Given how emotionally excruciating FKA twigs’ second album, 2019’s Magdalene, was, it’s surprising that she never intended to make something so damn dark in the first place. In a BBC podcast interview last year, the musician recalled that prior to Magdalene, “I really wanted to come out with something really fab where I could, like, come up a stage with, like, a wind machine in my hair and a hundred dancers. But my life said otherwise, like, ‘No, that’s not what you’re supposed to be doing right now, or maybe ever.’”
Joke’s on that old twigs, then, because the British musician’s new mixtape, CAPRISONGS, out Friday, is her at her most fab. It’s perhaps the project she wanted to make all those years ago–a sonic adventure more targeted toward the dance floor than anything she’s done before–but with some caveats. Yes, this is the 33-year-old at her lightest and most buoyant, but she also has more scars, more life experience, and more hard-won wisdom this time. Reassuringly, that’s exactly what makes her dancing here feel even more badass–she’s earned this lightness, and she’s reveling in it.
CAPRISONGS begins with a cooing, spoken-word intro: “Hey, I made you a mixtape. Because when I feel you, I feel me. And when I feel me, it feels good.” What follows is her longest and most meandering collection of music to date–which also means it’s her most scattered, a word you’d probably never have associated with the woman who’s always seemed so laser-focused and exact throughout her decade-long career. But mixtapes are meant to be musical playgrounds, and twigs certainly takes the time to play here, dipping into contrasting styles and genres over the course of one hour and 17 tracks.
Twigs executive produced CAPRISONGS alongside El Guincho, the Spanish beatmaker best known for his collaborations with Rosalía. Together, they tackle Latin pop on the icy “honda” and hyperpop on “pamplemousse,” a spazzy, AutoTuned earworm that’ll probably make 100 Gecs jealous. Then there’s “tears in the club,” the project’s only advance single, which features The Weeknd and finds twigs at her poppiest, followed closely by “papi bones,” which sounds like an early Rihanna demo in all the best ways, with twigs crowning herself the club’s “champagne bubble girl.”
Those songs–and most of the mixtape’s front end–live up to twigs’ promise that this is music akin to “bronzer in the sink” that’s meant for “a club pre-game,” as she described in an Instagram post last week. But CAPRISONGS is not always that vivacious or carefree; as we know by now, twigs can also wield her soprano like a dagger. She sounds like she’s about to shatter on “careless,” as she repeats, “You can be careless with me,” and she’s equal parts lost and transcendent on the dizzying “which way.” Standout track “lightbeamers,” meanwhile, is a pretty, pixelated plea to keep herself together: “Did you give yourself away again? Don’t, don’t do it again,” she sings, later reminding herself, “Put it in your phone, read it when you’re down and out / Play it in your car, boom a little loud.”
As songs like “lightbeamers” and “minds of men” make abundantly clear, this is music made for healing. And for twigs, part of that healing seems to stem from collaboration. Where Magdalene sounded like pure seclusion, she’s not alone this time–ironic, considering CAPRISONGS was written entirely in quarantine, when she was physically distanced from her peers. Twigs has her longest list of collaborators to date here, including The Weeknd, Daniel Caesar, Jorja Smith, Rema, Shygirl, Pa Salieu, Unknown T, and Dystopia. Even on the feature-free songs, she sounds less isolated–take “oh my love,” which finds her employing a chorus of backing vocals as she taunts/jeers, “Everybody knows that I want your love, why you playin’ baby boy, what’s up?”
Never is CAPRISONGS’ sense of camaraderie more obvious than on the mixtape’s endless (maybe too endless) interludes, which basically serve as dispatches from the studio of twigs and her pals shooting the shit and hyping each other up, like on “meta angel,” when a friend tells her, “You’re gonna be more free, you’re gonna love more, you’re gonna have more fun.” “Do you think so?” twigs innocently asks, to which the friend replies, “I don’t think so, I know so.” Then there’s the hilariously self-aware spoken-word bit at the end of “pamplemousse,” where a friend begs to know why twigs’ unreleased Dua Lipa collaboration, “Why Don’t You Love Me,” has never seen the light of day. (This was perhaps the most popular question on fans’ minds heading into CAPRISONGS, and the song did not, for the record, make it onto the tracklist. Consider that vault locked, I guess.)
Notably, this is FKA twigs’ first release since she filed a lawsuit against ex-boyfriend Shia LaBeouf, accusing him of sexual battery, assault, and emotional distress (LaBeouf has denied the allegations). CAPRISONGS, then, is even more of a triumph for twigs, who no longer seems like the singular, almost alien-like enigma she was on Magdalene, the cover of which featured a disturbingly distorted portrait of the musician’s face. Sure, she’s still “that mysterious bitch,” as she reminds us on CAPRISONGS’ opening track, “ride the dragon,” and she’ll always be the “GOAT,” according to the mixtape’s fly-as-fuck cover. But she’s also at her most accessible here; she sounds more like a friend, one who’s finally feeling herself and rediscovering herself. And, who knows, this new music might finally give her that “fab,” hair-in-a-wind-machine moment she’s always wanted. God knows she’s earned it.