FKA twigs’ latest project, M3LL155X, a surprise EP release pronounced “Melissa,” is accompanied by a 16-minute suite of videos for the first four of the record’s five songs. It’s a statement more than a gimmick, as Twigs is as much a dancer and performance artist as she is a singer, songwriter and producer.
Created with assistance from Beyoncé collaborator Boots, the music is spacious, paranoid and sultry; the lyrics are suggestive and knotted. The songs lack centers, or even hooks, and aren’t easily assimilated, but unmistakable themes emerge: Through a feverish haze of sounds and sights, M3LL155X asks big questions about femininity, sex and power — a strong commentary on agency by an artist whom tabloids often flatten to being Twilight star Robert Pattinson’s fiancee. “Am I dancing sexy yet?” she asks on “Glass and Patron,” but she’s no simple vixen or coquette; she’s seeking validation only to lay traps. She whispers about a “break away from being told who I am” and asks “will you f– me while I stare at the sun?” In the song, there are ashes, phoenixes and lust; in the video, there are gender-blurring dancers on a glossy runway in dark, barren woods. On “Figure 8,” she presents herself as both numinous and fearsome: “I am an angel/Hush now/My back wings will give you the hardest slap that you’ve ever seen.”
Twigs finds justice in the push and pull of power and opposites. On “Figure 8,” she’s pregnant, but says she “won’t give birth till you insert yourself inside of me.” She shows up pregnant twice in this set of videos — but only after lying as a dead-eyed blow-up doll that’s lustily mounted by an unfeeling lover on “I’m Your Doll.” In the video for “In Time,” when her water breaks and drips down her legs in streams of rainbow colors, it disgusts an onlooking man. The inference is clear: The male gaze wants to penetrate women’s lives, but it does not always want them to have the power to create.
Listen to music from FKA twigs, and more artists from this issue, in the Spotify playlist below:
This story originally appeared in the Aug. 29 issue of Billboard.