From Her Bedroom, PinkPantheress Became a Global Icon
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- Mike Hanson
- June 16, 2022
PinkPantheress will admit that she is unquestionably an online kid. Her brief flip-phone ringtone-esque compositions, laced with nostalgic late-nineties and early-noughties references and featuring Lily Allen-like lyrics over predominantly garage and drum ‘n’ bass sounds, making the familiar addictively new in a manner that only an artist raised on memes could.
PinkPantheress, on the other hand, has completely enthralled the internet. Her six hyper pop tunes are included in millions of TikTok, the medium where they initially gained popularity, and are widely shared on Instagram and Twitter. They have hundreds of millions of cumulative streams on Apple Music and Spotify. She’s worked with Central Cee and Goldlink, and she doesn’t rule out the possibility of a Charli XCX duet.
With only one 480p music video, two TikTok showcasing her face, and a few lo-fi pixelated photos, the 20-year-old is shrouded in mystery, prompting heated conjecture from all parts of the globe as to who she is.
Her celebrity is distinctly internet-based. From behind a blue screen on Zoom, she tells Vogue, “One thing that was pretty striking was that nothing changed.” “Everything has been done online, so I haven’t had to leave my house and be surrounded by strangers.” It’s as though I’m living two lives. It feels like I have two lives: one that revolves around me and my friends, and another that exists only on my phone.”
Her aura of mystery is more like that of a nervous girl debating how much to reveal with legions of new obsessives, rather than an aloof or carefully produced figure she’s shockingly raw and conversational, with self-deprecating humor. “I’m quite aware that if I write anything and it somehow connects to something personal to me, others will undoubtedly discover it.” And, having been thrust into the limelight so abruptly, she oscillates between wanting to be seen and wanting to remain invisible at the same time. “I become so self-conscious after I’ve just uploaded something that I want to erase every image of myself ever,” she chuckles. “It’s a duality,”
Listening to a classmate play the drums to My Chemical Romance’s “Welcome to the Black Parade.” She recalls, “Was the time that I converted to the internet world.” “I was like, ‘I’m in.'” “I’m in right now.” “It was a feeling like no other” to spend all of her after-school hours watching music videos and interviews with her favorite bands. K-Pop introduced her to Stan communities “they’re a crazy, crazy, crazy community, it was really fun” and she created an anonymous Instagram fan page for pop-punk bands like Pierce The Veil and All Time Low, which “didn’t exactly get a dumb amount of followers, but it did reach the thousand follow mark at some point,” she recalls.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘Yeah, this is me.'” ‘This is how I’m wired.’ “I kind of didn’t have the guts to truly be an open online celebrity” until she started recording songs as PinkPantheress.
She was born in Bath to a Kenyan mother and an English father, and she grew up in Kent, which was mainly homogeneous. “I believe that if I didn’t live with my mother, I would have straightened my hair or done something similar to blend in.” In that regard, I was fortunate. “I never lost who I was or where I came from.” She went to UAL to study cinema after falling in love with editing celebrity fancams when she was 14, but she’d always wanted to be a musician since witnessing Paramore on stage at Reading Festival when she was 14. “Imagine how much fun [Hayley Williams] is having, and she’s being paid for it.”
“That would be an absurd job,” I thought
She began crafting GarageBand tracks for her buddy, R&B musician MaZz when she was 17 years old. “I used to be much better than I am today.” “I believe my abilities have deteriorated.” She experimented with her music in secret, alone in her room. “I wouldn’t even call what I was doing production; I was just speeding up instrumentals and singing over them.” “Yeah, why not try singing over?” she thought as a garage and drum ‘n’ bass fan. She published her vocals on Soundcloud and TikTok under a screen name that referenced her favorite movies, “just trying to see how a top-line would fit into it” (the Steve Martin one being her ultimate.)
In January, “Pain” was the first song to drop, laying the groundwork for “that time’s ten” with “Break it off.” With so many admirers eagerly expecting her debut album, she decided to release a mixtape instead – To Hell with it, which is only 19 minutes long rather than an album. “It’s there, but not for a long time, “She claims to have relieved some of the strain. “Some people haven’t heard me go slow yet,” she adds, adding, “which is something that I’ve always been interested to do.” However, “It’s unmistakably in the same universe. And, because I’m a great admirer of all things dark, it’s a little dark in certain parts.”
Where does her fondness for the 1990s stem from? “I think today’s youngsters, myself included, embrace alternative things and being different,” she thinks. “They don’t want to be the popular girl, and the 2000s were the greatest decade for that… It was kind of fun to be the loser.” “I think the comeback is mainly because we witnessed how amazing of a period it was that we weren’t around to appreciate for ourselves,” Gen Z says. With the detached serenity of an artist convinced of their sound beyond any greater trend, she continues, “I truly am intrigued to watch how long this Y2K era endures.”
She regrets the fact that she will never be able to experience important aspects of bygone times, such as working her way up from small places to notoriety. “Now it’s like, ‘OK, you made your music over the internet,'” she says. They have so many streams. “Now you have to go perform on the huge stage,” she muses. “I suppose in a previous life, I would have chosen to work in smaller places and work my way up.” Does the prospect of her first concert terrify her because she has never done it before? “I’m terrified of performing,” she admits. “It wasn’t fantastic when I was younger.” It’s like ‘don’t look up, just gaze at the floor.’ But it’s something that will undoubtedly happen.”
Her offline life has changed, even if it hasn’t changed substantially. Of course, she now has new prospects, she’s dropped out of university (she hasn’t re-enrolled), and her success has made her “more confident.” Her meteoric climb has been “overwhelming,” she admits, but she believes it might have happened sooner. “The quantity of manifestation going on was ridiculous. There’s almost too much manifestation here. At one time, I was doing some wacky stuff. She chuckles, “I guess I was speaking up to the sky.” “It’s something I’ve desired for a long time, and it’s great that it’s finally happening,” she says.