TikTok has become a platform not only for privileged kids to make mediocre dance videos, but also a launching pad for lesser-known artists—or in this case virtually unknown artists—to get their music to the public. For PinkPantheress it has created a huge boost in her very early career this year. What was first a 10-second clip from fashion TikToks, became PinkPantheress’ breakout single “Break It Off.” She eventually released the full version in March 2021 which has amassed over 6 million streams on SoundCloud. Subsequently, she released a series of singles including “Just for me,” “Pain,” and “Just a waste,” and worked with Grammy-nominated artist GoldLink on the song, “Evian” from his fourth project, HARAM!. After a feature and a couple of great dance tracks, myself and her 10 million monthly Spotify listeners were left yearning for more music. Our prayers were finally answered when PinkPantheress released her debut mixtape to hell with it.
She put her thang down, flipped it and reversed it
“I must apologise” is the second song off of this 10-track, 19-minute mixtape. She samples the classic house track “Gypsy Woman” by Crystal Waters. Her celestial-like vocals float smoothly over the fast-paced beat. At first listen it is hard to spot the sample because of PinkPantheress’ production talent. She sings about a person's inability to stop lying and how it sabotages their relationships, “I tell so many that I can’t see them end.” The simple harmonizing and vocal layering suits the track’s message.
In “Last valentines” she sings about being infatuated with someone who is cheating, which leads to a sour breakup. Her vocals serve as an insight into what the little voice in our heads might say as we replay our past relationships. “It makes me so angry all I do is grit my teeth/I still let this man take over me” sounds fitting over Linkin Park’s “Forgotten” sample. The guitar riff loop makes the sample more detectable for the listener. The track overall feels like we have just read a page out of her journal from a pretty bad day, but unlike the rest of the mixtape, it does not move the needle.
However, “Pain” is an incredible display of how PinkPantheress’ vocals refuse to be drowned out by samples. She takes the melody of “Flowers'' by Sweet Female Attitude and spins it into a 2021 frenzy. In a 1999 MTV interview, legendary artist Prince said, “[sampling] is getting to the point where it is getting out of hand.” When listening to this project—which is sample heavy—she finds a way to still create a fresh and innovative sound. To hell with it showcases her purpose in repurposing older music similar to the early days of hip-hop.
The closer of her mixtape “Break it off” extends an instant feeling of joy. It is the ultimate rave song that is quintessentially an ode to British garage and jungle music of the 1990s and early 2000s. It falls right under the two-minute mark, a PinkPantheress signature song time limit. The infectious beat over a choppy sample of Adam F’s “Circles” intertwined with her poppy and captivating vocals explain how she has demanded the industry’s attention.
It’s PinkPantheress not Pink Panther
“Reason” and “Nineteen'' give a glimpse into a vulnerable side of PinkPantheress. For months after the success, she kept much of her identity hidden. On the Apple Music podcast Superbloom hosted by Travis Mills, she spoke about sharing more of herself. “For so many people to suddenly know what you look like is crazy, so crazy” but continues with, “you have to take it in your stride, I suppose that's what I'm learning ever so slightly every day.”
“Nineteen” is a relatable track that looks at how one could feel about their last year as a teenager. As PinkPantheress is watching her childhood end, it comes at a price: boredom. Angst is ridden throughout her vocals which are sung more monotone than on the previous tracks. “I wish I could tell all of my ex-jobs in retail/That I should’ve stayed at work, ‘cause of the A-levels I failed;" our view of potential regrets housed in her thoughts. The backing vocals add a fresh and sweet essence, especially at the end when she sings the adlib “And I know I’m nothing to you.”
The young British artist only misses the mark once with, “All my friends know.” It lacks a clear direction. The piano playing of the song's introduction is peaceful but sounds sonically misplaced as it progresses into the dance hall-esque rhythm. It's an experimental R&B choice that could have been executed better; maybe it serves as a pitched down transition reminiscent of Frank Ocean’s “Nights," and if so, it would improve the track. The duration of the song and the quality of PinkPantheress’ singing on the hook feel trivial as well.
The sublime “Just for me” and the music video explode with nostalgia. Through the use of a time machine, we are transported back to the early 2000s MTV aesthetic—white backgrounds, flip phones, and a group of teens in a crowd with drooping faces expressing melancholiness. It reminds me of John Legend’s “Ordinary People” minus the couples shouting around their disturbed children. PinkPantheress expresses the strong desire to be with someone that you lack the courage to confront. In verse one, the lyrics, “your hair’s under my pillow so I sleep,” tread a little on the stalker line. The corny car honk after she sings “I followed you today, I was in my car,” adds some personality for the 20-year-old. The lyrics paint the picture of the song that encapsulates the entire project, forcing the production this time to take a backseat and allow for her voice to take charge again.
- “Just for me”
- TV Girl
- Tierra Whack
Featured Image: Genius