largely defined FKA Twigs’ career and could be considered her magnum opus. It is powerful in both production and content as it took her immense pain and reworked it into musical growth, proving that good can come out of even the greatest suffering.