The TikTok phenomenon, PinkPantheress, has won BBC Radio 1’s Sound Of 2022 – making it one of the UK’s most promising new pop stars.
The 20-year-old started publishing music just a year ago, but his songs, which feature breathtaking vocals from retro garage patterns, spread quickly.
By August, two of her songs were also in the Top 40, and Coldplay was working on her single Just For Me in Radio 1’s Live Lounge.
But the singer, who uses the username TikTok, is still surrounded by mystery.
All we know is that he is from Bath and currently lives in London, where he is studying film.
His songs were recorded by Victoria Beverley Walker, but that doesn’t seem to be her real name. And until recently, he didn’t even show his face on social media.
“I find it easier if I don’t put every single card on the table,” he tells the BBC. “I love my privacy, and I felt that having my music and my face everywhere would be too much for people.”
Secrecy further enhances the charm of his music – where drum and bass beats click around stories of obsession and frustration.
Mostly, the night written in the dormitory room of the university is recorded, and the temporary, obscure revelations of a 3:00 outage are recorded; with dark, danceable instrumentals that give an ominous edge to his ethereal singing.
PinkPantheress began publishing 12-second excerpts from her music on TikTok last January, using the app as a “focus group” to decide which songs to finish.
One such song, Pain, modeled on Sweet Female Attitude’s Flowers, caught fire in January and finished No. 35 on the UK singles chart in its finished version.
He later released his debut mixtape, To Hell With It, which he contracted with Parlophone Records, in October, mixing his early home productions with new studio-recorded material.
The product of the eye-catching economy, capsule pop songs, rarely last longer than two minutes, but they hide so many hooks that you never feel incomplete.
“I’m just really tired of singing the same tune over and over again,” he explains. “By the time I finish a tune, I’ll say,‘ Okay, I know better, too, so then I move on to another and another.
“But every time I write a song, I think it’s going to be three minutes and then I see the length and always one minute!
“So I’m not doing this consciously, but in the end it’s the case. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing.”
Millions of TikTok followers agree – as do the 130 industry experts who voted for PinkPantheress to win Sound Of 2022, including Sir Elton John, Jade Thirlwall, Ed Sheeran and Billie Eilish.
“I fell in love with PinkPantheress’s boldness and playfulness with the sounds,” Clara Amfo says on Radio 1. “It takes a certain kind of vim to play the classic records and sound fresh and immersive, and he does that with applause.”
“I’m honestly waded in, my dad will be very happy!” says PinkPantheress when she finds out she won.
“I believed in myself from the beginning, but when others start saying things like that to you, it honestly keeps you going.”
The indie-pop duo, Wet Leg, finished second on this year’s list, followed by singer Mimi Webb. Past winners include Adele, Years and Years, Michael Kiwanuka, Sam Smith, Ellie Goulding and Celeste.
Read our full interview with PinkPantheres. And catch up with the other performers who made it into the top five of Sound Of 2022.
What was the first music you fell in love with?
It was Michael Jackson when I was a young girl. Then when I was a teenager, I switched to emo rock music. I really liked the lyrics – how personal, theatrical and dramatic.
Was that the point you created your own musical identity apart from your parents?
Well, I remember once trying to play Panic! On the Disco CD in the car, and literally my dad said, “Turn it off. It won’t happen.” After that, I somehow considered it a private matter.
When did you decide to become a musician yourself?
We literally watched Paramore at the Reading [festival]. I was 15, right at the barrier, and Hayley Williams looked like he was feeling so good. Then I realized he was even getting paid! I said, “That’s what I want to do.” It changed my point of view.
When did you tell your family?
I didn’t want to tell anyone because I felt they were going to laugh, so it was hard in that regard.
But when I was working at Co-op as a teenager, I was bored and did nothing, the thought of making music was the only thing that motivated me.
What did you do in the cooperative?
I put the shelves together, at the checkouts, everything.
Have you ever stolen some items over a barcode reader for customers in difficulty?
I think I did the opposite when I looked through things several times, but it happened by accident. It was not intentional. I didn’t target the rich people!
What were your first attempts at making music?
I worked a lot with my friend [MaZz R&B singer]. I wrote and produced for him and I felt like he managed to get a little musical identity through him. And in January of this year, I visited TikTok and it worked very well.
Why did you choose TikTok?
Everyone is on it. Access to the app is crazy, and the algorithm is very random, so any video can be viral, no matter how many followers you have.
What was your first experience when you made some viral creation?
I kept telling my friends, “I’m making a viral video.” And I remember… I don’t really want to tell this story, it’s so embarrassing – but I basically got a video of Post Malone handing out autographs and making a voice, “My God, I just farted, I’m so sorry!”
It didn’t go crazy viral, but it had 300,000 likes, and I said, “Okay, that’s workable, so why not apply it to something like music?”
As a PinkPantheress, you started with the challenge of posting a song every day. Was it a compulsion to work ethic?
Yes, it was, but I am also very impatient! I was with him that if I try one song a day, the incidence of one of them going very well increases. And if people liked something, I would write a whole song. So yes, I saved a lot of time.
And you’re doing this in the middle of the night?
I literally do it in my college room.
Need to sing quieter because everyone else is sleeping?
I think I sing quieter, but I also sing more confidently when I know no one really hears.
There’s something about being very late, dark, relaxing and silent, which is more inspiring than a busy, sunny day. Mainly because of my music.
Pain became your outbreak hit, but when you first posted it, you called it “stupid” and “rough wind.” Do you still think this is true?
Yes, I will! Not the perfect song. I just wanted to have a good feeling that could be listened to, but it didn’t really deepen me.
What made you attract to the drum and bass beats?
About drum and bass, I noticed there wasn’t too much singing on top. Sometimes there were notes and vocal cuts, but there was definitely not much singing. That’s why I chose that particular beat type to sing – because they didn’t really do too much.
He has also tasted Brazilian samba numbers and Korean rappers. Is your musical knowledge broader than how much credit has been given?
Yes and no. I’m going to use an oxymoron – it’s wide but wide within a rigid, small circle of songs. I haven’t used to update my playlists in years, so the songs will all come from different places, but I only have five songs that I listen to repeatedly.
Your music is often called nostalgic. What do you think of this term?
I do not really know. Nostalgia is such a weird word because I literally felt like I had never heard it in my entire life.
For me, when someone says nostalgia, I literally think of me in elementary school. But I feel like some people think of nostalgia as something of the past that needs to be cherished, wrapped, and kept safe, like a gatekeeper. But my position is that if people want to call me nostalgic, that’s good.
You write a lot about relationships and obsessions. where does this come from
None are necessarily personal experiences. I study film, so I like to tell stories visually or aloud. I really like Eminem’s song Stan and telling a story, so I try to do the same.
But people expect it to be autobiographical. They asked a lot of questions about my lyrics. Concerned people really asked me, “Are you okay?”
Because of songs like Passion and Alive that talk about depression?
Yes, because the lyrics can be too dramatic. But realistically, I’m just a big fan of drama and theater. I loved My Chemical Romance when they sang about vampires and killers. I wish I could do all this now, but I know it’s not going to please everyone, so I’m trying to figure it out, I think, in a less morbid way.
Just For Me became your naming song. Did you know it’s special from the start?
Not really, because I basically wrote that tune in another session with another producer. And this version of it, I felt, could be better.
Then I went to another performance with [dance producer] Mura Masa, whose pace was, and I remember I was really tired and I thought, “I can’t really write right now, so I’ll see if there are any other tunes that might work. ” And what I did in that previous session fit too well. I said, “Okay, that’s perfect.” Then somehow he took off.
What do you think of the cover of Coldplay?
It was crazy because I love Coldplay. They made it pretty emotional, pretty gloomy … all the way to Coldplay! It was really different.
You played your first concert in October. Was it a weird feeling to step out of the shadows and reveal more of yourself?
It was actually a lot of fun. Otherwise, it is a gradual process. It wasn’t between zero and 100, so it was really cool.
And you still have to finish your degree?
I do not. Honestly, I don’t think I’m in college anymore. I enrolled but did not attend courses.
So next year you can only focus on music …
Yes, new music. I don’t give too much, but I expect one or two features. So far I’ve been a bit of a lone wolf, but I’ve been really trying to get into my co-operation bag. That’s what makes me most excited.