Something about PinkPantheress seems familiar. Pulling extensively from 2000s beats, the TikTok-famous hitmaker crafts songs that are often an ode to the distinct sounds of her childhood. Incorporating the dazzling sound of New Wave and alternative electro-pop, and the heavy drum and bass of garage, PinkPantheress experiments boldly with established genres. She is unafraid of anything either too familiar or too obscure, sampling everyone from Michael Jackson to 80s electronic artist Sven Torstenson. For PinkPantheress, mere recreations of the past are not enough—instead, she transforms well-known (and maybe well-worn) tracks into irresistible songs that feel distinctly 2021. On her debut mixtape to hell with it (2021), PinkPantheress takes this project of reimagining the past to new heights, proving that nostalgia doesn’t have to feel stale or outdated.
Her commitment to a “new nostalgic” style is not the only admirable thing about PinkPantheress—in many ways, she is the model for musicians trying to make it big in today’s industry. Though she hasn’t reached the same level of recognition as major-label hitmakers like Doja Cat or Megan Thee Stallion, her songs are inescapable on TikTok. Her meteoric rise is whiplash-inducing; in December 2020, she was posting videos every day captioned “posting my song until someone notices it.” After just 11 days, she hit gold with her song “Pain,” which went on to chart at number 35 on the UK Singles Chart. By June 2021, she had multiple viral hits, including “Pain,” “Break it off,” and “Passion,” and she signed to Parlophone Records.
With most of her songs hovering at the one-and-a-half minute mark, PinkPantheress knows how to get to the point quickly and effectively—a valuable asset on TikTok, where all you get is 15 seconds to make your mark. And she obviously has a knack for it; her biggest single, “just for me,” has generated 2.2 million TikTok videos alone. PinkPantheress largely sticks to this formula on to hell with it; the mixtape flies by at a mere 18 minutes, but still manages to make an impact.
PinkPantheress’s sampling abilities are the key to her success. On “I must apologise,” she pulls the iconic riff from Crystal Waters’ dance hit “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)” to create a shimmering intro that breaks into a frenetic drum beat. As the mixtape progresses, PinkPantheress becomes increasingly daring in her sample choices, touching on genres from bossa nova on “Nineteen” to nu metal on “Last valentines.” Rather than making the songs feel recycled or outdated, these borrowings couch the mixtape in an almost unsettling familiarity, like sonic déjà vu. This feeling makes to hell with it infectious. Every song has its own mystery, and you can’t help but be drawn in.
At times, PinkPantheress’s hallmarks are also her downfall. Songs like “Last valentines” start off strong but fail to adequately build or provide a satisfying conclusion, giving it an unfinished quality. Even “Pain,” one of her biggest hits, peters off after slowing down the sampled beat. In these moments, it feels like PinkPantheress is afraid of straying too far from her standard song structure—something she has acknowledged. On the Soundcloud version of the song, Pantheress wrote: “this is a DUD like I mean we can all clearly hear its [sic] a bit rough around the edges, I wish I could’ve made it longer but I had the worst writer’s block.”
While “Pain” is by no means an all-caps “DUD,” it definitely sounds like a work-in-progress. At the very least, PinkPantheress deals with writer’s block in a variety of ways, making it more of a weakness for a few songs than a weakness for the mixtape as a whole. “Noticed I cried,” ends abruptly, right as it starts to build momentum. Over a two-step garage beat paired with an ’80s drum sample (Bobby Byrd’s “Hot Pants”), Pantheress croons about finally realizing her ex is a burden. After just two verses, she breaks down, repetitively murmuring “mine” over and over again, before the track suddenly cuts out. Producer Oscar Scheller explained: “The song itself is a snippet for people’s attention. It makes songs feel more addictive ’cause they’re over before you know it, so you play them again. I’ve noticed other artists I work with wanting to make shorter songs, to match the ADHD world we live in.”
Though PinkPantheress occasionally struggles to flesh out her signature sound, she showcases her versatility towards the end of the mixtape, breaking out of her typically hyper beats to exciting effect. “All my friends know” shows off her lyrical talent as she reflects on a relationship gone wrong, matching her sonic throwbacks with nostalgic lyrics. While “All my friends know” still features her characteristically powerful drum-and-bass sound, the delicate piano sample and slower tempo makes the song, as Pantheress describes it, “sentimental in a musical sense, and…sentimental in a personal sense as well.” In comparison to other tracks, “All my friends know” follows a satisfying narrative and sonic arc; by the end of the song she realizes “Now that all that’s done and said/I see all the time I spent/Not talking to my best friend/’Cause I thought the worst of me” as the beat melts back into the piano. After the high energy tracks on the rest of the mixtape, “All my friends know” is a welcome change of pace. Its sentimentality manages to be vulnerable without being cheesy, and its message of re-evaluating the past is one that fits perfectly with the PinkPantheress aesthetic.
Even with its small faults, to hell with it is strong overall, and it hints at PinkPantheress’s potential as an artist. Despite being only a mixtape, to hell with it presents a clear artistic vision. In a cultural moment where we’re constantly romanticizing the past—from the Friends reunion and Gossip Girl reboot to claw clips—PinkPantheress makes music that’s more than just pure sonic nostalgia. Instead, she uses the past as a springboard for the future and makes the old finally feel new again.