FKA twigs, born Tahliah Barnett, made a name for herself as a proponent of the avant garde. She’s a true multi-hyphenate — she’s a vocalist, she writes her music, she’s an incredible dancer, and a large part of her music video repertoire is self-directed. Regardless of the type of track she releases, FKA twigs has managed to find a way to ensure that a listener can immediately identify a piece of her work.
She’s not afraid to explore genres and sounds, and her discography so far could be described as R&B, electronic, hyperpop, and trippy — and all of those categorizations would be true. This Friday (January 14th), she’ll be releasing a new collection of music in the form of a mixtape called CAPRISONGS. To celebrate, we’ve rounded up ten of her best tracks so far.
Check out the list below, and scroll to the end for a playlist of all 10 tracks.
10. “Glass & Patron”
Twigs’ third EP M3LL155X was a breakthrough moment, led by its first single, “Glass & Patron.” This song features plenty of the avant-garde, industrial energy she’s become known for as an artist. She describes the process of creating the song, specifically the mystifying self-directed music video, as an example of using pain and mistakes to create moving art. Something Twigs excels at is imbuing her work with a tone uniquely hers, and this 2015 track was a perfect introduction to her world for many listeners. — Mary Siroky
09. “Good to Love”
Twigs’ high, airy vocals are on full display here. This 2016 single builds with intensity as it unfolds, hinging on a relatable premise — the thrill of falling in love with someone new. The song, like many others in the FKA twigs catalog, understands the danger of falling in love as much as it understands the joy. Even so, it’s one of the more optimistic offerings from the artist. — M.S.
08. “home with you”
“How come the more you have, the more that people want from you?/ The more you burn away, the more the people earn from you/ The more you pull away, the more that they depend on you,” comes the observation in “home with you.” This song feels like three in one — there are moments that are more spoken than sung, a chorus that actually strikes as something traditional and familiar, and an ending that cascades into symphonic territory. It’s a whole journey in four minutes. Twigs shared that the song was inspired by times in life where it feels like everything could snap at any moment, a theme that’s remained relevant since the track’s release. — M.S.
07. “holy terrain feat. Future”
Born out of a text message exchange between twigs and Future, “holy terrain” is a self-described fuckboi anthem. twigs painstakingly lays out exactly what it takes to be deserving of her love, setting up Future — in full Hendrix mode — to prove exactly why he’s not worthy. Like many women before her, twigs still has hope for his potential despite his many sins and shortcomings. The difference seems to be that twigs might be willing to draw the line at a man who’s not “bound by his boys and his chains.” — Eddie Fu
06. “Video Girl”
“Video Girl,” a standout from twigs’ 2014 debut LP1, takes an autobiographical turn. Indeed, before she was a critically-acclaimed solo artist, twigs was frequently cast as a backup dancer in music videos, and throughout the track, she expresses the dismissal and doubt that she experienced during that time. And rather than commit solely to expressing her own feelings and disappointment, twigs uses others’ cruel statements to paint a more comprehensive picture.
“The camera loves you, ain’t that enough?” and “Got something to say?/ I don’t want to hear about it” are two particularly biting lines, while the sheer disbelief represented in “was she the girl that’s from the video? Stop, stop lying to me!” is a nuanced way of mimicking others’ implicit bias and doubt towards her. While many other tracks on LP1 are focused on atmosphere and mood, “Video Girl” becomes somewhat of an exception — there is an unapologetic emphasis on words and the way they can undermine an artist. Here, FKA twigs is as confident as ever. — Paolo Ragusa
“Pendulum” showcases FKA twigs’ skill as a producer and an arranger, crafting a deeply unique, harmony-laden, and cleverly seductive journey. She’s not afraid to present the song at first as a fractured collection of melody and skittering drums, eventually building to a beautiful and satisfying chorus. It’s the way that she builds, collapses, and rebuilds her own songs that makes her so remarkable, and the creative production on “Pendulum” is both hair-raising and gratifying. When she reaches the final chorus, her full-voiced “…to be yours” feels warm and authentic, even amidst the shrill and frenetic elements that characterize much of LP1. It’s that very contrast that cemented FKA twigs as a truly singular artist. — P.R.
04. “Papi Pacify”
FKA twigs doesn’t hide from the parts of life that are more difficult to discuss. On “Papi Pacify,” she admits that she would prefer being pacified and assured of lies by an unfaithful lover, rather than have to live in reality. The music video is unsettling and uncomfortable, visually indicating a lack of control and an intrusion of sorts. Now that twigs has gone on record about some of the abuse she’s experienced in relationships, the song feels inextricably tied to that survival aspect. As a result, “Papi Pacify” lands that much harder today. — M.S.
03. “Water Me”
On the sad and intimate “Water Me,” co-produced with Arca, twigs beautifully casts herself as a plant: “He told me I was so small/ I told him ‘Water me/ I promise I can grow tall/ When making love is free.’” The electronic instrumentals create entrancing darkness around twigs’ voice as she measures herself against unrequited love, ultimately accepting that the relationship is not meant to be: “I guess I’m stuck with me.” — Regina Schliep
02. “Two Weeks”
“Weird things can be sexy,” Twigs told The Guardian about “Two Weeks,” the lead single off her debut studio album LP1. She was partly referring to the milk that’s released from her fingertips in the song’s video, where she is adorned in a crown and her skin is painted gold. Then there is her visceral lyricism: “Pull out the incisor, give me two weeks, you won’t recognize her.” “Two Weeks,” centered on an attempt at winning over someone who is already taken, situated Twigs amongst the most enigmatic artists of our time, and she hasn’t given up the throne yet. — R.S.
When Twigs released “cellophane” in 2019, the quiet track loudly marked her return after a hiatus that began in 2016. “cellophane” would go on to be the lead single and closer of her 2019 album MAGDALENE. (The title, of course, references Mary Magdalene, a follower of Jesus whose life story has been rewritten repeatedly by men and shrouded in theories, misunderstanding, and speculation about who she was.)
“cellophane” introduced listeners to what would be twigs’ most introspective work yet. Here, she was ready to write her own story: discovering who she is, and untangling that discovery from the many versions of herself that had been created by others. Accompanied by only a piano, twigs’ vocals are delicate yet strong, layered in a manner that emphasizes the intimate emotion in her voice.
“All wrapped in cellophane, the feelings that we had,” she sings in past tense, the plastic wrap standing in for a relationship that is now stored away — though her reference to transparency hints that the relationship is still not safe from public scrutiny.
twigs also learned how to pole dance, further conveying the song’s raw meaning through her body with various live performances. In more ways than one, “cellophane” effectively captures her journey of rewriting her own story, and of figuring out her relationship to all of the background noise that had fed into her life thus far. — R.S.
FKA twigs’ Best Songs Playlist: