If music critics have their way, the new R&B artist FKA Twigs will be the next big thing. If you haven't heard of her yet, that should change immediately. FKA Twigs more than lives up to the hype.
Her debut album, LP1, garnered dozens of positive reviews, because it rejected conventional R&B staples in favor of electronic, layered backing. But what makes LP1 a masterpiece of a debut album isn't that it casts off tight harmonies and soothing voices.
What makes LP1 great is that Twigs makes innovative and interesting music, but stays incredibly approachable. And maybe, just maybe, she's building the future of R&B.
A sound without a category
FKA Twigs is the stage name of 26-year-old Tahliah Barnett, a British R&B singer who's gone from being a back-up dancer in music videos to starring in her own in just four years. In 2013, she released a pair of sleepy but eccentric EPs. LP1 is more tightly constructed. The layers of sound Twigs is quickly becoming known for are spliced together perfectly, stacked on top of each other to create songs that splinter before they emerge into deep, thumping bass lines.
Critics love her because she's doing something new. In a review of her album in Pitchfork, Philip Sherburne listed artists ranging from Ciara and Beyoncé to James Blake, the xx, and Kate Bush as potential influences. She's a diva with a vocal range, a minimalist with layered sounds. Her songs cover both lust and anguish, and they're filled with sex and sensuality. It isn't easy to place FKA Twigs into a definitive category.
Unlike many darlings of music critics, however, FKA Twigs is extremely approachable for even the most casual of music fans. She's dynamic on stage, her lyrics are comprehensible, and her songs are catchy. Take "Two Weeks" for example:
The power and appeal of Twigs is in full flower here. Her voice is dynamic and interesting. The layers of sound manage to create a song that sounds both like nothing else on the market and like '70s R&B. The chorus is just repetitive enough to stick without becoming boring. "Two Weeks" is the closest Twigs comes to following a traditional pop format, making it a great entry point for mainstream listeners.
The new diva of R&B
"Two Weeks," though, is only a tiny piece of what is a genuinely good album all the way through. LP1, unlike many debut albums from younger artists, equally distributes Twigs's talent across all 10 songs. The second standout on the album is "Video Girl," featuring a slow melodic lead-in that builds and builds behind Twigs, until her voice is strongest it gets on the album. The album, though, is at its best not as a series of disconnected songs, but as one long breathy, arrhythmic experience.
LP1 heavily favors texture over melodies. The dynamic quality of the background layers makes it as easy to get lost in the sound of the album as in Twigs voice, which is part of what makes it such a joy to listen to.
But the amazing thing about LP1 is just how memorable it is. Hours, or days, or weeks later, Twigs's voice re-emerges in the listener's mind. The layers of sound, perhaps jarring at first, eventually create 1000 entrances back into the album.
So get to know FKA Twigs. She's the new diva of R&B, and her album is just as enchanting as she is.