Sometimes artists come along that can do it all – straddling multiple disciplines, genres, mediums and seemingly boundless forms of creative expression. One of those artists is FKA Twigs – or just Twigs, if you ever see her around. Real name Tahliah Barnett, Twigs grew up as a dancer – before breaking into the industry on various music videos and projects where she would learn as much as she could from the crew on set, about filming, directing, production and sound.
Moving into developing her own sound, indulging in Twigs’ projects feels like being inducted into a whole new universe – one which has been meticulously curated and becomes all-encompassing from the first frame or note. This dedication to the craft is mirrored in the live aspects of her work, too – in a four year hiatus between M3LL155X and Magdalene, FKA Twigs learnt how to high-level pole dance, to the extent of making it a focal point of her next tour. We’re taking a look back through some of our favourite moments and tracks in her career so far.
VIDEO GIRL (2014)
Released in 2014 as part of LP1, FKA Twigs’ Video Girl is a great vessel to begin to understand her early musical, visual and conceptual output. The main single from this album was Two Weeks – earning significant radio play and playing a large part in introducing Twigs to the masses – but Video Girl strips things back to its core. The music video sees Twigs perform Preface, the album’s opening track, as she watches her (presumed) ex-lover prepare for a lethal injection behind glass.
As Video Girl starts midway through, Twigs is in the room with the body – dancing around it and interspersed with flashes of different scenes, one of which depicts Travis Scott with blood pouring from his mouth. Shot in black and white, the visuals are arresting and impactful – but it’s the track itself that showcases her musical genius in its earliest days. Having been described as as genre-bending trip-hop, industrial peaks and beats are overlaid with Twigs’ almost angelic-sounding vocals which contribute to the instrumentation of the whole track in a way that many didn’t initially understand when Twigs first rose to prominence.
GLASS & PATRON (2015)
In 2015, FKA Twigs dropped M3LL155X – a third EP which explored the dark realms of sexuality, femininity and paranoia. Releasing a 17-minute long film which started with Michèle Lamy writhing around as an angler fish, the standout track for us is Glass & Patron. Lamenting on the constant refrain of ‘do you have a lighter / am I dancing sexy yet?’ the track explores the conflict of finding comfort in discomfort – “using pain and emotional discomfort and putting it into creativity…I quite enjoy when people don’t get it” she explains.
The video, equally as major, depicts Twigs giving birth in the back of a white van to an endless stream of colourful tulle, before her and her crew throw a voguing ball on an all-white platform in the middle of a forest. Muted hi-hats combined with alien-like vocalisers ground the track in the unique Twigs-experimentalism that can’t be so readily defined.
HOLY TERRAIN FT. FUTURE (2019)
Returning from a four-year hiatus with a bang, FKA Twigs gave us Holy Terrain. Enlisting the help of Future, this is just a straight banger. Here, we see Twigs offer a more radio-ready output, but one which doesn’t compromise on her singular, focused creative vision. Holy Terrain feels like a progression from earlier projects in its carrying forth of Twigs signatures – high wavering vocals over beats that traverse everything from trap to minimal tech – alongside a renewed focus on the physical / dance aspects of her work.
PAPI BONES (2022)
FKA Twigs’ latest project is her mixtape Caprisongs, released this year, and constitutes probably my favourite body of work from 2022. Period. On my first listen, Papi Bones immediately stood out as a frontrunner and has existed in my Top Played ever since, thanks to its Dancehall inflections, Shygirl feature, and feel good energy. For this body of work, Twigs centred the tape around collected voice notes and recordings from her friends, grounding it in the personal as well as the dance-able.
Call me basic, but this might be my all-time favourite track of hers. But within Papi Bones are also allusions to her previous work – lyrics like ‘Papi got an itch I could pacify’ reference her 2012 track Papi Pacify, as well as the overall vibe harking back to songs like Weak Spot and Wet Wipez released in the same era, as this commenter noticed. “This is giving me very much Weak Spot and Wet Wipez but a less avant garde and more carribean upbeat version of it and im screaming. My hips are moving…. my lower back problems are disappearing, and my acne is quickly fading”. Couldn’t have put it better myself, tbh.
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