Last spring, FKA twigs revealed in a post on Instagram that she had to have six fibroid tumors removed earlier that winter. “Thank you precious body for healing… you are a wonderful thing, now go create and be other once again,” she wrote. Those words were accompanied by a video of her cautiously practicing pole dancing moves, displaying pride in the emerging strength of her body after surgery. Ever since, she has been intermittently posting these videos of her pole dancing progress—in between clips of her martial arts training—showing her becoming more and more skillful and powerful. Now, one year after her operation, on her breathtaking new single “Cellophane,” twigs strips back her usual glitchy and twitchy electronic production to reveal her hypnotizing voice, more exposed than ever before.
The musical elements accompanying twigs are minimal: there’s the warbling piano that moves at the glacial pace of Erik Satie, someone lightly making chugging noises through their teeth, the soft presence of strings, a random lurch of squelching mechanics. Synths drag in and out, sounding like a massive, rumbling UFO softly circling the song, deciding whether it wants to beam her up. But “Cellophane” doesn’t need much, as twigs’ delicate voice is just impossibly moving here. In between short gasps, she sings uncomplicated words that seem drenched with complicated feelings. “I don’t want to have to share our love,” she sings, like the words are burning the inside of her mouth. But by the end of the song, her falsetto soars, calling upon a philosophy that twigs has often invoked in her songwriting: Vulnerability is your greatest strength.
In the accompanying video, directed by Bjӧrk collaborator Andrew Thomas Huang, twigs performs a stunning lyrical pole dancing routine, pulling off complicated spins and inverted holds at a level of proficiency that makes it hard to believe that she only started learning the art over a year ago. (In a statement, she revealed that she took it up for the sole purpose of including it in the “Cellophane” video.) She pulls herself high on the pole until it becomes a vine, and she encounters a robotic alien fly that has her face. After it kicks her down into an earthy underworld, scrambling women rush to cover her skin with red clay. It’s a mashup of the Icarus myth and the Phoenix myth: twigs’ fall and her rebirth.