FKA Twigs – ‘M3LL155X’

A daring and provocative new EP from the London pop auteur

Pop music is a medium concerned with the creation and projection of personas, and as a general rule, the more you know about the reality behind them, the more finite their appeal. Now that FKA Twigs’ private life is increasingly lived in the public eye (owing to her relationship with Twilight star Robert Pattinson), it’s not unreasonable to worry about the curtain being pulled back too far, to the point where she’s better known as some actor’s fiancée than the fiercely inventive pop auteur she actually is. If surprise five-track EP ’M3LL155X’ is proof of anything, however, it’s that Tahliah Barnett remains in absolute control of her music, her image and how it’s presented to the world.

By now, you’ll probably be familiar with the stunning 16-minute video that accompanies this record. In an age where a poor-taste Rihanna promo can launch multi-thousand-word think pieces, Twigs has conceived (and directed) a daring and provocative piece of capital-A Art, one genuinely worthy of discussion and dissemination. Happily, the soundtrack to that visual feast is every bit as remarkable. Named after what she calls her “personal female energy”, the five tracks on ‘M3LL155X’ feel like parts of a whole, musically and thematically connected in a way you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a between-albums EP. On ’Figure 8’, she’s empowered and imperious, giving “the hardest slap that you’ve ever seen” over a brittle industrial backdrop, while ‘I’m Your Doll’ repurposes a demurely submissive lyric she wrote when she was 18 (“Wind me up/Dress me up/Love me rough”) into a sharp, subversive look at the damaging effects of sexual and emotional acquiescence. She’s come a long way since then, but the expectations on her remain the same: on ‘Glass & Patron’ she sings about how, “I wait all week for a moment’s break away from being told who I am”, a state of affairs that doesn’t change whether you’re a teenage unknown or a scrutinised pop star.

Twigs, however, knows exactly who she is and what she’s doing. For much of the ‘M3LL155X’ video, her body is leered over by men who ultimately recoil from it, and when her metaphorical waters finally break during the slinky ’90s R&B of ‘In Time’, the split-second look of disgust on her observer’s face says much: he wants the simplified, sexualised ideal, not the messy truth. That’s one compromise you can rely on her never to make.