Across the table, FKA Twigs is crying, digging little red nails into her eye sockets, apologising and blinking as the whites turn pink. She’s fanning her face, trying to make the tears stop. A plate of scrambled eggs, ordered for breakfast in her favourite east London cafe, goes cold in front of her. “I’m so sorry,” she whispers. “Sorry. I never cry. I didn’t feel it coming. I thought I was over it, but I’m not.” And although the moment feels uncomfortable, in a way it is a relief.
FKA Twigs is an artist whose work deals in vulnerability. As she tells me, “I don’t trade in money, I don’t trade in fame, I trade in feelings.” A performance-art polymath, she is a dancer who writes her own lyrics, co-produces her music and co-directs her videos. In 2014 her critically acclaimed first album, LP1, was shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize. In 2015 she was nominated for British female solo artist and British breakthrough act at the Brit Awards. She has just released a new EP, titled MELL1SSX.
She is comparable to a young Kate Bush, early Björk or Lady Gaga (before she became predictable). Like them, part of what makes her so captivating is her ability to be at once powerful and fragile. On stage her lithe dancer’s body transforms into a commanding presence; her music pairs full orchestral sounds with jarring, searingly honest “completely autobiographical” lyrics. Her music videos are artistic and fearless. Her art is open, especially in the way she explores sexual power dynamics, often in her own relationships.
In the music video for Papi Pacify, for example, a song on her second EP, she is filmed in ecstatic submission to a muscular black man, pushing his fingers down her throat. In Two Weeks, the first single from her debut album, her music video sees her spray-painted gold and dressed as if a slave, singing “my thighs are apart for when you’re ready to breathe in”. In the video for Pendulum, from the same album, she appears suspended in Japanese rope bondage known as shibari.
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