Few artists can be chameleons, compellingly transforming their style as they leap from sound to sound. It’s almost unheard of to find one who can instead bend any genre she chooses to her will. FKA twigs has been that artist since she announced her arrival by self-releasing EP1. Just about every EP, LP, and video unleashed upon an unsuspecting world has been a rebirth in its own right. Unable to sit still, the British composer-singer-producer-trained dancer has covered too much ground in too short a time to get lazily labeled. You’d think by now we’d be ready for “Cellophane,” but we weren’t. A re-inventor like FKA Twigs has no interest in old territory.
Musically, “Cellophane” is a far cry from the sonic and choreographic kinetics of slayers like “Glass & Patron,” but it’s instantly recognizable. She has returned with her first music video in three years, and is rightfully more confident than ever – outlets like Pitchfork, Vice, Complex, and The Fader have already picked up on it. Here, her vulnerable yet commanding vocals are set free against an icy, spacious piano and breathy, muted percussion. The all-time greats, like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, are present here in her melodic pleas about a love in peril. She speaks for every breaking heart, every terrified romantic, boiling their woes and worry to their essence: “Why don’t I do it for you?” Co-writers Jeff Kleinman and Michael Uzowuru have given the track the same urgency and hookiness they’ve pulled off for contemporaries like Frank Ocean and Vic Staples.
Being a fan of FKA twigs has been a journey, keeping up as she makes her way across the musical landscapes of electronic, trip-hop, soul and avant-garde, not unlike Missy or Björk. Director Andrew Thomas Huang, who’s worked with the likes of Björk and Thom Yorke, and has exhibited at MOMA, begins with FKA twigs performing astonishingly powerful pole dance aerials in skyscraping platform stilettos. The soft amber stage lighting slowly mutates into a column of stark white light from which an unearthly, techno-organic creature descends. Their confused, unnerving interaction sends her into a spinning freefall, ending in what appears to be a ritual rebirth.
Her forthcoming full-length Cellophane will be her second for the British indie Young Turks, an offshoot of Beggars Group and partner of XL Recordings. A recent health scare no doubt informed the visual narrative here, with FKA twigs emerging triumphant both musically and medically. While she claims the FKA doesn’t stand for anything, it’s clear that she stands for ignoring what’s expected of her.