While trying to become a musician, critics would tell her, “The camera loves you, isn’t that enough?” FKA Twigs answers with a resounding no -- just being a dancer isn’t enough. And based off of her debut album, LP1, Taliah Barnett is not interested in any form of “enough.” Making an album that remained stagnant in one genre, adhering to preset guidelines could have been “enough.” Thank goodness for Taliah’s dissatisfaction with satisfactory.
LP1 blasts us with music that sounds foreign, futuristic. It doesn’t make complete sense at first, but you can instantly understand that something great resides there. Trying to comprehend and familiarize yourself with the album, the production – it can be daunting. And yet, each consecutive listen sucks you further and further into Taliah’s ominous narrative.
Simply titled “Preface,” Twigs sets the scene for the remainder of her album: love and hate, both for another and for herself. Menacing production accompanies Sir Thomas Wyatt’s quote sung repeatedly, over and over. “I love another, and thus I hate myself.”
As the album continues onward, it chronicles various explicit romantic endeavors, such as “Lights On,” exploring the relationship between lust and trust. Taliah powerfully asserts on “Two Weeks” that after her love interest has sex with her, in “two weeks, [he] won’t recognize” his former girlfriend, whoever that may be.
Even though it didn’t always seem to be the case, after listening to the album various times, its storyline does in fact have a rhyme and reason. Both of the sexual songs aforementioned represent a newer kind of relationship; one focused on gaining trust, absorbed in forgetting old loves.
Although she retains sexual tension and lyrics, the fourth song, “Hours,” speaks on how she “could kiss you for hours.” It contrasts with “Two Weeks” as it represents a shorter quantity of time in name, but instead feels much longer in its drawn out execution.
This attempt to slow down the album to a sluggish pace brings a sense of calmness and actual trust that she had sought before. And yet, the song still manages to obtain its own fair share of foreboding production, as her voice continually warps at the end of the song, and the calmness cannot last.
“Pendulum,” a standout track on the album, follows next. All of that past comfort is gone, perhaps momentary, perhaps lost. Her man has forgotten “how [they] fell in love,” and she is “so lonely trying to be” his. Her sense of inadequacy seeps through her lyrics, and we can’t help but feel helpless along with her.
Still, in a passive aggressive manner that foreshadows her upcoming, more hostile attitude, her final verse asks him how it feels “to have [her] thinking about” him in this way, hoping it hurts, praying it makes an impact.
In another brilliant song, “Video Girl,” FKA Twigs sings about her past as a dancer and her conflict with trying to transition and become a singer. She would “lie” when people asked if she was the “girl from the video,” a confusing attempt to distance herself from that life and become something different.
Although this is the first song that revolves around herself, that doesn’t mean that it is removed from the rest of the tracks. In all of the confusion, she tells herself “you’re gonna get yourself broke one day,” referencing backwards to the previous song where she described herself as already “broken." Her insecurities, her lack of confidence in the past; it has allowed her to fall into the clutches of an unstable and unhealthy relationship.
If the instability wasn’t already evident, the admittedly frightening “Numbers” shows Taliah at her most unhinged and violent, at some sort of breaking point in her relationship, asking if she was “just another number” to him. Does he “want to live or die?” This question could be a metaphor for asking whether he wants his presence to remain a part of her life or not, but the possible literal interpretation is a disturbing consideration.
“Closer” isn’t void of creepy aspects either, having what sounds like both hymn and hip hop influences combined strangely together. The “isolation” she describes is not so much physical, but instead emotional, as she and her lover have grown apart. You get the feeling as though they share time “together,” but are never really present or close to each other in spirit. The production focuses on that distance in a unique way, making the chorus “I’m here to be closer” sound purposefully closer to the listener's eardrum than the verses do.
Should she save this relationship? You might ask her this question as she reaches “Give Up,” a song that is, actually, about not giving up. She pretty much is willing to do anything to try to salvage the broken pieces and make this dysfunctional relationship somehow become functional again. The choice to keep this contradictory title represents what everyone, including her deepest self, truthfully believes she should do.
“Tell me what do I do when you’re not here?” Taliah asks on the final track, “Kicks.” She revisits sexuality, but this time around she focuses on how she can “get [her] kicks,” how she will “touch [herself]” and “make her own damn way” to feel good. She not only addresses her lost or failing relationship and her need to satisfy herself now, but she also, in her own way, gives the album a sense of continuation beyond the project’s end. Even when the listeners “aren’t here” listening to it, the album has a life of it’s own, and it will continue to be great and satisfy itself, with or without you.
FKA Twigs challenges music genres and pushes forward in a space where most artists do not. Her debut takes getting used to, but it’s also worth getting used to. For having such a blatantly straightforward title, it’s amazing that LP1 achieves greatness in such a beautifully irregular way.