Album Review: FKA twigs – CAPRISONGS

[Young; 2022]

For most, the creation of a piece of art like the song and video “cellophane” would be the end of a journey, but for FKA twigs it was just a step on the way to reclaiming her confidence, her sexuality and her body. Since the release of her second album MAGDALENE in November 2019, we’ve been through lockdown and shocking revelations about her abusive relationship, but her social media output has shown an unrelenting trend towards body positivity and self pride, with her continued honing of her pole dancing craft being a core building block in maintaining that effort towards happiness.

It’s an energy and attitude that carries into, and comes spilling out of, CAPRISONGS. While it’s been given the classification of mixtape, which could suggest a more disposable release, it’s just as meticulously written, crafted and produced as any of her other work. The decision to call it a mixtape seems to be an acknowledgement of the relative lightheartedness of the sounds, the divergence in styles across its 17 tracks, and the amount of varied voices appearing as interstitial clips and featured artists. And, like a mixtape, CAPRISONGS is a gift; a thank you made for her friends – and by extension the fans – who have supported and encouraged through the difficult past couple of years.

twigs has said that much of the inspiration behind CAPRISONGS came from endless FaceTime chats with friends during lockdown, just listening to close women in her life natter on about whatever. She seems to have borrowed or interpolated stories from others for her songs, and by taking inspiration from external sources, rather than deeply personal toil, she has allowed more levity into her music than ever. 

The shift in self presentation is immediately evident in CAPRISONGS’ early cuts. twigs’ newly professed love of sex is put front and centre on the opening “ride the dragon”, a teasing and crystalline pop-R&B track where she breathily throws out a series of seductive suggestions – a complete about-face from the introverted and broken hearted singer we heard on her last album. It’s a confidence that carries into second song “honda”, where she and British-Gambian rapper Pa Salieu bounce lines back and forth like a couple deeply entwined in each other’s lives and limbs. The fact that they met, wrote and recorded the song remotely is hard to believe when the chemistry is this electric. twigs’ simmering sexuality continues to crop up throughout the tape, but perhaps none more sensually than on “careless” where the trilling production accentuates the love in twigs’ intimate admissions (“my heart dissolves away to the rhythm of you”; “you can be careless with me”).

The diversity of styles on CAPRISONGS would likely end up a disjointed mess in any other hands, but with twigs (and her stacked team) on hand, it all sews together brilliantly. It bounces back and forth from outwardly confident to more stately anthems of self-love, and even songs that might seem throwaway in isolation are key in sequence. “pamplemousse”, for example, is a 90 second warped UK garage track that is unlikely to make anyone’s favourite twigs songs, but it serves as a perfect interstitial to lighten the mood between the yearning heartbreak of “oh my love” and the harp-inflected self-help anthem “lightbeamers”, ensuring the tape doesn’t get bogged down with emotion. 

Of course there are plenty of songs here about heartbreak, perhaps taken from twigs’ own experiences, perhaps from others’ – likely a magical mashing of the two. But, this time, that newfound self-love allows the heartbreak songs to soar into a place of acceptance rather than sink into a pool of despair (even though we know she is a master of making those sound breathtakingly beautiful). 

The Weeknd-featuring “tears in the club” is somewhat emblematic; it’s about crying, about wanting to be rid of the feeling of someone – but it’s done in a euphoric, emphatic setting, with the production from Cirkut, Arca and El Guincho (who takes credit for the majority of the songs) perfectly evoking the physical exorcism on the dancefloor. It’s a situation that’s beautifully flipped on the carefully constructed “minds of men”, where she is the one offering her man a shoulder to cry on, allowing him to show weakness while she presents strength. 

As sultry and sublime as twigs continues to prove herself to be, it’s the songs where she pushes past the pain and brandishes her inner strength and light that stand out the most. She calls on Shygirl to dive into the dancehall blast that is “papi bones”, an explosive expression of body confidence that urges gyration and fully embodies the “Capri Sun energy” that fuels the record. It’s an emphasis that is found again on “jealousy” where she and Rema are sick of each other’s drama, but dance passionately through it with the aid of the infectious Afrobeat production. 

Just as you’re settling into the unpredictable sway of CAPRISONGS, twigs pulls the rug out for the final track “thank you song”, cutting the beats and quietly admitting “I wanted to die / I’m just being honest.” It could be a reference to her abusive relationship, the struggles of lockdown, or the feeling that she’d never write music again – perhaps a combination of the three – but there’s no doubt the “thank you” is directed to her fans and friends that have pulled her through it all. It may feel a bit out of step with the rest of the record, but it fits for the end of a mixtape – this is twigs recording her final dedication to those to whom she’s gifting it. She’s letting her guard down, speaking from the heart, and sealing it with a kiss.