“I made you a mixtape because when I feel you, I feel me,” FKA twigs casually remarks on “ride the dragon,” the opening track on her debut mixtape CAPRISONGS. The singer’s first foray into the classic format is off-putting at first, since she is one of music’s most progressive pop personalities. Twigs’ most recent album, 2019’s MAGDALENE, was quite the dramatic statement, with religious allusions wrapped tightly in ethereal and operatic vocals, then placed against stirring instrumentation. It felt like at any moment, her voice could shatter like glass and the song would be all the better for it. On CAPRISONGS, the turmoil she carries is palpable, but her disposition is different. There are theatrics, but twigs replaces overwhelming intensity with playfulness and self-awareness. It’s the most confident she’s ever been.
The mixtape’s lead single, “tears in the club,” displays a natural inclination for radio-friendly rhythms, despite twigs having carved out a career of decadent and experimental sounds. She leans into lyrical simplicity on the track, as well as the power of repetition. Another catchy track, “oh my love,” also finds twigs unapologetically indulging in amorous acts. While “tears in the club” is about exorcising the demons of relationships past, the R&B smoothness of “oh my love” finds our protagonist declaring her feelings for a new muse. Her softness is enticing and sensual; the chant of “Everybody knows that I want your love / Why you playing, baby boy, what’s up?” is more passionate than abrasive.
We see traces of the old twigs with the aching autotune on “meta angel” and sonic dissonance on “pamplemousse.” Some of CAPRISONGS’ most exciting moments happen when cultural eclectism—specifically Afrobeat, reggae and Caribbean sounds—are wholeheartedly embraced. The Pa Salieu-assisted “honda” and “papi bones” (featuring Shygirl) highlight twigs’ vocal elasticity, the ease with which she navigates savory and lush rhythms.
Twigs’ CAPRISONGS are woven together by interludes consisting of random quotes about relationships, realizations and the inescapability of astrology. However, these attempts at being pensive add little value to the mixtape. The best bits of wisdom come through conversations placed at the beginning or end of each track. For instance, on “which way” (featuring Dystopia), she declares, “I’m not the rockstar’s girlfriend, I am the rockstar girlfriend—do you get what I mean?”
A cameo from Jorja Smith on “Darjeeling” is a pleasant surprise, namely how the British singers complement each other. Twigs’ light and airy harmonies are grounded by the gravelly weight of Smith’s crooning, while an energizing appearance from rapper Unknown T is a curveball in the best sense of the word.
In a discography saturated with ambient anthems and frenetic energy, CAPRISONGS brilliantly brandishes the talent of an artist constantly looking for her next high. Getting her fix has never been easy, but by constantly peeling back her layers through valiant exploration, FKA twigs teaches us an important lesson: The risk is always worth the reward.
Candace McDuffie is a culture writer whose work has appeared in outlets like Rolling Stone, MTV, NBC News, and Entertainment Weekly. You can follow her on Instagram @candace.mcduffie.