PinkPantheress: “The music has been the same for so long. Can we get something else? ‘ | Music


IIn December, a TikTok user in London named PinkPantheress started uploading clips of a song, intending to continue until “someone notices”. Ten months later, the social media platform named her song Just for Me its flagship song of the summer; it has over 20 million tracks on Spotify and, after being sampled by drill rapper Central Cee, entered the UK Top Five.

A flood of equally ephemeral tracks followed: rarely longer than two minutes, they are mostly self-produced, lo-fi mixes of sweet and sweet vocals and jungle and drum’n’bass rhythms. Gen Z loves it; Grimes and Charli XCX are fans; Lizzo and Charli d’Amelio, the reigning queen of TikTok, used his music to create the soundtrack for their own TikToks.

His relative anonymity heightened interest. She had more or less hidden her face on TikTok until recently. As we meet on a video call for one of his first on-camera interviews, his publicist sternly orders me not to reveal his name. It’s all about convenience, says the 20-year-old film student.

“At the end of the day, I’m still in college and I love my life outside of interviews,” she says. I expect her to be shy, but she’s the opposite: self-deprecating and funny, fighting back at thoughtful and clever unmoved responses. She clearly recognizes her growing fame, but is not troubled by it. “I’m just an Internet kid at the end of the day – always have been and always will be,” she says.

This week, she is releasing her first mixtape, To Hell With It. His first for the major Parlophone, he offers self-produced pieces alongside collaborations with Mura Masa. Her bubbly and bouncy productions conceal melancholy lyrics (“We’re parting in two, now you don’t want me anymore,” she laments on Noticed I Cried). They are not inspired by her life, but rather by the stories of troubled teens in Jacqueline Wilson’s novels and TV shows such as Waterloo Road.

Typically “internet kids” who don’t care about genre boundaries, her colorful palette also includes pop-punk and emo, which she says inspired her melodies and cadence. K-pop has also “influenced my music in disgusting ways.” Despite using classic drum’n’bass samples – like Adam F’s classic Circles on Break It Off – she says: thinks my music does anything but scratch the surface of these genres.

A smash hit … listen to Just for Me by PinkPantheress.

Born in Bath in 2000, PinkPantheress moved to Kent at the age of five with her mother, a caregiver of Kenyan descent, and her English father, an academic now based in the United States. She led a group in her early teens, covering songs from My Chemical Romance and drawing inspiration from Paramore’s Hayley Williams; they made their debut at a school party. “I had jeggings on and put a hole in the knee to look more emo,” she says. “I’m a very nervous artist now, but I remember I didn’t care who was watching and how many people. I left the scene thinking I had killed him, even though I was super fake. I was too young to be nervous. I hope I will come back to this point.

During her later teenage years, she created songs on GarageBand, singing to accelerated old-fashioned jungle and garage beats that she found through YouTube and friends from the DJing and skateboarding scenes. She wanted to make music professionally, but failed to publish her music on SoundCloud, so she moved to London, where she is now based, to study film as an assistant. “I thought every artist was an industrial factory or something,” she says. “These people have never been like me, not just a student or a normal person. I was a little naive, I think.

It migrated to TikTok due to the platform’s openness to imperfect, disposable content – and quickly went viral. “It took me until I was 19 to realize there was a way to get into music without having a lot of industry connections,” she says. “If XXXTentacion can use SoundCloud and do it that way, then I feel like I can too.”

She is determined to stay grounded. “It’s all on your phone – it almost looks like a virtual game,” she says. “I can turn off my phone and I’m just me a year ago, in college doing things in college. It doesn’t sound too crazy. It feels good to know that people are listening, but I can turn it off very easily.

Yet his desire to stay under the radar is outweighed by sizeable ambitions. While she finds the attention to TikTok’s role in its rise a bit boring, she wants to inject the playfulness of the platform into a heavy mainstream. “The music has been the same for so long. It’s like: please can we get something else? ” she says. “I hope people start to feel more free to break the boundaries of what is acceptable or most sonically appealing to everyone.”

To Hell With It is now available on Polydor


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