Milk pours out of FKA twigs's fingers, at the end of arms whose soft bulk suggests a kind of ant-strength. Spray-painted in gold and writhing beneath her with biomechanical need is a doppelganger, lapping at the cascading liquid. Twigs looks into the camera. "My thighs are apart for when you're ready to breathe in," she promises.
This is the video for Two Weeks, the first single from twigs's debut album, set for release this month. With her iconic styling - a mix of thuggish leather, gothic lace and occult bling - alongside songwriting that blends darkly spectral production with beautiful melody, she's being lauded as a visionary new voic. She's also a pop star who really nails sex. For a culture so obsessed with carnality, songs that get it right are bizarrely few and far between: Madonna's Erotica, perhaps, or
I Want You, whose lyrics seduce while the music is already biting the pillow. Twigs, however, is writing strings of them; sex in her songs is a shifting game of sustain and release, a far cry from the seaside postcards of Perry, Cyrus, Thicke et al.
"I write exactly what I think," she says of this frankly hot material when we meet. "If it's a raw subject, I write lots of things and then pull out all the fluff words." Hence Two Weeks, a song about wooing a man away from a sexless relationship, features the line "I can fuck you better than her". "Weird things can be sexy," she continues. "Vulnerability is the strongest state to be in. How boring would it be if we were constantly dominant or constantly submissive? In the video, it's this vision of me feeding myself, milking myself. I was naked, painted in gold, doing krump dance moves. It's bizarre, but hot in a very weird way."
She goes on to talk about another of her songs, Papi Pacify, the video for which shows twigs wrapped in a perpetual embrace of ecstatic submission. "Everyone's like, 'Oh, it's so shocking', but you were doing it last night," she says. "If I was
a mother, I would rather my child watch a video
like that and not understand it and be inquisitive about what it means. Be curious about something that's so complicated, rather than watch something really crude and overtly sexual." She says that we live in a culture where "being sexy" is a mendacious, exhausting bind for many women. "You have to
be a size zero, but real women have curves. But when you're curvy you need to watch your BMI and your cholesterol, so you need to lose weight, because strong is the new skinny. It's so confusing. I'd rather be experimenting with intelligent sexuality, which I don't know yet, I'm only 26. I've had two or three serious relationships, I haven't been married, I haven't had that ultimate relationship where something clicks and I'm like,
'I get it now!' I'm still learning."
We're in central
song Preface is like a hymn. So let's talk about
that. If I was white and blonde and said I went to church all the time, you'd be talking about the 'choral aspect'. But you're not talking about that because I'm a mixed-race girl from south
In an attempt to placate her, I ask if she feels singular. Her face softens. "Very. I love annoying sounds, beats, clicks. Kakakakaka!" Her hands wave violently around wisps of Afro that have escaped her do. "I don't see anyone else doing that now. It's got loud noises in there, the structures aren't typical, it's relentless. It's like punk; fuck alternative R&B!"
Tahliah Barnett began her career as a dancer. Growing up in
she worked for even as her own EP2 was getting serious notice. "It was incredibly humbling," she says. "It's really good to be in one environment where everyone's like, 'Twigs, are you OK, can I get you a glass of water' to another environment where you're one of 20 backing dancers in a cold room and no one's fed you for five hours." She also danced for Jessie J,
She sets this positive experience first against much of the world of commercial dancing. "Usually it's just 'look hot and wear hotpants'. You go to dance school, you train your arse off for five years, you can do a triple pirouette on your head and land in the splits, and then you come out and someone's like: 'What are your measurements?'" It's a long way from
Twigs rails against this "bizarre time in the world, where you can be so famous, so elevated, but none of it is your own vision". She herself refuses to give up creative control and, in fact, is determined to extend it wherever possible. Take the production on the album. Punk was what she grew up on, and initially tried her hand at, "but I'm terrible at shouting. It wasn't me. I was just trying to fulfil my Poly Styrene fantasies." Instead, she taught herself the software package
"I like that she knows what she wants," says
on Two Weeks and has also shot videos for Nicki Minaj and Arctic Monkeys. "She doesn't sacrifice anything for popularity, she just comes in and does it her own way. That's how some of the best artists today work:
While she gets to be submissive in her personal life ("I'm like, 'Bagsy being little spoon!' every night"), this domination of every aspect of her career is proving a tiring business. But, to wring out the metaphor, she can go all night. "I'm exhausted, but whatever," she says. "Now is the time to be doing it, and as long as I'm happy I'll keep on doing it. But if I'm unhappy, I'll just disappear. I will shave off my hair and live in the south of
FKA twigs's debut album LP1 is out on Monday on
Branching out: twigs onstage at Heaven. . .
. . .in a still from Papi Pacify
. . .in her LP1 artwork
. . .and in the video for Two Weeks
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