ALBUM REVIEW: FKA twigs, CAPRISONGS
Updated: Feb 18
Classic rap mixtapes have often been deeply inspiring for artists of all genres. In 2017, Solange’s A Seat At The Table featured multiple interludes with Master P, a man who went from selling mixtapes out of his trunk to being the blueprint for rap billionaires. He made a $200,000 off of burned CDs alone, showing that there was great value in being independent and dropping on his own terms. The reverberations from his actions are still felt to this day, with artists like Charli XCX, Frank Ocean and Drake all dropping commercial “mixtapes” to explore less polished creative avenues. With Angel’s Pulse. Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange pushed his scrapbook pop sound to new heights, leaning deeply into the Prince influence on “I Wanna C U” but then letting Benny RevivaL freestyle over an instrumental of “Saint”. Tracks like the spacious “Baby Florence (Figure)” borrows drum sequences from Nine Inch Nails, but uses them to service a more dynamic overall piece. To be honest with you, FKA twigs was the last person I’d expect to try her hand at this format. The stakes of her music are always so high and her aesthetic is so ornately arranged, just listen to any number of songs from her career to understand what I mean. Her MAGDALENE is a masterpiece for that very reason. On eight deeply personal cuts, she wept over high flying strings, Oneohtrix Point Never-produced misery and discordant pianos. At the time, she had just come single after a highly publicized three-year romance with Robert Pattinson, and was headed into an abusive one with Shia LaBeouf. On top of that, according to Vogue, “FKA Twigs underwent laparoscopic surgery to have six large fibroid tumors—which she likened to two apples, three kiwis, a few strawberries, and ‘a fruit bowl of pain every day’—removed from her uterus.”, an experience that inspired the lyrics of “home with you”. She likely felt broken in more ways than one, especially devastating after being so open and vulnerable.
Trauma without healing can lead to increased sadness and feelings of dependence on the cause of said trauma. What twigs needed desperately was two-fold: independence and fun. Pole dancing is honestly the perfect marriage between both needs; it is a solo, artful act that is made for a casual setting. It’s no wonder that she threw herself at this form of dance over the last few years, it is deeply healing. On her first-ever mixtape CAPRISONGS, she translates the dichotomy of pole dancing to the medium of music. By this, I mean she is able to continue her string-laden, high-wire vocal acts while still fitting in dancehall, rap and pop influences into the fold. Some tracks, like “papi bones (feat. Shygirl)” and “Tears In The Club (feat. The Weeknd)” play as straightforward, while others, like the stunning “lightbeamers” mixes trap drums with more experimental chamber pop. The lust of LP1 is also back in full effect, “Because when I feel you, I feel me / And when I feel me, it feels good,” she confesses on the first verse, before getting more direct in the chorus. The sonics call back to ‘90s R&B as much as they do medieval chamber music. I was a little concerned when I heard the single “jealousy” with rema last night, I really didn’t need a one-off obligatory “global music” cut. While I don’t like that song, the other tracks in this style on the album all fit her style surprisingly well. The aforementioned “papi bones” is dancehall through and through, while “honda” takes notes from contemporary Afrobeat. I love how the Black British experience is explored here, it is one that intersects with many facets of culture but is underrepresented. Rather than just simply toy with these songs then move on, she deeply immerses herself, and that commitment pays off big time. The wide variety of styles in general is impressive, calling back to Charli XCX’s groundbreaking Pop 2 mixtape.
The loveable “meta angel” doesn’t feature Charli directly, but the Auto-Tuned singing is a deadringer for her sound. For many artists, this would be a condemnation. However, the way she is able to sing in three distinct voices over this hard banging beat provided by El Guicho is a testament to her skill level. In addition, the intro addressing her low levels of confidence contrasts so beautifully with how loud and proud she performs. “which way” sounds like what would happen if Dylan Brady, Gorillaz and twigs all came together for a production. It’s analog b
ass is warm, and it’s PC Music-inspired synths are icy cold, and it’s lyrics are downright inspiring, ‘I had a good job and I left!” and “I’m not the rockstar’s girlfriend, I am the rockstar” are good examples. The flow of the record truly does play like a DJ set of unreleased music from twigs and the musicians she appreciates, and the cover’s Carpenters style font really brings the borrowing of swag full circle. In the same way Drake did on the underrated More Life, she is curating sound just as much as she’s writing songs. This let’s other artists shine because they all meet twigs at her lofty art pop level. “careless (feat. daniel caesar)” slows it all down, dueting the two in a way that sounds both commercially viable and tasteful. “track girl interlude” features production from Nick Cave’s right hand man, Warren Ellis, who really throws it back to the EP2 days with the esoteric sound play. “darjeeling” even sees her and Jorja Smith floating over a UK drill beat, with rapper unknown t oddly complimenting them.
There are these recordings in between many of the songs that remind me of Jazmine Sullivan’s Heaux Tales or Frank Ocean’s Endless, giving the audience a peek behind the curtain and even some context behind the songs themselves. Just before “oh my love”, an unnamed woman says “I went out with this boy once, yeah / And I met all his family…And in the end, oh nah you’re not my girl, we’re just like hanging out aren’t we?”. The feelings of uncertainty and lack of commitment continue with lyrics like “Everybody knows that I want you love / Why you playing baby boy, what’s up?” “christi interlude” is the penultimate track, a horoscope reading for twigs. Being that this is Capricorn season, and her birthday is in two days, it’s really interesting that she is fitting that she chooses to include this. I’m usually quite skeptical about horoscopes, but more and more each year I am reminded that the time that someone was born does deeply affect their personality. It makes sense that twigs is shy, fragile and her vocal style is so icy cold. She was born, just like me, in the midst of cold winters. As a child, while all the spring Geminis and summer Libras were arguing over which sign is superior in the sun, twigs was out of frame in that conversation. Rather than feel pity for herself, she decided to embrace the cold glow of the new moon, which she was born on. Now, she can celebrate her birthday anywhere she wants, she is rich, single, and sexy. “thank you song” reframes her baroque stylings with futuristic tendencies of Arca’s kick iiii, with Arca actually taking over the reins of production completely. The cold builds character because it makes you appreciate the warm embrace of the sun, and that is what this song represents to me. While others inherited this glow, twigs had to fight hard to feel it. “thank you song” acknowledges that, and is a perfect send off to her take on a “mixtape”, a loosely bound amalgamation of vibes, thoughts and influences that sees twigs at her most expressive. Even starting it off with the line “I wanted to die, I’m just being honest” the track still finds a way to feel uplifting. It hits the mark on nearly every genre it tries its hand at, and sees her transitioning towards pop tendencies without losing what makes her so deeply special as an artist. Like The Weeknd did so wonderfully on Dawn FM and After Hours, twigs has hit the sweet spot.