Tahliah Barnett is stepping out of the background.
Under the stage name FKA twigs (The “FKA” stands for Formerly Known As to avoid confusion with another artist named Twigs), Barnett has released a confident debut album simply titled “LP1.” It’s a dark, minimal make-out record that soon will overshadow the fact that Barnett used to be a backup dancer for other pop stars.
Twigs bridges her past and future on the track “Video Girl,” where she admits to lying about being “the girl that’s from the video.” It’s the sound of Barnett being so close to the center of attention and not settling until she is the camera’s sole focus. A quick YouTube search will show she’s doing just that with the music videos from her previous EPs and especially with lead single “Two Weeks.” It’s hard to listen to “Two Weeks” now without seeing her dressed up as a goddess in the video as she enunciates her lyrics in sync with the icy beat underneath. It gives way to her howling to the heavens, displaying her vocal range and proving she’s ready for the spotlight.
Despite working with a wide range of producers, “LP1” doesn’t jump through multiple style hoops. The Clams Casino and Devonte Hynes co-produced “Hours” seamlessly segues into Oscar-winner Paul Epworth’s co-contribution “Pendulum” without missing a beat. Each song has Barnett’s voice front and center, with stuttering drum machines clicking in the background. She is in full control throughout, putting her fragile voice on full display.
Although Barnett sings about a sensual evening on “Lights On,” there is a haunting darkness woven into the song and the rest of the album. For someone ready to be the center of attention, she’s still leaving one foot in the shadows and maintaining a sense of mystery. FKA twigs is walking a fine line between stardom and obscurity, but with a debut this strong, I suspect she’ll keep her balance gracefully.
For fans of:
Beyonce, Portishead, James Blake