Words by Kristal Roberts
British music artist FKA Twigs has quickly made a name for herself as the breathy, crooning songstress whose trippy synth beats and jarring, otherworldly visuals are as mystifying as they are intriguing. So when she dropped three videos at once on Aug. 20, it was kind of a big deal.
Twigs, born Tahliah Barnett, grew up in a small town in the Gloucestershire in the British Midlands with her Jamaican father and her Spanish mother.
She danced and sang locally, but when she first decided to pursue music seriously in London, no one knew what she looked like.
She told Billboard.com her music was simply described as indie meets urban. Twigs described her own music as wizardry synth, but most people struggled to categorize her sound and she found freedom in that.
However, when a picture of her face was leaked, people started to place her in a box of an R&B or trip hop—something she says people jumped to do once they realized she was a mixed race woman.
Once her image was “out there”, she decided to disrupt the labels being placed on her and make videos as nonconformist as her music.
The queen of duality, her music and her videos often muddle an understated beauty with painstaking aggression, submission to domination with dignity and control— in her musical world, the familiar lingers with taboo lurking not too far behind.
In case you’ve never seen her music videos, check out her critically acclaimed song Papi Pacify for context.
Her videos are often like poetry in motion, focused on simple visuals coupled with an unusual element. They emphasize the human form and movement in slow motion, a fairly consistent choice in the majority of her videos.
Following her Latest album release, LP1 ( Young Turks), on Aug. 12, Twigs released three music videos in a row.
True to form, these pieces of work bring conflicting feelings of appreciation and perplexity to the surface. We’ve rated each video on a scale of 1 to 10, from abysmal to amazing.
VIDEO: Ouch Ouch
The song Ouch Ouch is a collaboration with rapper Lucky Eck that was produced by FKA Twigs, but the video is ALL Twigs. It begins with a glitchy black screen that comes into focus and we see Twigs holding a video camera, filming her own homemade movie.
We hear Lucky rapping, but he’s nowhere to be seen.
The screen cuts to a close up of one flickering candle, then we see candles lit around a whole bedroom, a religious statue of what looks to be the Virgin Mary, crosses and Twigs in a whimsy, sheer wedding dress.
The symbolism in this video quickly builds as Twigs sits on a bed, perhaps a marital bed, and a snake is there to greet her, crawling on her dress and her body. A little circle between her eyes, underneath her skin appears and disappears just as quickly. The same circle pops up a couple more times at different places on her body as she sings the chorus, “Harder, I love you, harder I love you now” against the dreary, halting music.
Twiggy embraces the snake, playing with it in her hands, and drapes it around her as she styles her hair in the mirror.
Is this snake supposed to be her husband? Could be, but she isn’t the least bit fazed by the snake’s general reputation of being sneaky and duplicitous in nature.
Twigs appears to be peaceful, serene and even flirtatious as the snake crawls around her hands and face.
She swallows her wedding ring and dances around the room in a jerking, offbeat motion.
Toward the end of the video, we see Twigs removing her wedding dress, leaving her back bare. Then we see what appears to be the snake moving underneath her skin in her back, coiled in a circle, as if it’s possessed her or become a part of her; they’re now one. She sings, “harder I love you now, ouch ouch” as if she is embracing the danger, and the fact that the snake’s persona comes with some pain. There are many ways to interpret this video and its message. It gives the viewer lots to chew on, but it would have been nice to see the rapper Lucky make an appearance in the video for his song.
VIDEO: Wet Wipez
This Wet Wipez video is like battle dancing in slow motion, juxtaposed with a beautiful, airy building resembling a religious sanctuary with round, high ceilings and intricate patterns on the walls.
Traditionally speaking, this is the kind of backdrop you might expect for a ballerina.
Instead, we get a man dressed in all black, poised with his arms out, as if he’s striking a formal dance pose before he lets loose. His face is intense, filled with vigor and attitude as he breaks out in some hip hop, freestyle moves.
Another young man standing tall and stoic near a window triumphantly bursts out in dance too. He begins battling against the first male dancer, using dance is a weapon. It’s a blend of miming, fake wrestling and old hip hop moves. None of the punches thrown land on the opponent, but they’re beautifully choreographed. The “victim” falls from imaginary punches, recovers and retaliates with another choreographed blow. Then a third dancer, a woman is, added to the theatrical melee and the dynamic shifts. She exerts some control and influence over the two men in this moving art piece. More dancers are added as the scene fades from chaos in the beautiful, warm building to a dark, grimy space that feels like a back alley, followed by an additional dance scene in a seedy brick room.
The video is filled with entertaining visuals, and it certainly used artistic license to its full extent.
VIDEO: TW Ache
Here, there are no lyrics, just harmonious, at times ominous sounding chants swaddled in haunting instrumentals.
The video begins in a foggy, opaque dance studio that’s empty, until a sudden break in continuity has a dancer suddenly appear like magic.
The dancer’s face is indiscernible; it’s the silhouette of a woman’s body with a leotard and long wild hair. Her body slowly ticks, snaking from side to side, with certain parts of the video rewinding and replaying repeatedly. A man appears, dancing pressed up against a wall. We then see that the silhouette dancing body in the studio is Twigs.
She bends backwards with her head hanging back and eyes closed. She’s dancing and swaying, lost in the moment.
Twigs lifts her body up on a metal bar, as if she’s doing pull ups. A man giving her a hand begins to dance with her—slow and sensual at first, then wild and form free the next moment.
The video itself starts to bend and becomes hazy and disorienting.
Next thing you know, she’s dancing by herself again.
Two men also appear, dancing with each other and Twigs is dancing by herself.
This dance video follows no clear format, ballet moves meets lifeless swaying zombie meets smoldering Flash Dance moves only begin to describe what was happening here.
All of her videos focus on movements and pulses. Twigs places great emphasis on finding comfort in danger, and the human body and its quirks, holding it all up to a camera like a magnifying glass.
When it comes to Twigs’ style, unique is an understatement. She has a hauntingly beautiful voice, provocative lyrics and artistic, often dark imagery in her videos. Whether you like them or not, her undeniable talent and boldness seems to striking a cord.