Experimental R&B musician FKA twigs strives to make her work a multi-medium experience. Twigs’ background in directing music videos and choreographing dances allows her to captivate viewers through both music and film. She best displays these talents with media in her recently released EP M3LL155X, pronounced “Melissa.”
But videos and dancing haven’t always been a part of twigs’ signature syle. Her initial EPs seemed confined and often struggled with expression, but her first full-length album, LP1, brought her experimental R&B to the limelight with catchy and abstract songs. In M3LL155X, her third EP, which dropped Aug. 13 with no prior announcement, twigs further develops her style with a pairing of five tracks and a short film, resulting in an oddly intriguing release.
Sex is a huge element in all of twigs’ work, and this EP is no exception. “I’m Your Doll,” arguably the most erotic song of the five tracks, features sensitive lyrics. To express her vulnerability, twigs sings, “Stop playing with those other girls, You know it drives me crazy, I’m feeling like a loaded gun, And when it’s done I’m the only one.” The track’s soft production makes every moment of this song passionate and slightly haunting, leaving a memorable and EP-defining impact.
Twigs’ heavy-handed lyrics are the biggest difference between these five tracks and her other releases, with themes of frustration playing a major role. “In Time” features the most irritated version of twigs. The trap instrumental and autotune on this track is odd, even for a twigs track, but still manages to stay tasteful.
Every moment of this EP straddles the line between an artistic statement and a perplexing enterprise. Twigs’ slip-up is “Figure 8,” a track released individually prior to the full EP release. Her ominous tone, along with the stuttering percussion and electronic static on this track, turns out to be a successful risk, but the song ends abruptly, as if it wasn’t fully thought out. Although all of the songs on M3LL155X stay intentionally ambiguous for listeners to interpret, this song leaves much more to be desired than any other.
Clocking in at a mere 19 minutes, M3LL155X is a short but brooding listen. With every verse, she intends to only give part of a story, but that doesn’t mean listeners will be left in the dark. The 16-minute accompanying video is revealing — its colors, choreography and subject choices help explain the mysterious inspirations and messages behind M3LL155X.
M3LL155X marks an important release in FKA twigs’ developing sound. Her ability to take arbitrary ideas and inspirations and turn them into appealing songs makes this album a success. But this EP isn’t for everyone — getting into twigs’ music is generally difficult. With M3LL155X, twigs proves she’s worthy of being a superstar, but chooses her own route instead of buying into a genre she might
Twigs’ style is a lonely and somber one, not necessarily one of modern popular music. It’s a lot of work to understand and not always an enjoyable listen, but anyone willing to put in the time will get a worthwhile experience.
Genre: Experimental Pop/R&B
Rating: 4.5 stars