Following in the footsteps of J-Lo, 26-year-old Tahlia Barnett, aka FKA Twigs, has made the move from backing dancer to pop star appear effortless. However, as evident by her simply-titled debut album, LP1, the artist named after the way her joints crack is a much more intriguing proposition than either Ms. Lopez or Jessie J (the showboating diva behind whom she performed in the videos for “Do It Like A Dude” and “Price Tag”).
Indeed, produced by an impressive A-list team including Paul Epworth (Adele), Arca (Kanye West) and Dev Hynes (Solange), these ten self-penned tracks are far removed from the powerhouse pop of her one-time colleague and are indeed all the better for it.
The latest in a long line of ethereal female vocalists attempting to revive the golden age of R&B, FKA Twigs appears to be consciously channelling the seductive and spacious turn-of-the-century fare of Aaliyah throughout, most notably on the ghostly harmonies and warped synths of “Two Weeks,” the video for which even sees her take on the late star’s character in Queen Of The Damned.
But the Londoner throws in enough twists and turns to ensure that LP1 avoids becoming merely a pastiche. Indeed, opener “Preface” alone proves that Barnett certainly doesn’t need to ride on anyone’s coattails, its beguiling mix of operatic melodies, disembodied male vocals and lyrics cribbed from 16th Century poet Thomas Wyatt perfectly setting the ambitious and unsettling tone ahead.
Elsewhere, “Lights On” is an enchanting lullaby which fuses Twigs’ delicate featherlight tones with early Bjork-esque percussion; “Pendulum” is a compelling account of the power struggle in a relationship set to a claustrophobic backdrop of rattling industrial beats and distant Afrobeat guitar riffs; and “Closer” is a gorgeously hymnal affair which sounds like a Timbaland remix of a long-lost Enya classic.
FKA Twigs may have started her career in the shadow of the UK R&B scene’s leading lady. But the boldness and adventurism displayed on LP1 suggests it’s only a matter of time before she takes that crown herself.