There was something very exciting about The Weeknd’s ascent in 2011. R&B had finally outgrown its ’90s persona. It no longer had to be about tender love making, or cutesy courtship. Its performers no longer needed to be dancers first, and singers second, or spend the majority of their music videos displaying abdomen wet with sweat, rain or both. Its emotional pallet could be more broad than the template: triumph, love, heartbreak. Perhaps most importantly, it no longer had to play on radio. This was the new R&B, presented to the world by Abel Tesafaye, a shrouded 19 year old, whose first four songs hit the internet, and instantly caught the eyes of millions in months.
When I came across FKA twigs earlier this summer, it took me back to the same excitement I had when hearing “What You Need” two and a half years ago. Much like Tesafaye, Twigs’ music often feels like quiet inside a smut-filled storm. She’s an observer to the seedy scenes of London’s clubs, where she’s tended bar for the better part of a decade. Like Tesafaye, whose vocals have drawn comparisons to Michael Jackson (particularly after his “Dirty Diana” cover), Twigs has already been compared to Janet.
Framing Twigs’ music in the context of R&B, however, is limiting. With only one eclectic EP and an excellent lead single for a forthcoming full-length out, her choice in production veers from the tenants of current R&B, instead drawing more from London’s dub scene. And that might be what makes her sound most exciting.