FKA Twigs: The Sonic Enigma

FKA Twigs: The Sonic Enigma

The last artist that used ‘formerly known as’ in their moniker was Prince – and we all know how he ended up…


FKA Twigs may just yet carve out more than a sliver of his acclaim yet.

Born Taliah Barnett in England, a young FKA didn’t waste any time setting out on her artistic journey.  After fleeing the countryside of
Gloucestershire, the then ambitious teen fled to London at 17 in pursuit of a dance career. It didn’t take her long before she was appearing in videos for such pop artists as Ed Sheeran, Taio Cruz, Jessie J (Do It Like a Dude, Price Tag), and the princess of pop, Kylie Minogue. With so many videos under her belt so quickly, Barnett (nicknamed ‘Twigs’ for her joint-cracking talent) became known as ‘that girl in the video’, before ultimately becoming a cover girl herself courtesy of i-D magazine. But it was her next foray that took her career to new artistic heights from which she is currently still climbing.


The Ascension of the Musical Dimension


Due to a conflict in stage names, ‘formerly known as’ was added to her stage moniker and FKA Twigs was born. Her first work under this name premiered on Bandcamp in December 2012, complete with a video for each song from her EP1 release which was available to view on her YouTube channel. Almost immediately, the industry took note, with The Guardian hailing her as an artist offering a new take on R&B. Her next musical effort was released on the Young Turks label and EP2 continued the musical sensation on her trajectory. Self-produced with an assist from Arca, it received a notable mention on Spotify and Billboard hailed her as one of ‘14 Artists to Watch in 2014‘.

Twigs didn’t stop there, jaunting off on a world tour that took her from her native England clear across the pond to Miami, where she ignited international crowds with an engaging stage show and trippy beats. Further still her star climbed, with her LP1 album receiving a nomination for the Mercury Prize for Best Album of the Year. Live performances on Later with Jools Holland and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon cemented what many in the industry were already saying: FKA Twigs was about to break through in a major way.



A Visual Artist with Sonic Bite


First and foremost, what anyone new to the musical realm of FKA Twigs should know is that she is categorically un-categorizable.

Her voice is just as acrobatic as her lithe body and she uses all of her assets with aplomb. Viewing her previous work as a dancer, it is clear that she is an extension of her own machinations. Is she the lovechild of Tricky and Bjork that music has been anxiously anticipating forever and a day? What is clear already, however, is that FKA clearly has an image in mind for herself, even if the mainstream public isn’t quite sure what that is presently. She refuses to be pigeon-holed into any musical genre and her influences span the gamut from Nina Simone to Siouxsie and the Banshees. With artists like that traipsing through her synapses, there is no telling where she may lead her fans, which could be the secret to her early success.

FKA Twigs5Already in her young career, she has worked with a smorgasbord slew of producers (most notably Arca, Emile Haynie Clams Casino, and Devonte Hynes), yet has managed to produce singular, cohesive albums that clearly retain her singular sonic imprint. How intoxicating is FKA Twigs? Even when she falters, you’re drawn in and on her standout tracks – Two Weeks, Numbers, and the juggeraut Pendulum – she packs a musical wallop that few artists so early in their careers could ever generate.

As a visual artist, FKA Twigs has snatched the baton from Bjork and ran deep into the depths of the forest with it, leaving no crumbs as a trail to find her, nor does she want you tracking her directions by GPS. As an artist that refuses to be labeled, she has already set the industry ablaze, threatening to re-define the very notion of the conventional. And how can you define a sound that is not sound, but sounds?
She is plural: multi-dimensional, all-encompassing, full-throttle, and determined to change the scope of musical genres from here on out. If she has not yet entered onto your musical map, give it time: she’s slowly but surely crafting a body of work that future artists will study fifty years from now and still be perplexed by its immensity.


Breaking Out and Through


An even bigger question looming over the enigma that is FKA Twigs is whether or not American audiences will embrace a commodity as rare and eccentric-eclectic as the FKA. Will she be the Kelis of her generation: known and respected, but kept at a safe distance from the mainstream in lieu of more malleable artists?

Already, she has a Grammy nomination under her belt and with some of the industry’s top producers eagerly collaborating with her, this dancer-singer-producer-songwriter-director just may break through on her own terms.

The writing is on the wall, and the industry is waiting for FKA Twigs to translate it for us.

All in due time.


Take a look at some of FKA Twigs’ most popular visuals below!











Triston Brewer (@Triston212) is a performance artist, journalist, and activist. He has been published in The Huffington Post and featured in publications such as the New York Times, Vogue Italia, to name a few. His memoir about living overseas, Heaux Confessionals: The Sintroduction, is available on Amazon.