ALBUM REVIEW: PinkPantheress, to hell with it
In this era where artists like Lil Tecca are dropping albums with short tracks that sound like previews of songs, it can often be difficult to figure out how to enjoy new music without feeling out of touch. Like sure, this particular song may be a “vibe” and it sounds kind of sick when synced to a TikTok drop of some sort, but the song itself just becomes a cultural moment rather than a piece of art. If the majority of people know all of your songs from videos of fuckbois dancing to it, what does that say about the music itself? Lyrics can often feel hollow, beats can often feel dull and repetitive and music in general will start to trend towards this unpolished and algorithm-boosted style. In my opinion, PinkPantheress is an AntiArtist in that regard. Besides having a similarly stylized name, she runs counter to what is expected of her. A 19-year old getting a large portion of her audience from @on_a_downward_spiral memes and TikTok trends sounds typical in this day and age, and you’d expect the music to be light and painless as a result. Yeah, no.
“Pain”, her most famous single, opens up the record with a statement of purpose. PinkPantheress is a college student engaging in romantic encounters, sneaky links, situationships, all that. She is an unreliable narrator in that she is both lightly stalking this guy she sings about (“Had a few dreams about you, I can tell you what we did/I expected to see you on your morning run again”) and also arguing with him about their relationship not being over. It’s such a short little piece of music, but it is rich in lyrical detail. This is her style, she establishes it very well on the first track. Over the course of ten total songs, at just 18 minutes, we are getting her diary in audiobook form over a warm mix of acoustic guitars, programmed UK garage drums and homespun synths. It’s “The PinkPantheress Vibe”, a new genre she accidentally created. Over this very unique production, she gets self-reflective about her emotions and romantic hangups. “I must apologise” felt like such a great heel turn from shy girl to big fat liar when it first dropped, and I love it even more in the context of the record. “They say I should be honest more, one day I'm sure/I'll figure out the reason I was telling lies for” feels like such a cheeky set of statements considering how confessional her songwriting is in general.
Even the extremely short tracks, like the one-minute and thirteen second “Last valentines”, there are little sprinkles of who this character is, and honestly, how toxic she is. It rules, “I crashed my car right into a tree/I'd risk my life for a chance you'd come back to me (Yah)...I know you'd never cause an accident for me”. Rather than just down this guy and his new girlfriend or be facetious, she shows us another angle of her obsession and passion, and then fades away. The longest track is the confessional closer “Nineteen” which clocks in at just under 3 minutes. It is similar to Khalid’s “8TEEN” in it’s sentiment of malaise, but takes it a step further by being a little more specific about what causes the loneliness and boredom of that particular age. It’s honestly kind of insane how much we can glean from such a small batch of tracks, each and every song hits on a specific moment or emotion. “Just for me” still conveys sadness in it’s perfect little chorus, “When you wipe your tears, do you wipe them just for me?”, but it’s generally a crush jam. The verses are filled with rose petals and alone time over acoustic guitars, but then the chorus gets a little more clubby with it. I feel like this mix between casual partying and serious feelings is something that a lot of kids going to college experience, and to see it portrayed accurately by one of them is awesome. I wish this song came out when I was a freshman, shit.
“Passion” is not only a bongo-and-shaker laced incredible mini-pop track, it’s also a plea to be less isolated in this world. She feels unwelcome at school, by former friends, and even by her family, “I called my dad, he told me, ‘There's no room for me’/Down at the house that we had when we were living as a three”. Like on first listen, the track has an underlying sadness in the guitar tones but feels generally romantic. She rushes through the words so quickly that it can often be hard to parse through how dark the track is. I think this is a major strength of the record.. Like The Weeknd’s After Hours, sweet and interesting pop music is being produced, and that’s enough for some people. Taking a look at what is being said by PinkPantheress adds an entire dimension to the soft-spoken and seemingly “calm” vocals she misleads you with. I absolutely adore this mixtape, and I hope she goes down a Charli XCX-style route that leads her from her Pop 2 (this) to her Charli (the debut record). It’s so rare these days for pop stars to make bold statements in their music without label scrutiny. While I think the music here is definitely “label friendly” on the surface, it Trojan horses in some very real shit that most music of this style just skips right over. PinkPantheress is the future, and my pick for female artist of the year.