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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, April 15, 2024

FKA twigs’ 'MAGDALENE': An exhilarating dance through the dark

Magdalene, the second studio album by English singer and songwriter FKA Twigs, is pictured.

Who was Mary Magdalene, and why has her story been written into contemporary culture? This is surely a question on many minds as the controversial biblical figure sees her name bannered across the secondstudioalbum from FKA twigs. Throughout the promotion of her new record, FKA twigs cited Mary Magdalene as a strong influence on the years of songwriting that ultimately formed “MAGDALENE” (2019). 

The kicker here is that the lessons behind a tragic mischaracterization of MaryMagdalene are as important to FKA twigs as her real life and accomplishments. A reading by Pope Gregory I from 591, since proven to be inaccurate, has led to the persistent myth of Mary Magdalene as a "sinful woman." 

On "MAGDALENE," the artist born Tahliah Barnett known as FKA twigs crafts a powerful statement on what it means to live and feel as a successful, human, female artist. In doing so, she sheds light on the same hazards of public presumption that took hold of Mary Magdalene. Unlikely to suffer the same fate as its inspiration, however, "MAGDALENE" will stride through history as a restlessly innovative portrait of emotional turmoil and personal growth. 

With haunting choral vocals and a kick drum crashing distortedly through the mix, “thousand eyes” strikes a dramatic opening. This track is a reminder of how the first track can pull you into an album and encapsulate the sonic experience to come. Lines like “If I walk out the door, it starts our last goodbye/If you don't pull me back, it wakes a thousand eyes” can be interpreted as a reference to the theme of public perception that relates back to Mary Magdalene

Having pursued a high profile relationship with Robert Pattinson during her ascent to stardom, FKA twigs is weary of the undue attention on her personal life. As it becomes clear throughout the tracklist, "MAGDALENE"follows internal battles and interpersonal relationships as they dissolve and unfold before the suffocating eyes of the public. The songs are intense and intimate, built on outstanding production led by FKA twigs herself alongside talent such as Nicolas Jaar, Skrillex and benny blanco. Otherworldly glitches of sound wear feelings of alienation on their sleeve, but they are coiled tightly around gorgeous instrumentation that shine particularly on the cello outro of “home with you.” 

Few albums hold onto listenability while letting go of creative restraint, but "MAGDALENE"manages to do just that. Songs like “sad day” are delightfully pretty in all their pain, accessible even through all their tonal shifts and production quirks. 

FKA twigs has flourished in her ability to break the boundaries between “traditional” and “art” pop. It would be impossible not to mention the robotic intro vocals on “mary magdalene” that just sound so irresistibly cool. The record shifts even further mainstream on the cut “holy terrain,” featuring both supporting vocals and a verse from Future. “Holy terrain” is buoyed by trap-flavored production that offers FKA twigs’ vocals a contrast in backdrop, but the song sees a fatal lack in chemistry between its two stars. 

The centerpiece of "Magdalene" is found in the album highlight “fallen alien.” Unleashing its chorus in breaths of anguish (“I'm a fallen alien!”) between angry, visceral verses (“See you're grey from all the lies you tell”), the song paints an entire spectrum of emotion with vocals of exceptional passion and range. Memorable moments are riddled throughout the album, but nothing quite matches the vital desperation of “fallen alien.” 

A testament to the breadth of cerebral concepts explored on "MAGDALENE," another strong moment arrives with the restrained and floating “daybed.” Lyrically focused on a paralyzed state of depression, “daybed” is simultaneously meditative and sonically overwhelming. It is a brutally effective look at the large and small things that keep us planted on our daybeds, sinking into thought.

Transcending a relatively brief runtime of 38 minutes, "MAGDALENE" is densely packed with fresh ideas and songwriting that beg for repeat listens. This album is the product of four years of growth since FKA twigs’ last full-length album, and is a flower of brilliance that has sprouted up and bloomed from vulnerability. 

Mary Magdalene would be proud of how FKA twigs has liberated herself from everyone else and molded her own identity. FKA twigs has channelled the highs and crushing lows of her young life into something we can all find ourselves in, as soon as we are done staring at its beauty from the outside.

Summary FKA Twigs' latest LP is nothing short of alluring, artful electronic music, showing the Britain-based artist's unquestionable talent.
4.5 Stars