fka twigs reveals the meaning behind every track on 'magdalene'

An exclusive breakdown of the singer's stunning, and deeply personal, sophomore album.

by Frankie Dunn
08 November 2019, 10:43am

Late last night, FKA twigs released her long-awaited and already critically-acclaimed second album MAGDALENE on Young Turks. The full-length follows in the wake of heartbreaking lead single 'Cellophane' with its surreal Andrew Thomas Huang fantasy video, sexy witchy trap tune 'Holy Terrain' featuring Future, string-heavy 'Home With You', and 'Sad Day', which we called the result of Opus III’s 1992 dance hit 'It’s A Fine Day' running into Kate Bush on a hillside.

With contributions from the likes of Nicholas Jaar, Skrillex and Jack Antonoff, the intense vulnerability of the self-produced record contrasts with just how precise and superhuman her talent is. MAGDALENE, FKA twigs told i-D in her cover interview, is about “every lover that I’ve ever had, and every lover that I’m going to have”. Musically, she described it as “just when you think it’s really fragile and about to fall apart, there’s an absolute defiance and strength in a way that my work’s never had before." She made it, it transpires, during a time when she was in recovery, both physically and mentally. It shows.

Assuming you’re ready for the emotional rollercoaster that’ll inevitably ensue, dive into MAGDALENE as FKA twigs talks you through her visionary record -- track by track.

thousand eyes
“It’s just the start of something isn’t it? The threat of change. It means that I’m gonna be going through something, and it’s going feel like everyone is watching. Like, whatever the ruin is, whatever the ruin of a woman I’ll be, everyone is going to be watching and I’m not going be able to escape it. And even when they’re not watching, I’m going feel like they’re watching. Even when no one cares, I’m going feel like there’s a thousand eyes, you know? I thought that if I was anything less than perfect, I was just going to be completely torn apart publicly.”

home with you
“It’s about relationships. People are just quite needy, aren’t they? It’s so fun and beautiful to sing. Those big strings at the end -- it’s like flying with your voice!”

sad day
“I find it neurotic. It’s all on the same note. It's creepy. It’s asking, in the monotony of your life, would you take a chance on someone for something bigger? Would you stay in the safety of your hamster wheel or would you take a risk on love and possibly being hurt again? I think I’m asking someone else that. Maybe myself as well.”

holy terrain ft. Future
“I wasn’t sure whether [Future] would even know who I am. I was like, ‘Hi, it’s twigs. Let me know if you wanna talk about music or anything.’ He texted back right away. He’s such a sweetheart. I sent him the album and I called him up and was like, ‘Listen, Future… this is what my album’s about. It’s a really empowering, sensitive record, with a lot of feminine energy, and this song is probably the most fun track on it, but I still need lyrical content.’ And he said, ‘Okay, I’ve got it’. And his verse is beautiful. He’s just talking about his downfalls as a man; how he’s sorry and asking for healing. I love Sad Future. I love when he gets emo, when he expresses himself. It’s just so beautiful when he opens up.”

mary magdalene
“I used to laugh to myself about how, as a woman, your story is often attached to the narrative of a man. No matter what you’re doing or how great your work is, sometimes it’s as though you have to be attached to a man to be validated. I’d felt like that at times. And then I started to read about Mary Magdalene and how amazing she was; how she was likely to have been Jesus’s best friend, his confidante. She was a herbalist and a healer, but, you know, her story is written out of the bible and she was ‘a prostitute’. I found a lot of power in the story of Mary Magdalene; a lot of dignity, a lot of grace, a lot of inspiration.”

fallen alien
“If other people perceived me as an alien girl, maybe that’s just because what I had done hadn’t been done before, so other people felt it was foreign. But in my mind it was always how I’d been; I was just putting it down on paper. To me it didn’t feel foreign, it felt obvious... and more human than I’d ever been, because I’d put work out. And that’s really exciting and grounding and truthful.”

mirrored heart
“I pretty much sang the whole thing in one go. Oh, it’s so sad, isn’t it? Usually I’m a mess when I sing it, I cry every time. It’s actually really nice crying on stage. I always know it’s coming.”

“When I wrote it I knew that the whole of my life was about to fall apart. Everything that I knew, all my stability and everything I was attached to… everything was about to fucking go. But it’s not an angry song. It’s like, wow, this is life. It’s gonna happen. I’m gonna lose everything and have to build it back up again. The line ‘possessive is my daybed’, it’s about when you’re lying on your sofa or your bed and you’re just thinking, you just can’t move. Have you ever had that? Everything in the room just becomes really abstract. Like when you say a word over and over again and it starts to lose its meaning. Like that, but with your room or your house or just… everything. You just start to see things in a different order. Everything has a place and a harmony and all you can do is let it happen, let it wash over you. I think there is a control in the acceptance that you’re not in control. As soon as you can accept that, all of a sudden you’re not struggling anymore and you feel at peace. You feel calm.”

“This one is particularly desperate, but there’s a camp wink and a hint of irony to it too. I don’t know whether anyone else will get that though. It’s funny that, as women, we’re asking those questions [‘didn’t I do it for you? Why don’t I do it for you?’] without realising how epic and iconic we are. Those feelings I had are the result of some socially brainwashed upbringing that I’m not even aware of, but actually, in the core of myself, I know that I’m fine. It’s like a duality. From when I made the song to when I made the video, my perspective on who I was had changed as well. I just knew it was gonna be okay. I was like, well, I just spent a year learning pole dancing, so…”

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

FKA Twigs