While 2018 was a year of major global events, it also marked the emergence of a new star. As the year came to an end, it was clear that FKA Twigs would become one of the biggest names in the music industry. Her combination of edgy yet accessible lyrics and unique voice made her an instant classic and social media darling.
The year 2019 started with the singer releasing two critically acclaimed albums and embarking on a massive world tour. She also headlined numerous festivals, supported the biggest names in pop, and became the first female solo artist in history to win a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album. In May, FKA Twigs was made an honorary Queen by the Royal Court of Great Britain. She is the first artist to be bestowed with this recognition.
FKA Twigs was born Fiona Kathleen Atkins on March 11, 1991 in London, England, though she often refers to herself as the ‘Solo Dancer Princess’ in her social media accounts. Her father, Brian Atkins, is a former member of the British Parliament who served as an Assistant Private Secretary to Margaret Thatcher between 1984 and 1986. He has been referred to as ‘the renaissance man’ of the House of Commons because of his varied career. In 2016, Brian was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for services to parliament.
FKA Twigs first came to prominence after featuring on the BBC Television show Later… with Jools Holland in 2015. She went on to release her debut album, ‘LP1′, in September the following year on Warp Records. The album was produced by a who’s who of established international hitmakers including Hit-Boy, Boi-1da, DJ Mustard, and Vinylz. It reached number 26 on the Billboard Top 200 and number 1 on the Top R&B Albums chart. Many of the album’s tracks went on to become anthems for various social and political movements.
FKA Twigs’ second album, ‘LP2′, was released in April 2018 and continued her transformation from promising newcomer to bona fide megastar. Recorded with a 22-piece orchestra at London’s Abbey Road Studios, it surpassed all previous sales and chart milestones. Its lead single, ‘Pendulum’, became her biggest hit to date and has since been played over 200 million times on Spotify. The deluxe version of LP2, which includes a book of her artwork and an orchestral music box, was certified platinum in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. The album also received a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album.
In February 2019, FKA Twigs became the first solo artist in history to win a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album. The award was for LP2, her second album with a 22-piece orchestra which was released the previous year. Her win was celebrated with a special performance at the Grammys and a day of festivities at the GALA Hispanic Cultural Center in New York City.
The media and music communities have hailed FKA Twigs as the ‘female Kendrick Lamar’ or the ‘solo Sherry Lansing’. In 2019, the American Songwriter magazine ranked her number 14 on their list of the 100 Greatest Women in Music, calling her a “gender-bending hybrid who blurs the lines between singing and acting.” Rolling Stone placed her 27th on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
NME, a U.K.-based music magazine, ranked her number 12 on their list of the Top 50 Most Important Women in Music, calling her not just “an artist but a cultural icon” who has “changed the game for all future musicians who follow.” In 2020, she is featured on the cover of the American Music Awards magazine. She was also named one of the most influential women in music by the American Music Awards, Billboard, and others.
At the height of her career in 2019, FKA Twigs was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for “services to music.” As a Dame in the Order of the British Empire, she will wear the insignia of a dame by the name of FKA Twigs on a gold necklace around her neck.
FKA Twigs has never been one to shy away from publicity, and it was no different in 2019. She released a statement about her royal status, explaining that she feels “honoured to be representing Britain as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. I feel humbled and grateful to be receiving this recognition, as I am sure many of you would agree, music is a universal language and it unites us all. I will continue to play my part in spreading the message of peace and togetherness.”
She also took the time to thank her fans for their support, writing, “You have supported me through this remarkable year and continue to do so. I couldn’t have done this without you. I love you guys.”
Throughout her rise to fame, FKA Twigs has frequently highlighted the importance of cultural representation in music. She’s frequently called out artists who don’t look like her and says she wants to “change the narrative” around what it means to be a woman in music. When speaking to Variety in 2018 about her music and cultural icon work, she said, “I want to change the game for all future musicians who follow. I don’t want to be known as the ‘first’ female rapper, or the ‘first’ singer. I just want to be known for what I am: an incredible artist.”
In December 2019, she told Billboard that she hopes her work inspires younger generations, specifically girls, to dream bigger than they ever have before: “I would hope that my work influences people and inspires them to want to follow their dreams and do what they love. I would hope that they don’t listen to what other people say about them but rather themselves. I want them to know that they can be anything they want to be.”
As she enters the final year of her career, it is clear that Fiona Kathleen Atkins is a force to be reckoned with. Her knack for transcending traditional genre boundaries and her willingness to speak out about important social issues make her one of the most intriguing figures in contemporary music.