Heaven knows

Heaven knows

PinkPantheress’ debut album, Heaven knows, opens with the sound of a scaling church organ and heavy rainfall. It’s a grand entrance that’s as fitting for this album’s title as it is perhaps surprising for the artist behind it. But if PinkPantheress broke out thanks to the propulsive UKG and D’n’B-infused pop she’d crafted in her bedroom (and her songs’ wild social-media success), the beginnings of Heaven knows feel like an acknowledgment—or a declaration—that she’s outgrown its four walls. Sometimes, that feels literal: “True romance” finds her amid the screaming crowds and clicking cameras of a show as she heralds her love for someone much more famous than her. It’s either a sign of the company she keeps these days (“Every song is about you/And everybody’s shouting out your name”) or a play on the darker side of fan obsession (“I know you’re older/But I really know I’m sure/Held my ticket since they landed at my door/I’ve been a fan of you since 2004/You know you got me”). But this album is also a broadening of her musical world, the songs here—made with collaborators including Greg Kurstin (Adele, Gorillaz, Foo Fighters), Mura Masa, Cash Cobain, Danny L Harle (Caroline Polachek), and Oscar Scheller (Ashnikko, Charli XCX, Rina Sawayama)—are noticeably more expansive than those on 2021’s star-confirming mixtape To hell with it. “I was like, no, other people are now filling that gap,” she tells Apple Music’s Zane Lowe of seeing other artists embrace the past-pulling pop she rose up with. “Other people are doing that now, and I’m getting bored of it. I was getting bored of it back in 2021. I was like, ‘I think I need to move on. I want to find something else.’” Pushing herself in new directions, though, was tough. “Those songs were very hard to make,” she says. “All of them were hard. I did struggle the whole bloody time. It is getting harder to write these songs—I guess using beats like garage and drum ’n’ bass, they kind of write themselves.” Heaven knows does still feature the nostalgic sounds and breakbeats that made the Kent-raised singer-songwriter/producer famous. But there’s also disco (on the excellent “The aisle”), ’90s R&B (“Mosquito” and “Feel complete,” which sounds like it could have been written for a girl group), rock wig-outs (“Capable of love”), and flourishes of strings, church bells, and even birdsong en route. (Unusually for PinkPantheress, there are also songs that pass the three-minute mark.) Plus, plenty of collaborations, as Pink recruits a crop of culture-shaping artists to appear alongside her: Rema, Kelela, Ice Spice (with whom she made 2023’s inescapable “Boy’s a liar, Pt. 2”), and Central Cee on “Nice to meet you,” which improbably samples Spandau Ballet’s “Gold.” “When it comes to sampling, I try and use the more obscure ones,” she says. “Back at home everyone knows the song. But over here [in the US], I try and make sure people on the radio in America are not going to know where the sample’s from.” All of which is united by the story of a troubled relationship, the album’s emo-shaped lyricism frequently blurring the lines between heartbreak and death and love and obsession (“You’re not quite stuck with me, but one day you’ll be,” she sings on “The aisle”). Then there’s actual death, on “Ophelia.” “Someone’s actually killing me. They’re drowning me in a bathtub. That’s literally what it’s about,” she says. It could feel sinister, if her voice—and increasingly boundless, future-facing hyperpop—weren’t quite so sweet. For an artist who decided she wanted to pursue a career in music while watching Paramore at Reading Festival in 2014, that emo lyricism hardly comes as a surprise—“I was emo, I was friends with all the emos at my school, and that was really my life,” she says—but PinkPantheress doesn’t always know where the overwrought subject matter comes from. “Honestly, it’s like I’m just bleeding onto the paper when I write,” she says. “And this has been from the beginning of my music. […] It’s weird because I make it sound like I’m constantly chasing love and affection from someone, which isn’t true to my conscious belief. But then, somewhere in my subconscious belief, it must be true because I keep talking about it.” By the time Heaven knows closes out with “Boy’s a liar, Pt. 2,” it’s a reminder of the astronomical heights PinkPantheress reached before even announcing her debut. And, true to form, she’s shrugging about its dominance. “It’s a good song,” she says. “I almost didn’t know what to say, but great song.”

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