Thanks to its enchantingly transcendental vocal performances and heart-wrenching lyricism, Magdalene is perhaps FKA Twigs' finest, most profound statement to date, though often leaves a lot to be desired in terms of production and instrumental output.
Following the great success of her fascinating debut record and its more surreal follow-up EP, M3LL155X, Magdalene is a record over 2 years in the making, a conceptual album seeing Tahliah open up on her breakup with Robert Pattinson back in 2017 and her public image. After about 4 years out of the spotlight, Magdalene finds FKA Twigs at her most revealing and personal stage of her music career thus far.
The core of the album itself takes more of a self-reflective, meditative, passionately bittersweet and romantic tone, with many of the tracks building up the sense of inner emotional pain, only for all the heartbreak, distress and emotional trauma to be set free, allowing the beautiful rose to bloom and open up once again from all the darkness. Rather than taking the record down a sadder, more melancholic and depressing passageway, Magdalene is an empowering record full of pure, lush beauty and color, one that'll no doubt appeal to many people, as it is far less chaotic, difficult-to-pin-down and more accessible than its predecessors.
Magdalene undoubtedly is full of substance with a lot to offer as a conceptual piece. The opening track, "thousand eyes" sets up the stakes quite nicely laying out exactly what to expect out of this FKA Twigs record with Twigs' sensual, even somewhat haunting vocal passages. While nothing instrumentally riveting that stands out overall, it is a rather melodic and interestingly psychedelic, suspenseful opener for what it is. "home with you" and "sad day", both being teaser tracks, complement each other nicely at a comfortably slow pace in context with the record. These songs continue the dense lyrical themes of heartbreak that were set up in the opener. Meanwhile, tracks like "mary magdalene" and "daybed" dive more into religious, sensually liberating themes, a rather abstract twist to the album's romance-filled direction where Twigs opens herself up even further in an engaging manner. Then, there's the closer, "cellophane", which fits snuggly in context with the record, as it is this larger-than-life, ethereal song that nicely closes up the album's themes like the final pages of a fantasy novel.
Conceptually and lyrically, I am very much impressed with what Magdalene has to offer. Outside of that though, the album doesn't stand out sonically. A lot of the album's weight is much too dependent on its conceptual qualities. FKA Twigs takes a few notable risks and ambitions here and there, but most of what's here is a slower, less chaotic reiteration of her older sounds than an evolution. While still commendable and gorgeously assembled, the final result just isn't quite as interesting as previous efforts.
It's understandable why Twigs took this new approach to express her pure emotions, but I have to stress the importance of production for albums like this. Consistently stunning, unique and enchanting production that takes the artist's sound to a refreshing direction only benefits Magdalene in the long run, and make for an even more satisfying and emotionally-charming listen. There just seems to be a missing puzzle piece that keeps Magdalene from its full potential, which is kind of a shame considering the diverse range of producers recruited for this album. Tracks like "daybed" and "mirrored heart" just don't make good use of their credited producers like Oneohtrix Point Never. Meanwhile, tracks like "cellophane", "mary magdalene" and the dissonant "fallen alien" in comparison are so much more grand, interesting and stunning in presentation. Producers like Skrillex and features like Future who you'd think wouldn't complement FKA Twigs' unstructured and raw performance at all actually bring some nice additions to the table, blending well with Twigs. I can imagine that if even Skrillex's production contributions were notably good, what was stopping people like Nicholas Jaar from adding something truly spectacular to Magdalene?
So there are certainly plenty of things I appreciate and enjoy about this record and I came out enjoying most of it, I just don't see it as one of FKA Twigs' best. It's not one of the better sounding Twigs projects, nor is it the most focused or groundbreaking either. However, with regards to the vocals, the lyrics and some of the narratives explored on here, it is easily one of FKA Twigs' best. If you're someone who prefers a more comfortably-sounding FKA Twigs album and is expecting a record with a lot of solid songwriting and lyrical themes, I highly recommend Magdalene, even over her other albums. It's also the best, most pleasant-to-the-ears starting point for those that are new to FKA Twigs too.
Regardless of the album's quality as a whole, it is still very refreshing and respectable to see FKA Twigs take her music to a more personal side and opening herself to everyone about the turmoil she's been going through in such a compelling and thoughtful manner.
"They're waiting, they're watching, they’re watching us. They're hating, they're waiting and hoping I'm not enough."
FAV TRACKS: home with you, sad day, mary magdalene, fallen alien, cellophane
LEAST FAV TRACK: mirrored heart