Every so often, an album comes along—skip-free, immaculate, and with its finger on the pulse—that makes us take a step back and appreciate—or simply reckon with—the moment we’re in. These are albums that somehow manage to distill the essence of the moment—politically, emotionally, and personally—all at once. We all recognized it in Robyn’s earth-shifting Body Talk (parts 1 and 2) from 2010. In 2016, it was Beyoncé’s confessional, masterful Lemonade. Today, it’s the debut album Heaven Knows from UK bedroom pop star PinkPantheress, and it didn’t come a moment too soon.
The artist known only as PinkPantheress started making nostalgic tracks on TikTok in 2020, but it wasn’t until early this year, with the release of the era-defining music video for “Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2” that PinkPantheress’s brand of Y2K nostalgia and low-fi love ballads hit the mainstream. Last week, the UK artist released her debut album Heavens Above, a zero-skips mix of love songs, dance hits, and soft meditations on death.
It’s the reliance on a soothing new brand of death pop, perhaps, that gives Heavens Above such resonance for Gen Z listeners. Anyone who’s been through heartbreak knows that it can feel like the end of your life. PinkPantheress mines this metaphor for lyrical riches in nearly every song on her debut album. In “Mosquito,”—over images of the singer heading up a shopping spree with Yara Shahidi and other Gen Z icons—we’re told that the singer had a dream that she died and “only cared” because it took her from the one she loves. The irresistible “Bury Me” gives us another too-recognizable scenario, one in which a girl gives too much time and attention to a boy who doesn’t deserve it. On “Ophelia,” PinkPantheress compares her plight to that of Hamlet’s ill-used ex-girlfriend, comparing herself to the famous Millais painting of the woman lying drowned in the reeds. She describes the feeling of being drowned in pain due to a careless lover, telling us that his eyes are the last thing she sees as her life flashes before her eyes.
The “What Was I Made For?” singer’s use of a certain filter on Instagram has fans convinced she’s officially coming out.
Love kills and love crushes, but as all the wisest artists know, it’s worth it to take a risk anyway. That’s what stops Heaven Knows from getting too bogged down in romantic sorrow—that, and the wispy, cool beats that underlay each track, giving these songs of romantic strife an impossibly nonchalant flavor.
That’s the thing: when you’re 22 years old and on top of the world, romantic strife can only set you back so far. PinkPantheress—a fan of Y2K aesthetics, the Saw franchise, and her trusty handbag—already set the mood for 2023 with “Boy’s a Liar.” As exciting as it is to think about how she’ll grow and change as she keeps refining her dreamy pop style, the real question is, can the culture truly keep up with her?♦