PinkPantheress: Hell Album Review

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In the cultural whirlwind of TikTok, the 2004 high school family films represent a strange utopia: “[Life] just seemed to be happier and easier back then, ”one of the top comments on a popular video read. Like many of her peers, British producer and singer PinkPantheress projects a sense of nostalgia into the early days. “[M]usic was so raw and cool because I feel like people weren’t afraid to be a little cringe, ”she said username. Since the release of her first song on TikTok at the end of 2020, she has cultivated a sound that she describes as “new nostalgic”; for the 20-year-old singer, that means websites designed to look like Myspace profiles and video clips uploaded with intentionally low resolution. On his first mixtape, to hell with that, PinkPantheress sketches a Y2K fantasy that is strongest when she uses the past as a guide, not a gimmick.

PinkPantheress is smarter and more skillful than other young musicians who embraced the 2000s aesthetic. Unlike newly created viral stars like Jxdn or Addison Rae, PinkPantheress has put their songs at the forefront of their fame, hiding their identity behind a nickname adopted from his TikTok username. It wasn’t until months after her first TikTok that viewers got more than a glimpse of her face; his real name remains almost impossible to find.

And then there’s the music itself, quicksilver slices of chewing gum breakbeats that flicker and fade in just over a minute. Her breakout song, “Pain,” sampled the British garage megahit “Flowers,” but slowed it down to match her sleepy state of mind. Rather than trying to overpower the sample with her lyrics, she fills the space with “la la las”, letting the simple two-note sample breathe, revealing the “lo-fi hip hop beat” inside the pulsating and dance-ready rhythm of the original. His songs have a welcome and deceptive simplicity that lacks the cynical luster of ultra-famous American TikTok artists; she just lets a beat simmer, sing a few shy phrases and leave before the concept gets bored.

But what places PinkPantheress’ music firmly in modern times is its voice, an ethereal, pixelated miasma that breaks with the serious delivery of its British predecessors. Her pinched cooing sounds hyperreal, the edges of her syllables sharpened as if being sung by a failing voice-to-text machine. There are obvious comparisons to futuristic singers like Grimes and Poppy, but PinkPantheress’ oddly calming voice is also reminiscent of the performative over-utterance of the “voice of TikTok”. This intimate quality mirrors the recording process of most of her early singles, which were found lying in her dorm room because she felt unable to sing while standing. The combination of retro samples and clairo-esque chamber pop delivery breaks the charm of the early 2000s: sure, those songs might have been more “gray,” but their vocals were doubled up to the sky. PinkPantheress feels like whispering in your ear.

Although she is clearly a passionate scholar of the turn of the millennium, she also seems to be aware that this era of her career cannot go further. Most of his songs are appallingly fleeting, as if a longer look reveals cracks in the facade. But PinkPantheress is starting to move beyond genre tropes; although to hell with that is essentially a collection of previously released singles, the band’s new songs suggest wider palettes and greater risk. Where the previous lyrics were almost all outward projections of an anonymous crush, “Reason” and “Nineteen” reflect her own life. The latter, with its breaking waves and elongated violins, is the record that comes closest to a ballad. “I wasn’t meant to be / I’m bored at 19,” she admits, an anchor moment on an album saturated with post-party depression. It’s a slow, sultry piece underlined by a bass bass line, and unlike the rest, it builds without cutting until a breakbeat drop. It still doesn’t go over the maximum time allotted for a TikTok, but it’s designed for private sentimentality, not internet virality.

PinkPantheress succeeds where cheaper knockoffs fail because its benchmarks seem inhabited rather than opportunistic. She adds an unmistakably contemporary twist to her treasure trove of samples, imbuing them with the intimacy and immediacy that come from a childhood spent on self-confessional platforms like Tumblr and TikTok. At to hell with that, PinkPantheress carves a digital age paradise that exists only in an invented memory of the past, paving the way for a career more firmly anchored in the present.


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