Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

FKA Twigs – Cellophane

Oh do the feelings keep coming…


Ashley Bardhan: Oh my God. 

Abdullah Siddiqui: After the intricate chaos of M3LL155X, this feels like a departure. The turbid production has been stripped away to give way to a sense of self-assurance and emotional honesty. Compositionally, she’s not trying to be too clever, but in typical Twigs fashion every element is a few degrees off-kilter: the subtly manipulated piano, the lightly distorted basses, the weird beatbox loop. I get honest-to-god chills when she breaks out of her trademark whispery falsetto into a fuller, rougher tone; the mixing on her voice is organic and dry, and not saturated with effects and harmonies. It’s an evolution but it still delivers all of the things that made me an FKA Twigs obsessive in the first place. I’m intrigued to see what this new era brings. 

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: There’s almost nothing here other than Twigs’s voice, expanding and contracting with her grief and desperation until you, the listener, are subsumed within its organic logics. There’s paranoia and longing and pleading all wrapped up in her voice, so deeply tied that even if I couldn’t comprehend the words she was singing I would still have a shocking awareness of what she feels. “Cellophane” is a song of resignation, but it’s beautiful in its defeat, like a clear spring day after the end of the world.

Hannah Jocelyn: I have spent several weeks, on and off, attempting to find who mixed this song, with no luck. I’m just going to assume it’s FKA Twigs as well, because she is so in command of the song that even if she didn’t co-produce or write it (she did), it’s all hers. One of my favorite tropes is when lyrics pull the song with them – it’s the way Janelle Monae uses her compression, or Mitski compares herself to a geyser as horns and strings go flying. FKA Twigs doesn’t do that, but her vocals control the song anyway when she goes “I tryyyyyy...” and booming, slightly dissonant synths rise behind her. Then the decrescendo at “when you’re gone, I have no one to tell,” which is a fantastic line. I love the bathos in “they’re watching us, they’re hating” at the end, as the song awkwardly peters away. If “Cellophane” initially seems like the pivot to Serious Music that got Kesha flack on “Praying,” there is more than enough weirdness to ensure this is an FKA Twigs song. But the vocal sound, heavily compressed and breathy yet light on Melodyne artifacts, brings me back. If she didn’t have a hand in mixing it, my fixation on the technical aspects is not a knock on her: a vocal sound is nothing without its vocalist.

Alex Clifton: “Cellophane” is terrifying with its emotional honesty. As soon as FKA Twigs’s voice leaps up to a higher register — why don’t I do it for you? — something inside me breaks. It’s like someone whispering her darkest secrets to you in the middle of the night, but you just don’t have the right words to respond. I kept waiting for “Cellophane” to explode into a more grandiose arrangement, and I’m really glad it doesn’t, mostly because Twigs’s vocals provide all the fireworks we need. It makes it all the more heartbreaking.

Alfred Soto: The need expressed is sincere but the rather barren arrangement offers no complement. Admiration, not affection. 

Will Adams: There’s a particular horror in realizing that a failed relationship is as much a public spectacle as it is intensely personal. At the start, FKA Twigs directly confronts her lover — “why don’t I do it for you?” — but by the end, she can’t help notice everyone who’s watching, waiting for everything to crumble. The crux of the song is the midpoint, “all wrapped in cellophane,” as the song crackles and warps, constricting her in the material as that realization snaps into place. It’s devastating but cathartic, the same way it sometimes feels best to just bury your face in your hands and cry.

Vikram Joseph: Breathtakingly intimate, perpetually on the verge of disintegrating into some kind of cosmic dust, “Cellophane” feels too fragile for this world, held together in a delicate equilibrium between beauty and harshness, between love and decay. FKA Twigs’s vocal is astonishing; by turns heartbreaking in its restraint and showstoppingly expressive, it reminds me of iconic performances by Karen O on “Maps,” or Anohni on “Hope There’s Someone.” There is so much desperation here; the intensity of her feelings for her lover, set against the centrifugal force of her circling self-doubt, anthropomorphised as a group of silent, malevolent onlookers (“waiting, and hoping I’m not enough”). How could anything this beautiful not be doomed?

Reader average: [8.65] (38 votes)

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4 Responses to “FKA Twigs – Cellophane”

  1. Damn. Damn Damn.

  2. This song kills me and has killed me for the last couple of weeks. I have been waiting for it to be featured here. My only complaint about the song is that the track misses some of the richer sounds found in the video.

  3. This needs to be added to the sidebar! Still my SOTY.

  4. For those curious, I eventually found out that Manny Marroquin did this – it’s interesting because his mixes are either heavily distorted (Imagine Dragons, Lizzo) or really polished and clear (this, Harmony Hall).