Y2K as a genre is not descriptive enough, given that it can be used to describe both the fast-paced electronic pop of an artist like Slayyyter and the music of PinkPantheress. to hell with it, PinkPantheress’ debut mixtape, offers a new kind of nostalgia that borrows from the past while sounding like it was made for our current cultural moment. At 18 minutes long, it’s the perfect introduction to her work, with enough of her TikTok-famous songs accompanied by new work to keep it interesting. In her reinterpretation of early 2000s aesthetics, she borrows from the past without letting it obscure her own individual vision.
Borrowing from UK garage, jungle, and breakbeat, she balances these influences with pop and R&B melodies which give the album its softer, more emotionally evocative quality. In many ways, the drums and bass beats are not just central to her sound, but also distinguish her as an artist rooted in a 90s and 00s garage and DIY culture. On tracks like “Noticed I cried” and “Break it off” (which samples Adam F’s “Circles”), the influence is especially clear, but even when she borrows from other artists, she’s able to play with samples in a way that adds greater depth to her work without sounding derivative.
Perhaps what makes PinkPantheress’s work resonate with Zoomers like myself is that she writes songs that I would’ve definitely read on the poetry side of Tumblr. There’s a confessional quality to her lyrics which feels like half-jokingly oversharing on Twitter (“Did you ever want me? / No worries if not” from “All my friends know”), without sounding maudlin. Part of it is that she maintains a sense of humour – think of the honking sound accompanying lyrics that describe her watching someone from her car in “Just for me”. Part of it is also her voice: swooning, almost breathless. Vulnerable yet detached, not fully letting you in but intimate in a way where you feel like you’re in a room in halls with her.
It’s understandable that keeping each track two minutes or less is part of her persona, but I still believe that this takes away from her music. While it’s certainly better than a mixtape bloated with five-minute-long tracks and an unnecessary array of features, I really do wish PinkPantheress would let us sit with her music a little longer. Overall, though, it’s a mixtape that defies categorisation and offers much promise, and I’m excited to see what her first album will look like.