Last year, FKA twigs returned after three years of musical silence with “Cellophane,” the stunning lead single from one of 2019’s best albums of the year, Magdalene. The song is a masterpiece hinged on twigs’ devastating vocal delivery of unrequited love and the insecurity that follows. Ranging from gasping bursts of breathy soprano to a soaring falsetto, the song takes guts and a whole lot of talent to even attempt to cover. Cue Whitney Ballen.
For those unfamiliar with the Issaquah musician, Ballen has been disarming listeners with highly vulnerable and emotionally dense lyrics expressed through her otherworldly vocals. Often compared to Joanna Newsom in its eerie, almost child-like tonality, Ballen’s voice is the haunting center of any song she makes. Carrying the weight of the world in a single note is her specialty, making Ballen a perfect candidate to tackle twigs.
Fairly straightforward in its arrangement, Ballen changes little about “Cellophane” for her version. “Didn’t I do it for you?” she desperately pleads in a whisper over the sparse piano line. A smattering of gentle guitar strums joins the piano, with other instruments slowly layering on but never taking the focus away from Ballen’s fragile vocals. Going from whispering to soaring to trembling, she pushes her distinctive voice to new heights of emotional wreckage. Ballen had this to say about the cover:
Ballen’s latest record You’re A Shooting Star, I’m A Sinking Ship was one of KEXP’s favorite local albums of 2018. She’s embarking on a short run of dates opening for Pinegrove this Saturday, February 15 in Salt Lake City. Check out her 2018 KEXP in-studio performance below and read Martin Douglas' 2018 Throwaway Style with Whitney Ballen here.
KEXP chats with FKA twigs about new record Magdalene, her journey through feminism, and the universal language of music
Martin Douglas' coverage from Boise continues with a set from the Seattle singer/songwriter.
The Issaquah singer/songwriter vacillates between squall and sparsity in her detailed and heartbreaking work. Ahead of her Upstream Music Fest performance on Sunday, June 3rd, we take a look at singular and emotive work.