Feministing Jamz: FKA twigs releases M3LL155X

Less than two weeks after we first heard FKA twigs’ Figure 8, the meticulous and multi-faceted artist released M3LL155X – a visual EP.

TW: sexual violence

Twigs has said that M3LL155X (AKA Melissa) refers to her personal female energy, and this EP is inspired by femininity; she told Complex that the dancers from whom she’d been learning how to vogue – legendary queer and trans folks of New York City’s ball scene — inspired her to engage with her femininity.  That it was queer and trans folks’ re-worked, re-imagined, and transgressive femininity that served as an inspiration is no surprise. Queer and trans femininity, though dangerous and persecuted, is immensely powerful. That alone — to be inspired by, in awe of, femininity in a world that devalues femininity so intensely — is a feminist statement, yet hardly the only one M3LL155X makes.

Take, for instance, “I’m Your Doll.” Twigs re-worked this song from one she had written when she was 18 and in a completely different place in her life, “brainwashed and preconditioned to write a pop song and write it from that point of view.” The visual is uncomfortable to watch — we seem to be in a creepy, drooling dude’s fantasy, perhaps acknowledging the other side of what it means to be a sex symbol. She becomes an inflatable doll that creepy drooler deflates as he fucks it. Re-working the song from a very different stance as an artist in complete control of her craft, and adding this visual, twigs continues to push the boundaries of sexuality and what it means to shape a submissive sexuality on her own terms.

“In Time” begins with FKA twigs giving us some silk pajama TLC 90s vibes, but she appears pregnant. She’s spoken before about her fascination with the beauty of pregnancy, and in this visual her water breaks – only the water is colorful, beautiful paint. My mind went immediately to Kiran Gandhi, who recently ran a marathon on her period and chose to bleed as the most comfortable option for her during the run — and as a fuck you to anyone who thought she should do different. Here twigs’ secretions are colorful, beautiful, worthy of dancing on.

The visuals for “Glass & Patron” are not new, but they are politically interesting among the rest. Featuring the performers that inspired twigs to explore femininity in the first place, twigs vogues, yes, but is hardly the center of the vogueing, with dancers more deeply immersed in the craft taking center stage. Twigs has been doing a lot of vogueing — a dance and movement practice originating in New York City’s Black and brown LGBTQ communities, and which has been endlessly appropriated from the likes of Madonna on — and she’s been generally very thoughtful about her place as a recent student, centering the scene’s legends and being conscious of the fact that it has been appropriated time and again. That does not mean the politics aren’t messy — she’s still an international pop star who did not come up in the ballroom scene — or that she’s not contributing to the ways this cultural treasure is constantly used and appropriated. But the effort and intention are there, which is more than can be said about most of her predecessors.

There’s something about these visuals — from Michele Lamy’s performance as an angler fish-like bejeweled creature in “Figure 8″ to the stunning gender-bending dancers of “Glass & Patron” that reminds me of Mia Mingus’ work on moving beyond a politic of beauty to one of magnificence. Though FKA twigs is certainly very beautiful in a lot of conventional ways, M3LL155X at moments seems to move beyond even creating alternate forms of beauty to devaluing beauty in favor of magnificence.

And magnificent it is. FKA twigs’ meticulous detail on nearly every aspect of the creation of this project – from songwriting to directing the visuals – shows. FKA twigs consistently kills it, and does so while in complete control of every aspect of her craft. That is no easy feat for a young woman of color, and to be there so early in her career is a testament to her hard work and genius.

There’s no two ways about it: M3LL155X is one of the most challenging, stunning, ambitious, and magnificent contributions to feminist music this year.

New York, NY

Verónica Bayetti Flores has spent the last years of her life living and breathing reproductive justice. She has led national policy and movement building work on the intersections of immigrants' rights, health care access, young parenthood, and LGBTQ liberation, and has worked to increase access to contraception and abortion, fought for paid sick leave, and demanded access to safe public space for queer youth of color. In 2008 Verónica obtained her Master’s degree in the Sexuality and Health program at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She loves cooking, making art, listening to music, and thinking about the ways art forms traditionally seen as feminine are valued and devalued. In addition to writing for Feministing, she is currently spending most of her time doing policy work to reduce the harms of LGBTQ youth of color's interactions with the police and making sure abortion care is accessible to all regardless of their income.

Verónica is a queer immigrant writer, activist, and rabble-rouser.

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