This time last year, PinkPantheress could never have imagined she would become the biggest breakthrough artist in the UK or, arguably, the world. But in a year where the music industry has been operating in stasis, she’s been going places: what started in shyly uploading grainy 15-second snippets of her unreleased tunes onto TikTok has resulted in her blowing up on basically every social media platform, scoring a major label deal, landing several Top 40 chart placements and clocking up hundreds of millions of streams. Her songs – which rarely break the two-minute mark – are ripe for the current climate: cheeky, heartfelt and inventive.
Despite the daunting level of hype surrounding it, the Bath-born 20-year-old’s debut 10-track mixtape doesn’t merely justify it, but exceeds it. ‘To hell with it’ hits the sweet spot that fans of her viral hits have fallen for: unobvious sample choices and rave-y, 90s-referencing breakbeats production, coupled with her childlike vocal, nostalgic songwriting and concise diaristic lyrics.
‘To hell with it’ also excels in the format: there are five singles we’ve already heard, including the Mura Masa-produced ‘Just for me’, Adam F-sampling drum ‘n’ bass breakthrough ‘Break it off’, and guitar-led ‘Passion’, as well as other equally-catchy tracks that follow the formula (‘Noticed I cried’), and, most pleasingly, several surprises.
The R&B and dembow swing of breakup track ‘All my friends know’ (which cleverly samples the pianos and birdsong of Sven Torstenson’s ‘Wind Glider’) calls to mind early AlunaGeorge; the reflective ‘Nineteen’ pairs relatable lyrics about failing A-Levels, her favourite shop shutting down and loneliness, and is aided by the somber orchestral strings of Brazilian composer Toco’s jazz-infused track ‘Outro Lugar’. The drum-heavy ‘Last valentines’, which utilises elements of Linkin Park’s ‘Forgotten’, tells a pained story over ominous production; though it’s contents are dark and emo-leaning, a sweetness remains. These songs in particular demonstrate a slower, stripped-back side to her artistry, where PinkPantheress is ready to push forward into new territory.
This is the type of mixtape to go back to over and over again; its 16-minute runtime certainly encourages that. PinkPantheress unloads these breathless and adventurous songs with a winning confidence that comes only when you outperform everyone’s expectations, especially your own.
- Release date: October 15
- Record label: Parlophone