PinkPantheress: Heaven knows

Intimacy and distance exist in a delicate balance for PinkPantheress. Since she started posting snippets and demos to TikTok in 2020, her shy club tracks have exuded warmth and tenderness, like a friend whispering secrets in your ear on the dancefloor. Her earliest singles—like “Break It Off” and “Pain”—captured the desperate yearning and the lingering pain of young love. At the time she was a teenager studying film in London, uploading music in her spare time, and naturally she kept the public at arm's length. Her songs were light on details, heavy on suggestion, and rarely stretched longer than a couple of minutes. Just when it seems like she might be willing to open up, the song ends. She’s onto another breakbeat and another thought.

Heaven knows, her debut album, largely dispenses with this approach. Working with a cast of new collaborators—including pop industry staples like Greg Kurstin and producers with roots in the underground, like PC Music’s Danny L. Harle—she transforms her jittery, emotional miniatures into pop songs that feel more extroverted, more joyful, and sometimes more complete. It’s a natural step, following the success of “Boy’s a liar Pt. 2,” the pillowy, pastel-hued club cut with Ice Spice that vaulted up the Hot 100 earlier this year. That song’s prismatic production and charismatic guest appearance represented PinkPantheress pushing at the boundaries of her ambition—aiming bigger and broader than ever before. The track’s inclusion here is reflective of a general desire across Heaven knows to outrun the URL spaces she came from. Earlier this year, she said that she doesn’t use TikTok anymore, and that she’s uninterested in being an “internet artist.” She’s always had a desire to be pop in the most literal sense, the sort of songwriter, she told NPR, who makes music “your cousin or your mom” could relate to.

Consequently, she returns to the palette that’s worked for her so far: synths that flicker with technicolor richness, dizzily 2-stepping drum programming, and the fragile wisps of the upper range of her voice. “Feelings,” as its title suggests, digs into her tried-and-true themes: desire, anxiety, and general uncertainty. But the song—which casts a similar nocturnal glow as early ’00s R&B—feels more fully realized, with gleaming production choices and a more emphatic vocal delivery. Throughout the record, she excises any hesitance or half steps: She embraces the fluorescent confidence of newfound stardom.

PinkPantheress claims to write intuitively: Her songs were short because that’s how long she felt they needed to be. She doesn’t seem to want anyone to read into the relatively epic length of songs like “Capable of love” (three minutes and 43 seconds), but it is a notably different listening experience. Her older, miniature songs sugar-rushed through their ideas, while “Capable of love” teases out its melodies patiently, indulging tasteful repetition and turbulent dynamics that she previously wouldn’t have room for.

Heaven knows flexes her abilities as a writer, producer, and curator of guest spots (Kelela and Rema’s appearances add crackling energy to “Bury me” and “Another life,” respectively). But part of what separates her from nostalgia-pop peers like piri & tommy or Yunè Pinku was a willingness to lurk in the shadows of the club, letting quiet overtones hang heavy over the tracks. Even as she extends herself as a songwriter, and as she grows more comfortable in the spotlight, she hasn’t found a way to build on the full extent of her mystique.

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PinkPantheress: Heaven Knows