I’m a journalist by profession, or rather a writer- the title I prefer most- who makes a living working as a journalist. Part of what I do is about defining things and I have to say, as journalists we often fall into the trap of labelling things and more often than not I find that we reach for the easiest words just to get the job done. We call people fashion gurus when they are really just happy snappers of well clad folk on the streets or because they have a blog or they are simply gay men who know a thing or two about looking good. We call people “It girls” because we don’t know what the fuck else to say. It would be easier just to ask the person what they want to be called, really, but we’re too smart for that. Anyway…
The reason I am bringing this up is because late last year I became obsessed with the title “alternative R&B”. I was beyond taken with Miguel, Solange ran my life and the discovery of Kelela and Jhene Aiko made me an advocate for R&B’s “second coming”. Trust me, I was preaching that gospel, as many others were, I suppose. It was only later, just a few months ago, that I discovered FKA Twigs and I don’t think I’ve been as obsessed about something as I am about Miss Twigs. Her music makes me want to just lose all inhibitions and indulge in its psychedelic effect. One thing I know for sure is that her electro-infused, genre bending and somewhat pattern defying sound is NOT R&B and while it is experimental, I feel like calling it alternative R&B is a cop out. The only way that anyone can box her sound within R&B is if R&B and hip-hop is what we’ve decided people of colour are to be categorised as regardless of how they sound. There’s not much sense in that. She’s an artist with a unique sound and it’s okay if we can’t exactly box her because that in itself is an act of reducing her craft to a racial stereotype.
To my surprise, as I thought about how unfair it is that writers and critics have decided that FKA is an alternative R&B artist, a friend pointed out to me that Miss Twigs has herself rejected the label.
"I love annoying sounds, beats, clicks... I don't see anyone else doing that now. It's got loud noises in there, the structures aren't typical, it's relentless. It's like punk; fuck alternative R&B!" That’s what she’s been quoted as saying. Who are we to decided otherwise. In case you haven’t heard anything from this gem of a rock star, click on any of the videos below and then you can tell me just how R&B-ish it sounds because I most certainly can’t hear it. I'd understand if they simply capped it at saying her sound has an R&B sensibility, but that too can be a bit of a reach, I think.