FKA Twigs evokes Mary Magdalene on sophomore album


Alyssa Beccue

FKA Twigs’ “Magdalene” follows her 2014 debut “LP1.”

Gabriel Farhadian, Staff Writer

With her release of “MAGDALENE,” FKA Twigs endeavors to be released from the binds of a traditional and simplistic femininity, redefining the role of the woman as simultaneously powerful and vulnerable. Following her 2014 album debut “LP1,” Twigs follows the Biblical character of Mary Magdalene as her kindred subject, through whom she finds identity as a remade and strengthened women.

To Twigs, society’s opinions of Magdalene represent the problematic experience of her and other women in the 21st century. Twigs observes that Magdalene is perpetually minimized, and thought of as ultimately secondary to the development of the male character’s primary complexities.

Her analogical connection to Magdalene was born out of her relationship and subsequent break-up with actor Robert Pattinson, to whom she was engaged. Beyond “MAGDALENE” containing songs like “mirror heart,” “home with you,” and “cellophane,” which express craving love and understanding from a position of defenselessness, there is a clear frustration with the media’s reinforcement of what society has done to Magdalene: defining her by her relationship to men.

Tabloids thrive off defining celebrities by their romance, which she references in “thousand eyes,” chanting “If I walk out the door, it starts our last goodbye/ If you don’t pull me back, it wakes a thousand eyes.” She later identifies the media again as an ever seeing entity, singing, “They’re waiting/ … They’re watching us.” She sees press coverage as parasitic and detrimentally enforcing an over-simplified perception of women and celebrities in general.

Her fascination with Magdalene as a modern narrative also leads her to point out the largely-ignored part of femininity, which is beyond floral passivity. In a recent BBC interview, she speaks about the “virgin and the whore,” saying, “Magdalene to me represents both of those things as an archetype.” Women can be “innocent and fresh,” but also “powerful and all-knowing.”

She concludes that power comes from being all of these things simultaneously. It is this concurrent flow between vulnerability and strength that she expresses when she says, “I’m blue when the Moon hits my skin right/ Hot pink when you open up my sweet thighs.” She is both the pink of a traditional feminine passivity and the blue of active masculinity: the virgin and the whore. She is capable of soft romance and godly power, and unafraid to express both.

The uniquely chosen instruments and exquisite experimentation match the oddity of the cover art, substantiating a raw, high-definition expression that is rarely found in mainstream pop. “MAGDALENE” often disobeys sweetness, purposefully devolving into insidiously depressed and mismatched melodies and groans, without forgetting its profoundly beautiful countermovements. It’s not the kind of pop that concedes to the ear’s craving for pleasant melody alone; there is a sour taste that makes the light moments brighter and more authentic.

Further, the aesthetics arm the lyrics with phenomenal power. The lyrics are a force by themselves, but when positioned in the context of the instrumental production, they are multiplied into a profound vibrance. “fallen alien” is the clearest example of this; Twigs, with the help of Nicolas Jaar, summons a supernova of power: the judgment of a queen. This is the “masculine” portion of her, overlooked by society and surging like the crest of a tidal wave. When the hurricane calms, she sings as the outgrowth: “In this age of Satan/ I’m searching for a light to take me home and guide me out.”

In “MAGDALENE,” FKA Twigs substantiates the underrepresented balance within a woman, between power and pregnability, singing with an intruding directness, “I’ve never seen a hero like me in a sci-fi.”

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