Before this gets dark, I wanted to share a BUG-like moment with you, courtesy of this comment from Nacirema on youtube:
“I keep coming back to this song… Her serene voice laid atop Björk-esque production makes my auditory cortex so warm.”
On this, her second EP release (“EP2”), FKA Twigs has teamed up with producer Arca (who worked on Kanye West’s “Yeezus”) and the video is by Jesse Kanda who also directed videos for (“EP1”). The EP also features the tracks “How’s That”, “Papi Pacify” and “Ultraviolet”. The EP is out on 9 September on Young Turks, “Water Me” is currently available on itunes.
And now, the darker part.
Without a lyric sheet, it’s not a certain process trying to unravel this song, but it’s something that demands unravelling. It’s a track that requires some patience – at 3:24 in total its introductory instrumental minute of rhythmic voices-as-effects (accompanied for most of the time only by sparse clicks) is bound to have some listeners/viewers wondering what is going on. The beats begin around the thirty-second mark at the same time as the metronomic swinging of twigs’ face speeds up to a near-halt before settling into a very-slight tick-tock.
When she begins singing she produces a haunting, cold vocal amplified by her impassive face and the same echoing effect that’s applied to the synthesised voice accompaniments. From a chill in the voice to questionable relationships in the lyrics: “He won’t make love to me now/not now I’ve set the fee”. With those words, we’re into the murky waters of paying, in whatever way, at least for the act of sex but in the mind of the narrator more than that: there is intimacy and emotion tangled up in this. But the other party says “it’s too much” (possibly “in pounds” ?) and so the narrator is “stuck with me”, alone and unhappy in that isolation. So far, so wrong, then this: “He says that I was so small/I told him ‘water me/I promise I can grow tall/When making love is free'”.
That first line is where things get really unnerving and uncomfortable – the suggestion that for the man doing the rejecting, in reminiscing about what must have been closer times between him and the narrator, the thing that was important was the “smallness” (i.e. youth ?) of the narrator. Then we have the image of the plant that needs, but is not being given, nurture and sustenance, and that has not yet matured – a pleading for that chance and to not be abandoned. Then in the final line there is again that misconnection between intimacy and some form of transaction, but also that there will be a change in making love that comes with maturity; in order for that to be the case, there would have to have been “making love” before maturity. With that horrific idea, it’s difficult not to believe that twigs is representing a child speaking to the adult who had previously been abusing them, and is now backing away.
In the latter part of the video, Kanda adjusts twigs’ face, expanding her eyes, cheeks and mouth: a subtle Disney-ing of her features, making her seem doll-like. That, combined with the head-shaking brings to mind a dashboard figurine. It’s another level for me of suggesting what is present in the lyrics – that of the commodification and/or wilful mistreatment/misrepresentation of women and, more specifically, in the context of this song, of female children in that way. There’s no clue as to the gender of the narrator in the lyrics, so I can only work on the fact that twigs is a woman, and the morphing of the face is common to the way in which cartoons portray female characters.
Whatever the true meaning, this melancholy piece of work is unsettling and upsetting in the way that I read it (please, if I’m wrong, put me right – that might make me more inclined to listen to it again without trepidation), but it is also powerful, and impressively constructed and a credible effort in tackling such material.