After initially blowing up on TikTok, it became clear that London producer PinkPantheress was so much more than a social media star. First of all, she opted for anonymity instead of seeking to immediately build a personal social media empire, and secondly, her songs are more complex and layered than a lot of the work found on the video-sharing platform. In the video for one of her most recent breakout singles, the lovelorn “Just For Me,” the 20-something producer stands quietly in front of a DJ booth, singing sweetly to a crowd of sad teens, who comfort each other with hugs, laptops and phones. Her restrained aesthetic stands in stark contrast to the become-a-star-at-all-costs methods that plenty of try-hard performers adopt when trying to go viral. PinkPantheress doesn’t try to go viral, at all, she simply produces music that’s such a perfect conglomeration of sounds from the last two decades, it’s practically guaranteed to rack up hundreds of thousands of plays. (“Just For Me” is quickly approaching 2 million streams)
Which isn’t to say there’s anything derivative about her sound, as exemplified on her debut mixtape, To Hell With It. On the tape, she begins to toy with her subdued style, occasionally whipping the glitchy, patchwork melodies into towering, stormy tracks that are reminiscent of Chicago’s footwork scene. “I Must Apologise” leans into this shimmering, speedy style, while “Last Valentines” mixes a shivery double-time beat with the dark drama of pop-punk emotionalism. “Just For Me” is arguably the best track on the tape, but other standouts like “Pain” and “All My Friends Know” are deliciously upbeat renditions of the most heart-wrenching phases of a breakup. “Did you ever want me? No worries if not,” PinkPantheress deadpans on the latter. “It’s just that I, I told my mom, she thinks we’re still going strong.” Very few songwriters could get at the additional embarrassment that delivering the news of a breakup to loved ones obviously incurs, but this meditative track is a candid look into the self-loathing that’s so often at the heart of a relationship’s destruction.
Though she’s often cited early 2000s pop, K-pop, and pop-punk as influences, there’s no undermining the foundation of electronic music traditions To Hell With It is built upon, and she effortlessly incorporates samples from these traditions into her work. The way PinkPantheress pulls from so many different sounds and shapes them into a cohesive whole, one that’s spiked with both nostalgia and future-yearning emotion, reminds me of J Dilla’s work as a producer and DJ more than anything else. Not to equate the earliest mixtape from an artist who barely tuned twenty with the most legendary producer in the world, but to note that her ability to see how many disparate parts could form a new whole is the same quality that the most influential producers and DJs always seem to possess. For her to be this early in the arc of her career and already working in the range she’s in is not just impressive, it’s exciting. PinkPantheress isn’t a TikTok star, she’s a producer, and we’re just lucky social media brought her to our attention so soon.
Stream To Hell With It below.