In MAGDALENE, FKA twigs creates a beautiful, angelic musical world full of high, lilting vocals juxtaposed with a mix of grungy, industrial sound effects. The album shows a deeply vulnerable outpouring of emotion that evokes a heart-wrenching reaction from the listener; it grapples with loneliness, vulnerability, and love. Immediately apparent from the title, religious elements frequently appear like in the choir of voices, the prayer-like beginnings to songs, and the angelic nature of FKA twigs’ sound. While listening to this album with eyes closed, a world of luxurious fabrics in royal purple and blue, stained glass windows, and gold emerge.
A chorus of angels’ voices opens the album with a chant, “If I walk out the door, it starts our last goodbye.” Slowly, FKA twigs dives into the heartbreak of walking away from a lover. As “thousand eyes” crescendos with “It’s going to be cold without those eyes,” the high notes of twigs’ voice contrasted with industrial, crunchy sounds, vocal distortion, and running water supplement the lonely lyrics.
The second song, “home with you,” starts with a spoken stream of consciousness that escalates into clashing piano keys and a warbly, raspy voice full of emotion; “Mary Magdalene would never let her loved ones down.” The chorus is stylistically in line with FKA twigs: wide vocal range and emotionally evocative. She sings, “I didn’t know that you were lonely / if you’d just told me I’d be home with you.” This lyric resonates with the willingness to offer social support in the face of loneliness. The song ends with, “And I’d have told you / I was lonely too.” This statement is a heart wrenching and vulnerable pronouncement that gets to the meat of our divided, isolated culture in the current world. In an age that desperately needs empathy, FKA twigs’ “home with you” is a modern-day ballad that speaks to our loneliness and desire for connection.
The album continues to explore the different parts of love in a variety of ways, including exploring the transformation of love over time. In “holy terrain,” younger voices combine with the rap of Future to open the song before FKA twigs sings about the first few days of a new relationship. One of the most evocative lines of the song is, “Do you still think I’m beautiful / When my tears fall like rain?”. This line captures the sentiment of becoming vulnerable through outward expressions of emotion, knowing that this experience can create a deep connection or drive people apart. She croons, “My love is so bountiful / For a man, who is true to me.” Her reply shows off the willingness to be extremely open with someone when they reciprocate with love, even under pressure from others.
As one of the preeminent albums of 2019, MAGDALENE is a work of art that helps the listener experience the emotional turmoil and joy that being in love brings. Each song explores different stages in a relationship and different challenges that can be faced when doing something as vulnerable as loving someone. FKA twigs voice is a perfect vessel for carrying that passionate rollercoaster of feelings.