22-year-old songstress PinkPantheress soared onto the Soundcloud scene as a starlet masked in mystery, uploading sample-filled soundbites short enough to whet the appetite for an unforeseen slew of hits. Borrowing from jungle and garage, the crafty songwriter started out reworking everything from Michael Jackson to Adam F, infecting algorithms with nostalgia-baiting comforts.
After a stirring mixtape, a pulse-raising Boiler Room and the ongoing success of an endlessly repeatable Ice Spice collab, the Kent singer’s long-awaited debut album “Heaven knows” arrives as the perfect Autumn gloom pick-me-up. PinkPantheress surpasses peers by doing more of the same – and doing it well. Pop bliss and bittersweet breakbeats have always been her strong suit, but this time around high-budget production and sought after collaborators show that she’s seizing superstardom. She sounds great while doing it, the once faceless singer feels like more of an open book than ever.
Whilst acts like Piri & Tommy have been unable to escape the monotony of their played-out formula, PinkPantheress reinvents the recipe, adds colour, and serves up a storm over the slick 13 song track-list. Trading loops and samples for more diverse production has meant a lot of the DIY bedroom pop magic of “To hell with it” is lost, but she makes up for it with carefully crafted song structures and sticky, heartbroken hooks.
Across the album, she breaks borders with infectious collaborations from around the globe. The LP kicks off with a record-scratch burst of adrenaline, “Another life” featuring Nigerian singer Rema, who flavours the drum’n’bass track with addictive Afropop. The cross-cultural anthem trails off into retro Japanese video game territory but remains destined for the dancefloor rather than the arcade. “True romance” is a little too sugary and sentimental until brazen breaks ignite the track. If there’s one thing PinkPantheress excels at on her debut, it’s keeping you on your toes. She’s constantly playing tricks on you, toying with digital-pop textures before bursting into rave modified headbangers – playing it safe until detouring into fiery terrain.
“Mosquito” is equally alluring, with Kero Kero Bonito-esque vocal lines and Artful Dodger-style Latin guitars spliced into syncopated garage beats. On this track, and all over the album, PinkPantheress toys with introspective, intrusive dark thoughts like “Cause I just had a dream I was dead / And I only cared ‘cause I was taken from you”. However, “The aisle” shines brighter. It wields the energy of her “Stars In Their Eyes” sampling cut “Attracted To You”, only it’s more high-tempo dance than jovial indie-disco, and packed with Sam Gellaitry’s signature phasered synths.
The Kelela pairing on “Bury me” also makes perfect sense. Despite hailing from Washington, D.C., Kelela is no stranger to UK club-inflected Kama Sutras, and both artists tinker with electronic infused R&B in their respective records. This nocturnal BNYX® produced number continues that tradition but this time incorporating rumbling drill adjacent 808s and gloomy, sombre demands of “Would you bury me? / Can't you bury me?”.
Unfortunately, not all the collaborations on this project pay off, “Nice to meet you” sees her partner up with UK drill spectacle Central Cee on a somewhat lifeless cut. While both artists are equally making waves in the US for their catchy, nostalgic sample flips, this one leaves a sour aftertaste of manufactured virality, much like a lot of Cench’s toxic TikTok triumphs do.
From the conception of her career, PinkPantheress has been no stranger to melodramatic noughties callbacks. “Feel Complete” is twinkling Y2K-R&B tribute at its most contagious, harnessing the hypnotic glow of Kelly Rowland or Ne-Yo throwbacks but elevating the sappy instrumental with her trademark childlike vocals. She never lets up on homages to distant school disco memories, continuing on “Blue”, this time with a tongue-in-cheek interpolation of Example’s “Kickstarts”. At this point, you’d half expect a flip of Calvin Harris and Dizzee Rascal’s “Dance Wiv Me” to pop up on her next hit, but as long as she injects her treacly viral charm into it, why not?
The final leg of the record is remarkably strong. “Feelings” is the standout of the bunch, with murky synths echoing early grime vibrations, almost like a big budget, R&B edit of Giggs’ “Look What The Cat Dragged In”. Whilst it’s not quite raw, uncut 140bpm and still very glossy pop at first glance, lurking beneath the vocal licks there are lip smacking tastes of UK rap’s breakout roots.
“Capable of love” starkly contrasts the previous cut with celestial stadium pop, and obsessively online, lovelorn lyrics like “But there’s no other place I’d want to be / Than sat here replyin’ to someone on a screen”. The anthemic pop-rock-DnB hybrid feels like a proper curtains close moment before the tacked on, freshers party fixture “Boy’s a liar Pt. 2”. The irresistibly danceable Ice Spice/Mura Masa crossover is more of a bonus afterthought, but nevertheless serves as a great reminder of PinkPantheress’ prowess.
“Heaven knows” proves what we already knew. The British singer has an endless artillery of dance-inflected karaoke and powerhouse bangers. Whilst not as short, snappy, and euphoric as the bitesize “To hell with it”, this is a fully fleshed out album, not a buzz-building mixtape chasing the high of her
initial fame. She could have easily sold out for formulaic play-safes, but instead she’s expertly extending her sound and reach, continuing to bridge the gap between traditional drum’n’bass and hook-heavy chart toppers in new ways.
Order Heaven Knows by PinkPantheress HERE
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