Arts and Entertainment

Only Heaven Knows

PinkPantheress attempts to create a larger-than-life concept album in Heaven Knows; she is primarily successful.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

A haunted mid-century castle cuts into an empty purple sky; organ music rings out amidst crackles of thunder and pouring rain. Inside the castle is a deep purple-colored room where a man sits on a couch. He walks over to a marked box and leans down, then opens it to an explosion of hundreds of feathers, a dove, and PinkPantheress. The organs dip into a cinematic DnB beat. A deep, gravelly voice inquires, “the first time will be different for everyone. What will yours be like?”

This was the opening “film” for British bedroom pop phenomenon Victoria Beverly Walker’s debut album, Heaven Knows. Walker, under the stage name PinkPantheress, has already built an extremely loyal fan base. For new viewers, calling this one-minute clip a film may seem like a stretch; however, PinkPantheress is famous for just how short her songs are—it’s rare for any to surpass two minutes in length, which is beneficial in the modern landscape of “TikTok” music. 

During the widespread boredom of quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a spike in unconventional pop stars, many of whom found their footing on social media from the comfort of their bedrooms—a new era of pop stars originated then with the ability to effortlessly surf the short-lasting ebbs and flows of TikTok. PinkPantheress has become a prime example of exactly that kind of success story. She began anonymously uploading short clips of her music to TikTok in 2021 and went viral shortly thereafter with “Just a Waste,” where her clever sampling of Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” delivers an exciting blend of nostalgia and modern bedroom pop. She followed the hit with a string of quarantine classics like “Just for Me,” “Pain,” and “Break it Off,” which are included on her debut EP to hell with it (2021), a collection of 10 short songs that each just barely hit the two-minute mark. This brevity is a double-edged sword, which provides great replay value and virality but hinders PinkPantheress from achieving artistic growth. Heaven Knows successfully juggles her signature earworms and greater thematic ventures.

The haunting organ mentioned in the trailer begins the album on the track “Another life,” an electrifying introduction to a new era of PinkPantheress music. This signifies PinkPantheress’s progression in production: the deathly organs smoothly plunge into an intricate and fast-paced cadence, showcasing vast improvement from to hell with it’s skeletal beats. The song is a statement of PinkPantheress’s artistic identity; she combines retro sounds with modern sounds to create a soundscape unique to her. The infectious chorus: “You melt up my body and all my heart / At least now we’ll get all the time apart / Guess I’ll see you in another life” doesn’t mourn the loss of her relationship—that would require accepting that it is over—but instead cheekily delays the responsibility of reconciliation to the afterlife and shrugging off the heaviness. Rema’s feature is a welcome addition with a fluid, autotuned verse that not only remains on-theme: “Promise you ain’t gon’ be with nobody else / Crazy I can’t feel my flesh, I feel your love, that’s okay,” but also perfectly synthesizes with the sleek and nimble bass. Death and its ties to romanticism unite the majority of tracks, serving as a motif in PinkPantheress’s battle with heartbreak. 

The third track, “Mosquito,” is a well-structured lofi-anthem enhanced by its intricate production: the record scratches and quirky whirring synths in the background combine perfectly with her signature DnB beats. The mega-hit success of “Boy’s a liar Pt. 2” showcases just how well PinkPantheress is able to hop on TikTok crazes; remixing an already-viral song with a feature from an up-and-coming artist like Ice Spice was the perfect catalyst for creating a 2023 pop smash. It helps that the original track was already one of PinkPantheress’s strongest with her laid-back, yet bright crooning that compliments the powerful and sparkling dance-pop beat. Ice Spice is a stand-out guest on the album; she manages to keep up with, and even exceed, PinkPantheress’s sugary energy with brilliantly ridiculous lyrics such as “He say that I’m good enough, grabbin’ my duh-duh-duh” and “Like that boy is a cap / Sayin’ he home, but I know where he at.” 

On the eighth track, “Ophelia,” PinkPantheress contrasts blissful and idyllic harpsichords with the drowning feeling she experiences from the betrayal of a breakup. She softly pleads, “so tell me, what did I do to deserve you killin' me this way? / I can't lose my life like this, I'm still fighting.” The relationship that once gave her purpose and “life” has been pulled out from under her, yet she still attempts to fight her way out of accepting the end, just like in “Another life.” This time, however, she becomes consumed by the heartbreak of escaping this certain “death.” During the outro, her delicate vocals fade away, echoing, “you can see me underwater / You can see me underwater.” It isn’t mortality she’s afraid of but rather being alone in the afterworld forever. 

A majority of the album’s weak points and lyrical duds come from the less successful features. The fifth track, “Nice to meet you,” immediately drops in momentum as soon as Central Cee starts rapping with an uninspired flow and cringeworthy lyrics like “long story short, we don’t talk no more / Now she on TikTok doing story time / I might risk it for a biscuit.” The rest of the track doesn’t present much in terms of lyrical substance, as PinkPantheress’s verses also feel generic and impersonal: “I don’t mind all your dollar signs / You’re keeping me up each and every night.” The next song, “Bury Me,” lasts shorter than the album’s interlude, “Internet baby,” and makes even less of an impression. Though the sleek and heavy bass compliments both PinkPantheress and Kelela, there is not enough of a difference between their relaxed deliveries for Kelela’s feature to feel necessary. This length also hinders the development and differentiation of the track from others, which creates a lack of variation that makes the middle of the album feel like background music and inconsequential to the greater underlying themes.

Despite some flaws with variation and numerous flat features, Heaven Knows is PinkPantheress’s worthy attempt at a concept album. Her rise to success has been truly unique as she has become the symbol of a new pop era. The quick success she has acquired is well-deserved and inspiring to see. From being a shy girl who didn’t reveal her face until months after blowing up to becoming one of the main faces of “TikTok music,” only Heaven knows how much higher PinkPantheress can go.