FKA Twigs explores Black history in her new music video

Featuring Headie One, ‘Don’t Judge Me’ is the London artist’s first single since ‘Magdalene’ and a sign of things to come.

by Douglas Greenwood
27 January 2021, 12:50pm

FKA Twigs’ 2019 record Magdalene was significant due to its creative autonomy: one track aside, she was the only voice on an album that felt shaped by personal pain and the safety of solitude. We know now why that was, and in the aftermath of that record’s release, she wasted no time channeling her subsequent emotions into her music. Twigs’ new track and video “Don’t Judge Me”, featuring Headie One and Britain’s hottest producer Fred again, has just arrived, and it’s the first cut off a forthcoming record that seems to have been made with a more collaborative spirit. 

The song — which feels like a moment of exorcism after the pain that shaped the past few years — could be a paean for someone you love, as much as it is a message of unity tied to police brutality. “Hold me in your arms, say we'll make it through / I got a precious heart open for you,” Twigs sings in her unmistakable falsetto, balanced by Headie One’s incisive verse on the way white supremacy shapes the oppression and combative behaviours of young Black men. References to North London gangs sit alongside lines about “Willie Lynch fury” — the Willie Lynch speech being a document from colonial America, which detailed pitting enslaved Black people against each other to avoid an uprising.

It’s all neatly strung together thanks to a sparing beat and echoing, drawn out and chopped up chords that sound like an ascension to heaven. The song’s video has been shot in several locations throughout London, most significantly at the foot of Kara Walker’s Fons Americanus fountain inside the Tate Modern, around which dancers move and significant Black British figures -- Clara Amfo, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Munroe Bergdorf -- stand. Twigs appears alone in a regal setting, dancing of her own accord, her body contorting, as if against her will, speaking to the combative nature of Headie’s songwriting. 

Its release comes shortly after Twigs spoke to Louis Theroux about the past year of her life, including the revelations of the alleged abuse she faced while with Shia LaBeouf, and her new record. This time around, the album looks set to be a more open and collaborative project than the one that preceded it, produced during lockdown with a number of other artists around the world. And if “Don’t Judge Me” is anything to go by, it’ll truly be something special.

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FKA Twigs