Thursday, February 18th, 2021

FKA twigs, Headie One, Fred again.. – Don’t Judge Me

Unfortunately, judging is kind of our whole thing here, but this time wasn’t so bad…


Vikram Joseph: A forlorn-sounding FKA Twigs calls like a siren from a bridge on the North Circular, setting the scene for Headie One’s impressive, penetrating verse, where he explicitly connects historical injustice (making reference to Willie Lynch’s speech encouraging slave-owners to pit their slaves against each other to maintain control over them) to gang feuds in North London. “Funny how both my parents done the most to be here / We can walk free, but are we really walking free here?”, he raps, alluding to the pervasive idea in the UK that ethnic minorities and immigrants should feel grateful just to be here — the myth of the “good immigrant”, who keeps their head down, tirelessly greases the wheels of the economy, and accepts without complaint their implicit status as a second-class citizen. It’s necessarily a sombre affair musically, a post-dubstep landscape haunted by urban decay, but it feels just a little sanitised; there are occasional hints of the pitch-shifting strangeness of Burial, and I wish they’d taken a few more risks in pushing the production further into that lonely, desperate realm.

Thomas Inskeep: Everyone involved here is operating at a ridiculously high level. Fred again..’s production sits at the intersection of Solange and Björk, an icy cool contrasting with a surprising thump; Headie One’s verse about anti-Black police brutality is a let-it-sink-in stunner; FKA twigs’s vocal wrings me out, sheer emotional devastation.

Alfred Soto: A falsetto and a feeling in search of a tune.

Katherine St Asaph: The most gorgeous, fluting vocal I’ve heard from Twigs, a pensive verse from Headie One, and a low-key brooding track from Fred again.. Any two out of three would be amazing together; all three together don’t cohere.

Samson Savill de Jong: It’s completely right that all three of these artists get equal billing, because the song needs all three to work. FKA twigs’ singing sounds like she’s pleading with you, which she is. The production from Fred again.. is the best technical part of the song and really carries the mood. But Headie One is what makes the song. I wasn’t particularly impressed by his lyricism but loved his lyrics, and his delivery of them brings an urgency and drive that the track needs to be complete.

Juana Giaimo: “Don’t Judge” is a good example of why I can never get into FKA twigs. It is too sparse, and all the elements are disjointed. I understand this is part of the minimalistic production, but it makes it hard for me to engage with it. The rap verses, instead of adding another layer, interrupt the flow of the song when it was just beginning to take form. When it ends, I’m still waiting for something to join all the pieces together.

Harlan Talib Ockey: I wasn’t cursed with a glut of group project assignments in college, but this is a dynamic that’s familiar to me. “Don’t Judge Me” unspools like FKA twigs and Headie One wrote two very different narratives based on the titular prompt, and Fred again.. was tasked with knitting their work together into a cohesive whole. For what it’s worth, both of these distinct songs are good. Twigs’ voice swings and loops around her relationship-oriented lyrics, tentatively drawing tighter until the point of collapse. Headie One’s verse, written later, keenly conveys an unnerving blend of exhaustion and anxiety when discussing the gang rivalries he’s been personally involved in, though he hits a snarl when attempting to pull these themes into a universal call for action; this results in dull, obvious mush like “let them all know that it’s wrong being racist”. Fred again.., however, elevates these stale lines and weaves them back into twigs’ efforts through the use of a megaphone effect and ad-libs that mirror those in her chorus. His post-apocalyptic production, with insistent percussion powering desolate synth pads, also effectively connects the darkness inherent in both segments. Nice work, everyone. Perhaps not the best process, but it’s worth a good grade.

Reader average: [7] (3 votes)

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One Response to “FKA twigs, Headie One, Fred again.. – Don’t Judge Me”

  1. This had quite the bar to carve out its own identity as it desired to, given that when I hear that song title my thoughts go to The Hills, but it did a solid job doing so.