By Nate Brazier, First Year English
On her debut mixtape, to hell with it, PinkPantheress proves she deserves the hype that TikTok virality has awarded her, with a focussed collection of intimate DnB and bubblegum garage cuts largely birthed from Y2K nostalgia.
PinkPantheress was initially faceless, her real name still virtually unknown. She shot to fame with short Tiktoks of her song drafts, sampling dance tracks from the 90s and 00s, paired with her gentle, Clairo-esque vocals and self-described ‘bootleg’ GarageBand production style. Her prominent British accent has earnt her obvious comparisons to Lily Allen, but her combination of deadpan delivery and lively beats sets her apart. She’s one of the most recent and culturally significant artists to arise solely from TikTok, with her 1 million followers and inescapable audio snippets used relentlessly across the platform. Even when her songs make it onto streaming platforms, they’re still incredibly short, mostly clocking in under two minutes. The 20-year-old London uni student - who likes to record from her bed at 3am - has said she’ll likely have to retake her second year after the craziness of 2021.
Gen-Zers have saturated TikTok (and consequently mainstream youth culture) with a deep yearning for the 00s. No artist is a product of this as much as PinkPantheress. Unlike the over-glossed U.S Tiktok stars (Addison Rae, Dixie D’amelio), who can be seen as spectacles in failed turd polishing attempts, PinkPantheress always keeps you wanting more, never allowing her ideas to get overworked. On to hell with it, she varies her sound just enough to keep the tracklist engaging and build a more robust sonic profile, while sticking to the infectious qualities that have garnered her adoration.
Opening with ‘Pain,’ a minimal, playful bop, PinkPantheress is crushing over a person that she watches on their morning run; a repetitive ‘La la la’ refrain chimes throughout most of the track. Three sunny keyboard chords alternate for the duration of the track over a garage breakbeat - the loop is sampled from 2000s garage classic ‘Flowers.’ Just after the minute mark, it decays into a perfectly Gen Z slowed-and-reverb version of the hook, before fading out.
‘I must apologise’ (lazy caps are scattered across the tracklist) was the most recent of the singles to come out. At the time of its creation, PinkPantheress was attempting to move away from her usual sample-led production style, but in a session with producer Oscar Scheller, she says the beat ‘grabbed her by the collar and dragged her back.’ We’re greeted again with jumpy synth chords and girlish vocals - she sounds more flexible in her melodic choices here, while retaining an irresistibly simple hook. The chords are sampled from another house classic ‘Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless),’ paired with a busy DnB breakbeat.
The subsequent ‘Last Valentines’ stands out - this time the DnB beats are fused with indie rock, thanks to the Linkin-Park-sampled guitar and bass. PinkPantheress recounts a car crash, while depicting the aftermath of a breakup alongside it. By the chorus, the guitars are starting to feel frantic and are interspersed with crowd talking samples to create a rising tension that feels like an exciting offshoot from PinkPantheress’ typically hushed, stripped back cuts.
The Mura Masa-produced ‘Just for me’ floated around Tiktok throughout July, gradually building momentum before releasing officially mid-August; it was soon sampled by Central Cee in September to make the radio hit ‘Obsessed With You.’ In her original, PinkPantheress draws from only a handful of unchanging melodies, most notably in the hypnotically repetitive chorus. Mura Masa’s soundscape remains faithful to PinkPantheress’ minimalism, only detracted from by the somewhat corny sound effects in the verses - reversed strings in the outro infuse a sense of futurism.
‘Reason’ feels like PinkPantheress’ strongest effort in a pop direction, but still with a jungle-infused edge. The anthemic chorus blares out with help from sirens, strings and a heavy, thrusting beat. PinkPantheress sings candidly, “I wrote this letter to remind myself the reasons I'm alive / I got to reason number five” - she has a great lyrical ability to zoom in on a specific event while playing into metaphors surrounding it.
‘All My Friends Know’ opens with a bright piano solo; it feels sentimental both musically and lyrically. It’s a notable foray with the dancehall drums, but falls slightly flat as they don’t quite mesh with PinkPantheress’ delicate delivery. The digression on ‘Nineteen’ is certainly more successful, with sparse, clunking, almost Burial-esque drums coated in reverb. These overlay sombre sampled strings and a more bouncy bass. The track lyrically does what it says on the tin, with an introspective look at what PinkPantheress’ nineteenth year looked like: ‘And I wish that I could tell all my ex-jobs in retail / That I should've stayed at work, 'cause of the A-Levels I failed.’
PinkPantheress is unafraid to experiment with her distinctive breed of hyperpop meets introvert at an underground rave, more often than not succeeding. While she’s most polished over quintessentially British sounding synths, her reserved, elegant cadence brings something undeniably eccentric to whatever subgenre she slips into.
Featured image: Brent McKeever, Parlophone
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