Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

PinkPantheress levels up with the ultra-digital pop of Heaven knows

"Heaven knows"

Release date: 10 November 2023
Pinkpantheress cover digital copy
08 November 2023, 16:30 Written by Tanatat Khuttapan

TikTok-born pop star PinkPantheress loves contradiction and defiance; her glitzy breakbeats so far have suggested feral desire and meditative solitude.

Genres to her are tiling mosaics that form a bigger image once pieced together. On “Ophelia,” a track from her magnificent debut album Heaven knows, she entwines breezy harp plucks and glitchy drum kicks to deconstruct the conventions of a typical murder ballad. While the backbone is largely DnB and garage – cultivating an aesthetic that she named “new nostalgia” – her music leaves room for inspiration from other regions like punk rock, alt-R&B and bedroom pop. By doing so, she’s fabricating a sound collage whose structure is fluid and shapeless, putting her command of the ultra-digital pop landscape on full display.

Since her 2021 mixtape to hell with it, PinkPantheress has secured her popularity with a megahit (“Boy’s a Liar, Pt. 2”) and a place in the Barbie soundtrack (“Angel”). Accumulating as large an audience and as quickly as possible perhaps came with a sacrifice in track length, because most of her songs were only a minute long, appealing to the instant gratification and short attention span of the modern-day listener. To our relief, that isn’t the case now; the nearly 4-minute single “Capable of love” has spiralled many into absolute delirium. With much more space to explore and develop, Heaven knows is a level-up on all fronts. Everything from melody to lyricism feels fuller, fresher, and as a result more fun.

A whiff of mortality and reincarnation accompanies the majority of Heaven knows. Right at its first seconds, opener “Another life” blasts our ears with a pipe organ loop that sets an eerie tone for the rest of the record, and to which the theme of troubling romance is tied. Joined by bass-enthusiast Kelela, “Bury me” denotes an unrequited and silenced bond that awaits total disintegration. The quiet ambience of birds chirping is interrupted by a leaden, metallic trap overlay, making it a dire yet outstanding torch song. Death is, while a grim aspect for most, her springboard for idiosyncratic artistry; her songs blossom like asphodels with it.

Teaming up with Kelela is an undeniable success. Bringing in Rema and Central Cee, however, is questionable since she’s admitted to being “particular” about collaborations. Although their monotonous delivery might suit the toxic relationship dynamic, neither elevates the songs’ majestic and sepulchral overtones. The abrupt rap throw-in by Central Cee after the scrumptious chorus on “Nice to meet you,” for example, instantly launches the song into a suicidal nosedive (how could she let the “I might risk it for a biscuit” line pass?). Their stylistic incompatibility makes the joint efforts seem like a frivolous marketing tactic.

The more satisfactory outcome of collaboration is the album’s charismatic sound design. PinkPantheress has gathered an affinity group of producers whose output reinforces her macabre and sybaritic themes: Danny L Harle on the hydrous and melancholic “Ophelia,” Greg Kurstin on the brisk and cutesy “True romance,” Oscar Scheller and phil on the reggae-inspired “The aisle.” On top of that, they ensure Heaven knows encapsulates the principles of our digital age in which music evades closed-view interpretation. With keen ears for melody, turbo-paced beats perspire, and episodic SFX rouses either pure revelry or contemplation. She’s on to a marvellous start.

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