FKA Twigs is back with a new album, and it’s safe to say that her return following a five-year hiatus was desperately overdue. The London-based singer released her fourth album, Velvet, on February 23, and the record immediately shot to the top of the UK Albums Chart, selling over 20,000 copies in its first week. It also became her fastest-selling album ever in the United Kingdom.
Although it was initially intended as a homecoming record, Twigs’ brief absence was actually quite productive. She began work on the album back in 2014, following the death of her father from cancer, and it was actually during this time that she decided to take a break from music. In an interview with Fierce Panda at the time, she explained, “I needed to grieve properly, so I took a five-year break. I tried to keep busy with work, but there were times when I wanted to cry. So I made a conscious effort not to do that, because I didn’t want my music to be a soundtrack to my pain.”
Upon her return to the spotlight in 2019, fans were initially unsure about whether or not to expect another departure from Twigs. But following the release of her fourth album, they have no choice but to expect the unexpected. And what a treat that is.
Musically, Velvet is a masterpiece. The album is perhaps most representative of Twigs’ superb ear for melody and knack for writing memorable hooks, and it would not be an understatement to say that she’s finally returned to form. The album opens with enchanting lead single “Paparazzi”, a track that instantly establishes itself as one of the year’s most infectious and unique melodies. “Jealous” and “Wild” are similarly masterful, with standout moments in each of them. And then there’s the more reflective and introspective songs, including the gorgeous “Goodbye” and the ethereal closer “Lift”.
But beyond the music, Velvet is a heartfelt collection that finds its inspiration in Twigs’ unique combination of childhood memories and adult insights. On the album’s standout track “Tranquil”, she confesses, “I was reflecting on the journey so far / Remembering all the different feelings that I’ve had inside / I realized that I’ve been through a lot and I’m still standing / So I wanted to make this song about me and my feelings.”
In a bid to explore new sounds, Twigs incorporates elements of jazz, blues, R&B and pop on the record, and the results are nothing short of magical. And it’s not just the musical diversity that makes Velvet such an interesting listen – the album also marks a significant departure from previous Twigs work, due to her now being signed to a major label. For the first time since she burst onto the scene with her 2014 debut EP, Fool’s Gold, Twigs is now a part of the Warner Music family.
A Change Of Style
Even more exciting than Twigs’ triumphant return was the news that she’d changed her stylings for the better. Since her debut, Twigs has often been described as being heavily influenced by American R&B singer and songwriter Beyoncé. But on Velvet, her stylings owe more to jazz legend Billie Holliday, the namesake of her new album. Indeed, the record is full of references to the jazz singer, with echoes of her most famous songs on “Tranquil”, “Jealous” and the upbeat “Wild”.
From the music to the artwork, the album is a complete rebranding of sorts for Twigs. The singer’s first ever album artwork, designed by Emily Kay, features a black-and-white photograph of a young woman, which Twigs has said is of her long-time collaborator, model and music video director Kayne West. The graphic novel-inspired album artwork was an instant hit, and it’s been hailed as one of the year’s best.
A Huge Statement
But perhaps the most exciting element of Velvet is the fact that it’s a huge statement from Twigs. Following the release of her excellent third album, Nature, she took a break from the spotlight, dedicating her time to healing and reflection. Now, with Velvet, she’s finally stepping back onto the stage and asserting that she’s still here and still capable of great things.
Due to its length (the record runs for a mighty 50 minutes), it will be interesting to see how much of a mark this album makes on the music charts. But this is definitely an album that fans will be talking about for years to come.