FKA TWIGS – THE REVOLUTION WILL BE TELEVISED
It’s that time of year again – time for the Mercury Prize to be awarded. Album of the year is a prize which can bring an artist recognition and a place in the industry’s spotlight, something a lot of people expect FKA Twigs to win. From her chicano inspired look to her bizarre sexuality Twigs most definitely does not represent the norm in music in 2014, the year that for the most part gave us simple horns followed by catchy hooks and softcore videos like Anaconda and Wrecking Ball. The question is though if FKA Twigs were to win album of the year, would this change?
Twigs could be the start of a musical revolution. An inspiration to others to experiment and find the same path to success without the factory-loving fat cats of West London. She is afterall a breath of fresh air. From her surprising relationship with Robert Pattinson, to reinventing Sam Smith, to becoming the darling of many an alternative publication, Twigs defies stereotype and classification, (as she said in her own words “Fuck Alternative R ‘n’ B”), and instead staunchly does her own thing. Marie Curie, Rosa Parks, Coco Chanel, all did things their own way and forged a new path in the face of outdated thinking. It is this kind of fresh air that can topple industries. There is no better illustration of this than her music videos.
Twigs has stated she has a real hand in the making of every one of her videos. This level of influence can be seen as controlling, even diva – esque, but Twigs has managed to avoid this trap by cleverly using others to aid her in achieving her artistic vision. ‘Two Weeks’ director, Nabil, told us “She is rad, and a pleasure to work with… When two artists trust each other to do what they do it’s a winning collaboration. This can be rare in videos”. No Diva reference – instead Twigs is, in the true sense, an artist, with her videos a visual embodiment of herself.
Sex sells. Many female artists of our generation have reproduced a pre-packaged sexualisation in videos in an effort to gain popularity (and sell records). It’s obvious the more naked you get the more hits on YouTube. Twigs is one of the few who doesn’t use the music video as a vehicle to display an unattainable and hypersexualised self. She is sexual but her sexuality is laid out in an uncontrived way, a man repeatedly sticking his fingers down your throat is not the same as a lady licking a lollipop.
In response to critics reactions to her apparent submission in Papi Pacify, she pointed out “how boring would it be if we were constantly dominant or submissive”. In the video she is clearly submissive but not in a detached and disempowering booty-shaking-rap-video kind of way. Twigs is not naked (in fact only seen from the neck up), rather she looks strange and appears to be being strangled by a man, yet this video is not uncomfortable and is instead bizarrely sexy.
This bizarre sexuality is no more obvious than in ‘Two Weeks’. Twigs, queen-like, presides over miniature Twigs’ dancing as milk cascades from her fingers. The aura of sex oozes out of her. She challenges the Rihannas and Mileys of the industry whose perception of sex boils down to the closest they can get to physically imitating it on stage. What Twigs has nailed is it’s not sex that is sexy – but rather the suggestion. She maintains the power and control as she teases the viewer with juicy snippets of her seductiveness.
Undefinable FKA Twigs rails against the industry definition of her as ‘alternative R ‘n’ B’, describing instead how she likes beats and noises and atypical structures, aligning her style more to punk than pop. This is juxtaposed with explicit lyrics of the kind that would make Miley blush. Now imagine a world with more FKA Twigs. How would we cope?
Twigs herself tried her hand at punk but was no good at shouting. Her music conveys the rebellion of punk: the desire to be different and do what you want to do without needing the approval of anyone else. This desire is uncontrived, the strangeness and sexuality natural. As Twigs herself said ‘Twigs and Tahliah are one and the same, one girl, one personality, two names’. She is not a brand, nor the figment of someone else’s imagination but rather moves to her own tune while simultaneously creating a new one. This new tune was rare in the music of 2014 but perhaps if Twigs were to win the Mercury prize, not only would it be a twist in the tale of Tahliah but also in the tale of modern music industry’s decline.