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The Heavenly Ascent of PinkPantheress

2023 / Warner UK / pop
Cover by Aidan Zamiri
Cover by Aidan Zamiri

On her debut record, Heaven knows, Walker fleshes out her trademark style of bubbly, fervently “Y2K” soundscapes with polished production at times marred by underwhelming collaborators.

No longer is Victoria Walker, known by her ubiquitous alias PinkPantheress, emoting on top of fire escapes with Bronx rapper Ice Spice, lamenting in the club with nepo-rockstar Willow Smith, or paying homage to early-2010s fan edits. In the Sophia Mullen-directed video for “Mosquito,” the lead single off Heaven knows, Walker frolics the idyllic streets of London, adorn in garish fur vests and blue tulle dresses. It is a scene ripped out of a Disney fairytale. However, accompanied by her A-list model / actor friends, she has a confession to make for anyone willing to listen: “I just had a dream I was dead / and I only cared ‘cause I was taken from you.”

2023 has shown an unprecedented level of success for the 22-year-old musician; earlier this year, she spawned an international hit with Ice Spice-partnership “Boy’s a liar Pt. 2” and soundtracked the Barbie movie, which helped establish her as a household name—at least within the confines of TikTok for-you pages. Despite the upgraded production that comes with any major-label debut, Walker does not lose the charm that made the pop savant so beloved in the first place.

A billowing organ opens the record on a harkening note with “Another life” before the listener is swept into the familiar territory of programmed drum ‘n’ bass and Walkers’ ostensibly synthetic vocals. Unfortunately, afro-beat phenom Rema has a lethargic guest verse, containing a brief rumination on astral projection, that does not quite hit the mark. The ethereal “Nice to meet you” is painted with striking UK Drill and Gamelan motifs. Conversely, the song’s thematic ideas about maintaining loyalty and integrity in a relationship are given a jarring tonal shift by rapper Central Cee, who passively intones about petty internet beef and cheekily rhymes “risk it” with “biscuit.”

Victoria Walker, photo by Aidan Zamiri

On Heaven knows, the Somerset-based musician offers an inquisitory mélange of fresh sound palettes to dig into. For instance, take the harp-laden “Ophelia” — which, dedicated to the Hamlet allusion-drop, has the skeuomorphic production effect of one being submerged underwater — or the downtempo trance of Kelela collab “Bury me.” The nearly 4-minute “Capable of love” [a feat for the musician whose mixtape, to hell with it (2021), consisted entirely of songs under two minutes] contains a tour de force of unfurling melodies, electrifying dynamics, and ringing church bells. Dripping in My Chemical Romance reverence, Walker’s lyrical chops are on full display as she depicts the agonizing fear that a newfound lover will one day leave her.

PinkPantheress’ come-up diverts from the general norm of any rising musician in the 2020s— an organic success story that has refused to marionette itself to faceless entities and shady click-farms in the process. It is almost astounding to consider the career trajectory of PinkPantheress; merely three years have passed since Walker dropped the 49-second “Time with me” to her Soundcloud. Flash-forward to now, where she has an ensemble of A-list guests features and producers at her disposal and unlimited potential. Despite the despairing musings that coat much of her music, Victoria Walker knows she is in complete control of themselves and their fate.

Listen to: Mosquito, Capable of love, True romance

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Jack DeBoyace
Jack DeBoyace, Staff Writer

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