Editors’ Notes Look past its futurist textures and careful obfuscations, and there’s something deeply human about FKA twigs’ 21st-century R&B. On her second full-length, the 31-year-old British singer-songwriter connects our current climate to that of Mary Magdalene, a healer whose close personal relationship with Christ brought her scorn from those who would ultimately write her story: men. “I'm of a generation that was brought up without options in love,” she tells Apple Music. “I was told that as a woman, I should be looked after. It's not whether I choose somebody, but whether somebody chooses me.” Written and produced by twigs, with major contributions from Nicolas Jaar, MAGDALENE is a feminist meditation on the ways in which we relate to one another and ourselves—emotionally, sexually, universally—set to sounds that are at once modern and ancient. “Now it’s like, ‘Can you stand up in my holy terrain?’” she says, referencing the titular lyric from her mid-album collaboration with Future. “‘How are we going to be equals in this? Spiritually, am I growing? Do you make me want to be a better person?’ I’m definitely still figuring it out.” Here, she walks us through the album track by track.
thousand eyes “All the songs I write are autobiographical. Anyone that's been in a relationship for a long time, you're meshed together. But unmeshing is painful, because you have the same friends or your families know each other. No matter who you are, the idea of leaving is not only a heart trauma, but it's also a social trauma, because all of a sudden, you don't all go to that pub that you went to together. The line ['If I walk out the door/A thousand eyes'] is a reference to that. At the time, I was listening to a lot of Gregorian music. I’d started really getting into medieval chords before that, and I'd found some musicians that play medieval music and done a couple sessions with them. Even on [2014's] LP1, I had ‘Closer,’ which is essentially a hymn. I spent a lot of time in choir as a child and I went to Sunday school, so it’s part of who I am at this stage.”
home with you “I find things like that interesting in the studio, just to play around and bring together two completely different genres—like Elton John chords and a hip-hop riff. That’s what ‘home with you’ was for me: It’s a ballad and it's sad, but then it's a bop as well, even though it doesn't quite ever give you what you need. It’s about feeling pulled in all directions: as a daughter, or as a friend, or as a girlfriend, or as a lover. Everyone wanting a piece of you, but not expressing it properly, so you feel like you're not meeting the mark.”
sad day “It’s like, ‘Will you take another chance with me? Can we escape the mundane? Can we escape the cyclical motion of life and be in love together and try something that's dangerous and exhilarating? Yeah, I know I’ve made you sad before, but will you give me another chance?' I wrote this song with benny blanco and Koreless. I love to set myself challenges, and it was really exciting to me, the challenge of retaining my sound while working with a really broad group of people. I was lucky working with Benny, in the fact that he creates an environment where, as an artist, you feel really comfortable to be yourself. To me, that's almost the old-school definition of a producer: They don't have to be all up in your grill, telling you what to do. They just need to lay a really beautiful, fertile soil, so that you can grow to be the best you in the moment.”
holy terrain “I’m saying that I want to find a man that can stand up next to me, in all of my brilliance, and not feel intimidated. To me, Future’s saying, ‘Hey, I f**ked up. I filled you with poison. I’ve done things to make you jealous. Can you heal me? Can you tell me how to be a better man? I need the guidance, of a woman, to show me how to do that.’ I don't think that there are many rappers that can go there, and just put their cards on the table like that. I didn't know 100%, once I met Future, that it would be right. But we spoke on the phone and I played him the album and I told him what it was about: ‘It’s a very female-positive, femme-positive record.’ And he was just like, ‘Yeah. Say no more. I've got this.’ And he did. He crushed it. To have somebody who's got patriarchal energy come through and say that, wanting to stand up and be there for a woman, wanting to have a woman that's an equal—that's real.”
mary magdalene “Let’s just imagine for one second: Say Jesus and Mary Magdalene are really close, they're together all the time. She's his right-hand woman, she’s his confidante, she's healing people with him and a mystic in her own right. So, at that point, any man and woman that are spending that much time together, they're likely to be what? Lovers. Okay, cool. So, if Mary had Jesus' children, that basically debunks the whole of history. Now, I'm not saying that happened. What I'm saying is that the idea of people thinking that might happen is potentially really dangerous. It’s easier to call her a whore, because as soon as you call a woman a whore, it devalues her. I see her as Jesus Christ's equal. She’s a male projection and, I think, the beginning of the patriarchy taking control of the narrative of women. Any woman that's done anything can be subject to that; I’ve been subject to that. It felt like an apt time to be talking about it.”
fallen alien “When you're with someone, and they're sleeping, and you look at them, and you just think, 'No.' For me, it’s that line, ['When the lights are on, I know you/When you fall asleep, I’ll kick you down/By the way you fell, I know you/Now you’re on your knees']. You're just so sick of somebody's bulls**t, you're just taking it all day, and then you're in bed next to them, and you're just like, ‘I can't take this anymore.’”
mirrored heart “People always say, ‘Whoever you're with, they should be a reflection of yourself.’ So, if you're looking at someone and you think, ‘You're a s**tbag,’ then you have to think about why it was that person, at that time, and what's connecting you both. What is the reflection? For others that have found a love that is a true reflection of themselves, they just remind me that I don't have that, a mirrored heart.”
daybed “Have you ever forgotten how to spell a really simple word? To me, depression's a bit like that: Everything's quite abstract, and even slightly dizzy, but not in a happy way. It's like a very slow circus. Suddenly the fruit flies seem friendly, everything in the room just starts having a different meaning and you even have a different relationship with the way the sofa cushions smell. [Masturbation] is something to raise your endorphins, isn't it? It’s either that or try and go to the gym, or try and eat something good. You almost can't put it into words, but we've all been there. I sing, 'Active are my fingers/Faux, my cunnilingus': You're imagining someone going down on you, but they're actually not. You open your eyes, and you're just there, still on your sofa, still watching daytime TV.”
cellophane “It's just raw, isn't it? It didn't need a thing. The vocal take that's on the record is the demo take. I had a Lyft arrive outside the studio and I’d just started playing the piano chords. I was like, ‘Hey, can you just give me like 20, 25 minutes?’ And I recorded it as is. I remember feeling like I wanted to cry, but I just didn't feel like it was that suitable to cry at a studio session. I often want everything to be really intricate and gilded, and I want to chip away at everything, and sculpt it, and mold it, and add layers. The thing I've learned on MAGDALENE is that you don't need to do that all the time, and just because you can do something, it doesn't mean you should. That's been a real growing experience for me—as a musician, as a producer, as a singer, even as a dancer. Something in its most simple form is beautiful.”
home with you
holy terrain (feat. Future)
9 Songs, 39 Minutes
November 8, 2019
℗ 2019 Young Turks Recordings Ltd.
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