“Day 14 of posting a song every day until I find a part-time job on indeed.com,” reads one of Pink Pantheress’ TikToks from February, in which she teases a snippet of an R&B song whose beat samples “Cloud 9,” by the K-pop group EXO. This is how it goes for the anonymous 20-year-old university student from Bath, England, who found her stage name by simply thinking of her favorite movie. She treats TikTok like Snapchat, posting haphazard, zoomed-in videos with her face partially obscured, tacking on brain-fart observations like “idk for sure what genre my music is but it deffo got me sounding like a sad mf.” The TikToks feature 15-second song drafts, often sampling ’90s and ’00s dance tracks—Adam F’s drum’n’bass classic “Circles,” the UK garage duo Sweet Female Attitude’s “Flowers”—and topped off with her own melodies. (Even the extended versions of her songs are extremely short, often barely a minute long.) Her voice is girlish and slight, like Clairo or Erika de Casier, but with the arch bounce of Lily Allen. She deems her style “new nostalgic.”
There’s nothing novel about a young bedroom artist sending unreleased song sketches straight to social media, but PinkPantheress is a “TikTok sensation” (around 355,000 followers) who doesn’t quite meet the usual conventions of the label. (For one, she does not seem to care about good lighting.) “Passion,” her latest single, has been floating around the app for weeks now; the official release is (surprisingly) over two minutes, with a visualizer that’s just the Windows screensaver. Like many of PinkPantheress’ songs, it is sung as if slightly dazed, tiptoeing gently through reality. “The teachers always called it a shame/They say I don’t have passion the same,” she sings delicately, sounding listless and misunderstood. The narrator’s friends and family have slipped away, leaving her to sift through her troubles alone: “Where can I sleep tonight?” Languid, finger-plucked guitar and whooshes of synth create a pensive mood; PinkPantheress’ angelic voice snakes along the song like satin ribbons. At the chorus, a jungle breakbeat kicks in, adding a slight churn to the wistfulness. It’s another lovely release from the mysterious producer, one of the rare TikTok artists whose internet fame seems proportional to their potential.