FKA twigs

Pop stars reference crying on the dancefloor with such regularity that you wonder if DJs are out there spinning the audiobook to A Little Life. Last December, apparently unable to resist the temptation, FKA twigs released “Tears in the Club,” a metallic R&B and trap collaboration with the Weeknd in which she attempted to shed the memory of an ex and announced, “I’ma drown in the beat now.” Both the A-list guest and the single’s digestibility furthered speculation that she might drift from her usual meticulous, avant-garde creations. Would her upcoming mixtape, Caprisongs, launch a more exuberant and radio-friendly sound? Was twigs finally embarking on her “main pop girl” era?

Well, only in a sense. Caprisongs is a playful and adventurous flex, with guest features from the likes of Jorja Smith and Shygirl and executive production from El Guincho; twigs has framed it as a “journey back to myself through my amazing collaborators and friends.” The project’s title is not a riff on the kids’ juice pouches, but on being a “Capricorn sun”—a driven, in-control type of bitch. The songs are errant, shapeshifting compositions that move quickly, flirting with choral music and Afrobeats, schoolyard chants and squeak rapping. If you’re anticipating any straightforward hits with Dua Lipa, don’t: “Why Don’t You Love Me,” the much-awaited collaboration the duo recorded in 2020, is not on the tracklist. But the mixtape does feature life-or-death dramatics from a stan impatient for its release: “OK twigs,” they snap, “I’m tired of listening to it on YouTube.”

Caprisongs begins with the click of a cassette player—a framing twigs uses to swerve in whatever direction she desires. On opener “ride the dragon,” her purrs are met with a gargled, screwed reply, like having phone sex with the gremlin under your bed. The two voices build a slow momentum, winding around each other until click—the tape scrambles forward, jumping into the universe of what feels like a new song. Within a few seconds, another click: “So if you … reallywannakissme?” twigs accelerates.

Rest your head for a moment and you’re in a new location. “ride the dragon” goes out on a vaguely Asian palette of strings and flute, then the next number, “honda,” proceeds with the celestial harmonies of a Western church choir. The song is built on a delicious contrast, between heavenly background vocals and a beat that stays low to the ground, full of crisp clicks and clatters. twigs breaks her sentences into two-syllable bursts—“Baby. We can. Roll it. Mway. Smoke It. Honda”—while Gambian-British rapper Pa Salieu keeps things frisky: “Would you still be a freak even when we turn 50?”

While twigs is best known for her wispy, classically tuned falsetto, on Caprisongs she slips into a lively array of voices. “Everybody knows that I want your love/Why you playin’, baby boy/What’s up?” she chants on “oh my love,” with the speak-talking sass of Cher Lloyd. You can envision her with her hip cocked to the side, popping a lollipop out of her mouth. Over the misty “lo-fi beats” of “lightbeamers,” she shoots up her voice like she’s squeak rapper 645AR and then loosens slightly so she starts to resemble Jeremih. Elsewhere, twigs sounds a hell of a lot like Charli XCX: glitchy wails materialize midway through “meta angel,” a cherubic, slow-rocking number about craving validation from a higher power. On “darjeeling,” twigs deploys Charli’s spry, fricative cadence, counterbalancing nicely with Jorja Smith’s plush vocals.

Smith’s performance is a standout on Caprisongs; the rest of the collaborations yield mixed results. The Afrobeats single “jealousy” is the most easygoing song of the lot, but seems basic in comparison to everything else; Nigerian singer Rema’s appearance is nice but unremarkable. The gospel-tinged “careless,” with Canadian R&B singer Daniel Caesar, features some divine harmonies but is ultimately too slow-moving and tasteful. More fun-loving is the Shygirl-assisted “papi bones,” which sounds like a hammy SoundCloud remix of Y2K dancehall, air horns and all. If twigs’ objective was to stop overthinking and simply try out ideas in the studio, then “papi bones” preserves a nice spontaneity.

Caprisongs’ nine guests, in addition to its already peripatetic approach to genre and cadence, makes it a lot to take in. Then come the voice memo recordings that serve as interludes: peals of laughter, somebody strumming an acoustic guitar, some woo-woo sermonizing. (“The universe fam/The universe is so powerful.”) The snippets feel gratuitous, like one of those year-end Instagram dumps, full of in-jokes and private realizations without enough context to be significant. The mixtape winds down with a nutty astrological reading that sounds like it was conducted by Amy Poehler in Mean Girls and results in the most awkward transition of the project, wherein twigs recites her chart placements (“Sagi-moon, Picsy-veen, Capri-sun”) then, immediately on the next track, confesses she once wanted to die.

Over a year ago, twigs filed a lawsuit accusing her ex-boyfriend of abuse, and her 2019 album MAGDALENE was, in part, about the racist vitriol she experienced from outsiders in a prior relationship. She has spoken about her desire to be written about as her own entity, not attached to a partner: “My work was so beautiful. It was so much louder than my love life. It is so much louder.” Caprisongs is the sound of twigs in the driver’s seat as she traverses her own curiosities and instincts; there is no man looming over the music, no weighty public narrative dictating its terrain. It is intrepid and light, the image of a woman attuned to planetary alignments but casting her own fate.

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