PinkPantheress’ Debut Album is a Feast For the Senses

The UK singer’s internet-famous, addictive pop persona and mystique come to life on Heaven knows.

Music Reviews PinkPantheress
PinkPantheress’ Debut Album is a Feast For the Senses

PinkPantheress doesn’t go on social media. In two interviews from this year, the UK artist admitted, “I don’t go on TikTok” (per Billboard) and “I never go on Instagram” (per NME). Her avoidance of social media opposes everything we’ve come to know about her. PinkPantheress is the sound of the internet: disassembled, filtered and reconstructed into bite-sized pieces of addictive pop. For someone whose music has been endlessly regurgitated across TikTok since her very first song, how could PinkPantheress keep such a distance from social media? How is TikTok’s reigning queen of Gen-Z pop not on the app?

PinkPantheress is a musical project, a persona and a barrier. The person who writes and records the music preferred to remain anonymous for the first three years of her career (three years might seem like a short span of time but, for PinkPantheress, those three years were marked with near-constant virality). That distance between the musical project of PinkPantheress and the person behind it adds an enticing mystique to her pop stardom. More importantly, that distance brings her debut album Heaven knows to life. It makes her impossible to pinpoint or pin down.

Yet, PinkPantheress has mastered TikTok, using the app to plant the seeds of her success and reaping them with her biggest hit yet in “Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2” (tacked on the end of Heaven knows almost certainly to boost streaming numbers). But that doesn’t mean that Tiktok, or social media or the internet in general defines her. On her debut album, PinkPantheress breaks free from the confining label of “Internet baby.” She transcends the innate internet-ness of her music. With that in mind, of course she’s not on TikTok.

On “Internet baby,” an interlude that’s only five seconds shorter than full songs on Heaven knows, she rebuffs the expectations surrounding her debut. Across a classic PinkPantheress backdrop of computer-oriented nostalgia, she gripes with a dude’s obvious affection: “You’re a needy guy but I guess I kinda like that.” By the end of the interlude, she rejects the simp, but the sentiment is equally targeted to her audience. “I am not your internet baby,” she repeats. On her debut, PinkPantheress demanded to be taken as more than the thirty-second clips she’s best known for. Once any interpretation of PinkPantheress as Gen-Z’s chosen internet Baby-slash-spokesperson is released, Heaven knows can be taken for what it is: a superb pop star debut.

Heaven knows is a continuation of the break-beat, two-step, sample-heavy pop that PinkPantheress is known for—but with a bigger budget and a broader ambition. On her 2021 mixtape to hell with it, you can hear each individual component: the drum-n-bass beat, the keyboards that sound like they’re from an iMac booting up, PinkPantheress’s careful topline. But Heaven knows has more intricate songwriting and a wider scope. She reckons with a cruel lover on the emo-influenced “Ophelia.” “True romance” finds her crushing on an unattainable rockstar. PinkPantheress insists that she’s more than just an online hodge-podge collagist; she’s a songwriter and evocateur.

“Capable of love,” which at 3:43 is PinkPantheress’s longest song yet, is a gorgeous compilation of breakbeat, harmony and melancholic guitar. She and the guitar trade off in hooks until the track fades out in echoey, bittersweet instrumentals. “I know I’ll never be as capable of love / After you,” she fears on the chorus. It isn’t just the production that’s elevated here. She is more emotive, more devastated. “Capable of love” dispels any notion that she is a “bedroom pop” or “minimalist” artist—not when she’s evoking the pain and obsession of unrequited love as boldly as this.

Frankly, no one sounds quite like PinkPantheress, and she relishes in her unique style and killer taste across Heaven knows. Organ, guitar and big-room synths blur like watercolor across “Another life” until the Nigerian rapper Rema shows up. “Nice to meet you” hops between a DnB, a tabla beat and Jersey club patterns. R&B-in-the-club artist Kelela floats over “Bury me.” Pantheress’s if-it-fits-it-ships approach is not new for her, but it’s a joy to hear her build on her own style with momentous confidence.

The entire album is a feast for the senses: the bass of “Nice to meet you” rumbles, the drumbeat of “Feel complete” crackles like a dusty vinyl, “Ophelia” dissipates into ASMR-like bubbles. Even when her vocal cadences grow a bit repetitive, the album’s BPM is relentless enough to spike your blood pressure consistently. The best moments on Heaven knows—“True romance,” “Mosquito” and “Blue”—combine her expertise at texture with knockout hooks. Whether it’s the paparazzi flash that starts “True romance” or an interpolation of “Kickstarts” by Example on “Blue,” these songs scrap together disparate references and translate them into little gems. It’s alchemy.

Compared to her Gen-Z peers like Billie Eilish, beabadoobee or Steve Lacy, PinkPantheress in particular has come to represent the future of the online generation’s pop music. Maybe it’s her everything-up-for-grabs approach to production, her algorithm-hijacking origin story or her notorious reputation of quiet quitting. But PinkPantheress doesn’t want to be an icon for the generation. Even with its lyrics about unreciprocated love, Heaven knows keeps its emotional distance. PinkPantheress has always been a project that toys with anonymity and ambiguity. Don’t take her for a hyper-personal, confessional, social media-using Zoomer. Define her by the world she creates, not the internet-driven world she lives in.

Andy Steiner is a writer, musician, and works in the music industry. When he’s not reviewing albums, you can find him collecting ‘80s Rush merchandise. Follow him on Instagram or Twitter.

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