FKA twigs is either a Big Deal or an unknown, depending on who you talk to. Among tastemaking music circles, the 26-year-old British R&B-pop singer/producer is one of the most exciting young artists of 2014, one who mounts a proverbial throne this week with the release of her debut album, LP1. To casual consumers of culture, twigs (real name: Tahliah Barnett) may be a mystery — the sort of name-checked singer they’ve been meaning to check out but aren’t quite sure “what her deal is.” There is one similarity between these two groups: they don’t necessarily understand FKA twigs.
Barnett is the rare sort of artist who defies easy genre classification, in part because of her creative background in another discipline (modern dance — she was a video girl for Kylie Minogue and Jessie J) and her apparent interest in other fields (fashion, music videos, visual art). Girl has ideas, and LP1 is essentially her take on musical power-clashing.The album is tensely intimate yet creepily spacious, like Sandra Bullock’s character in Gravity floating through the galaxy in a claustrophobic capsule. Listening to it is oddly spiritual. It’s a study in contradictions: the soft and hard of Barnett’s breathy upper register floating atop tightly-coiled drum machines. The sexual aggression it takes for her to admit she wants it, though “it” may be closer to longing for pain and submission than anything else.
Reference points are hard, though. Barnett worked a number of producers on LP1 (Yeezus producer Arca, Adele producer Paul Epworth, A$AP Rocky producer Clams Casino), but their seams do not show. Twigs’ vision is vast but singular. If you absolutely must compare her to others, I’d say her sounds falls somewhere between Aaliyah and Aphex Twin, a mixture that’s as exotic as it sounds. In terms of her peers, she’s perhaps like Grimes if she was produced by Sampha and slowed down a bit.
This, of course, does not do Barnett justice. So in an effort to unpack all that is FKA twigs, we created a quick and easy pie chart for newbs.
Chart by Garrett Traya and Anna Kovatcheva