Peeking Through the Looking Glass of FKA Twigs’ “Cellophane”
On April 23, the ever-enchanting FKA twigs took to social media to announce that the suspected first single from her long-awaited sophomore album would be coming the following day. Entitled “Cellophane,” the single and its accompanied music video mark a new beginning for the artist - beyond a simple comeback.
The new track, suspected to be from her forthcoming sophomore album, marked the end of a three-year hiatus since the release of her stand-alone single “Good To Love” in February 2016. And, though “Good To Love” was received well by fans and critics alike, it only added fuel to the fire of music-hungry listeners.
Now that it’s been nearly five years since the release of her debut album, LP1, it’s easy to ask what’s next. With “Cellophane,” Tahlia Barnett makes clear that nobody knows that answer but herself.
In her Instagram post announcing the track’s release, her caption reads, “throughout my life I’ve practiced my way to being the best that I could be, it didn’t work this time. I had to tear down every process I’d ever relied on. go deeper. rebuild. start again.”
While cryptic, this message rings loud and clear throughout the track as her usually higher-toned vocals are contrasted by the warmth and drama of this more subdued area of her range, introducing listeners to a side of FKA twigs that feels both brand new and familiar - like a home-cooked meal after months (or in this case, years) of only eating fast food.
But, to really understand all that “Cellophane” brings to the table, it’s impossible to ignore the narrative of its music video and the ambiguity of its lyrics.
In its first frames, the music video takes viewers behind the curtain as Barnett readies herself to take the stage. This imagery reflects reality, being that this is the first time she’s released music in years - these moments feel that much more vulnerable taking into account the feelings of fear and anxiety artists often experience prior to “making their comeback.”
So, when she steps on stage and an unseen audience roars, the viewer takes on that role, effectively breaking the fourth wall. “Cellophane” is now ours to watch and enjoy as she moves to the pole in the middle of the stage, embodying her own strengths and vulnerabilities as her platform heels slice sharply across the floor.
As the song begins and FKA twigs begins her number on the pole, viewers are thrown quickly into the intimate pains that seemingly inspire this track. And, while many viewers may associate pole-dancing with stripping and overt sexuality, FKA twigs uses it as her medium for emoting the vulnerability, confusion, self-doubt, anger, and rebirth that “Cellophane” encapsulates.
It’s not hard to connect these themes and emotions to the loss of a romantic relationship, which Barnett could easily be writing about following the calling off of her and Robert Pattinson’s engagement, but then why call the track “Cellophane?” Why shoot the video as a performance?
Lyrically, the song never refers specifically to a particular person. Instead she reiterates the same, generalized pronouns (“us,” “we,” “they,” “you”) in an effort to maximize the metaphors at play. Instead of simply being an artfully done breakup song, FKA twigs creates a world where she addresses her fans, the music industry, a past lover and a personified version of her art itself.
Didn't I do it for you?
Why don't I do it for you?
Why won't you do it for me?
When all I do is for you?
In this stanza, FKA twigs could, obviously, be talking to a past lover wondering why things didn’t work out. However, she could also be addressing her fans and the world, worried that, after impressing them with her past work, that she might not live up to their expectations even after putting her entire self into the music.
This might be a clue as to why she meets the metallic, bird-like version of herself created by Andrew Thomas Huang. She must face and destroy past versions of herself (stealthily featuring the teal color that dominated the cover of LP1) in order to move forward as a musician and as an individual - just like she said in her Instagram caption.
When you're gone I have no one to tell
And I, just want to feel you're there
And I don't want to have to share our love
I try but I get overwhelmed
All wrapped in cellophane, the feelings that we had
Here, twigs again could be speaking directly to a lost love. However, it seems to read like more of a love letter to her forthcoming album as she fears having to say that it’s “done” and, ultimately, having to share the secrets and truths that it holds.
In an industry that seems to chew up and spit out artists without regard for them as anything more than a commodity, it’s easy to forget that lyrics are personal and often similar to a diary. By releasing her music to the world, she is no longer creating for herself, she’s also creating for others to see and judge. And, just like the physical copy of an album, all of these feelings are wrapped in cellophane.
After destroying her winged past self, FKA twigs falls through the earth with shots of her dancing on the pole grounding viewers in reality and allowing them to understand that all of the fantastical imagery exists within her dance and in her song. She lands in a pit of red clay and is rebuilt singing:
They're watching us
I'm not enough
Here she drives her metaphors home, emphasizing her worry that she (and thus the hard work and time she put into her new music) are not enough to impress - which, she hopefully knows now is far from the truth.
With no current word on a release date or even an album title (though I hope it’s called LP2), FKA twigs can take as long as she needs to perfect the undoubted masterpiece she’s been working on all this time.
Author : Conner Yarbrough