PinkPantheress made hits from her bedroom – now she’s won the BBC Sound Of 2022

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Image source, Brent McKeeverImage caption, The singer's capsule pop songs rarely last longer than 2 minutes

TikTok phenomenon PinkPantheress has won BBC Radio 1's Sound Of 2022 – marking her out as one of the UK's most promising new pop stars.

The 20-year-old only started releasing music a year ago, but her songs, which place breathy vocals over retro garage samples, rapidly went viral.

By August, she had two songs in the Top 40, and Coldplay covered her single, Just For Me, in Radio 1's Live Lounge.

But the singer, who goes by her TikTok username, remains shrouded in mystery.

All we know is that she comes from Bath and currently lives in London, where she's studying film.

Her songs are registered to Victoria Beverley Walker but apparently that's not her real name. And, until relatively recently, she didn't even show her face on social media.

"I find it easier to not lay every single card on the table," she tells the BBC. "I like my privacy and I felt like, if I have my music out and my face everywhere, it would start getting too much for people."

The secrecy adds to the allure of her music – where drum and bass beats clatter around stories of obsession and disappointment.

Mostly written in the dead of night in her university dorm room, they capture the transient, bleary-eyed revelations of a 3am comedown; with dark, danceable instrumentals adding a sinister edge to her ethereal vocals.

Figure caption, Warning: Third party content may contain adverts

PinkPantheress started posting 12-second snippets of her music to TikTok last January, using the app as a "focus group" to decide which songs to complete.

One of those tracks, Pain, based on a sample of Sweet Female Attitude's Flowers, caught fire in January and, in its finished version, ended up at number 35 on the UK singles chart.

Later signed to Parlophone records, she released her debut mixtape, To Hell With It, in October, shuffling her early home productions with new material recorded in the studio.

A product of the attention span economy, her capsule pop songs rarely last longer than two minutes, but they pack in so many hooks that you never feel short-changed.

"I just get really tired of singing the same melody again and again," she explains. "By the time I've finished one melody, I'm like, 'OK, I can do better,' so then I move on to another one and another one.

"But every time I write a song, I think it's going to be three minutes – then I see the length and it's always, like, one minute!

"So it's not something I consciously do but it just ends up being the case. I don't think it necessarily is a bad thing."

Millions of TikTok followers agree – as do the 130 industry experts who voted for PinkPantheress to win the Sound Of 2022, including Sir Elton John, Jade Thirlwall, Ed Sheeran and Billie Eilish.

This video can not be played

To play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.Media caption, Watch the moment PinkPantheress found out that she's the Sound Of 2022 winner

"I fell in love with PinkPantheress' boldness and playfulness with sound," says Radio 1's Clara Amfo. "It takes a certain type of vim to play around with classic records and make them sound fresh and captivating and she does that with aplomb."

"I'm honestly gassed, my dad's going to be so happy!" says PinkPantheress upon learning she's won.

"I had self-belief from the beginning but when other people start telling you stuff like this, it genuinely keeps you going."

Indie-pop duo Wet Leg came second in this year's list, with powerhouse vocalist Mimi Webb third. Previous winners include Adele, Years and Years, Michael Kiwanuka, Sam Smith, Ellie Goulding and Celeste.

Read on for our full interview with PinkPantheress. And catch up with the other acts who made the top five of the Sound Of 2022 below.

  • 5. Colourful rapper Central Cee
  • 4. Smoky songsmith Lola Young
  • 3. Break-up balladeer Mimi Webb
  • 2. Chaise Longue obsessives Wet Leg
  • How the BBC Sound Of… predicts pop royalty

Image source, PPImage caption, The singer started making music in her dorm room while studying at university

What was the first music you fell in love with?

It was Michael Jackson, when I was a young girl. Then I transitioned towards emo rock music when I was a teenager. I really liked the lyrics – how personal and theatrical and dramatic they are.

Was that the point you established your own musical identity, separate from your parents?

Well, I remember once I tried playing a Panic! At The Disco CD in the car and literally my dad was like, "Turn this off. This is not happening." After that, I just kind of kept it as a private thing.

When did you decide to become a musician yourself?

It was literally watching Paramore at Reading [festival]. I was 15, right at the barrier and Hayley Williams just looked like she was enjoying herself so much. Then I realised she's getting paid on top of that! I was like, "I want to do this." It changed my perspective.

Image caption, Paramore at Reading 2014 – the gig that changed PinkPantheress' life

When did you tell your family?

I didn't want to tell anyone because I felt they'd laugh at me, so it was hard in that respect.

But when I was working at the Co-op as a teenager, and I was bored and doing nothing, the idea of doing music was the only thing that was motivating me.

What did you do at the Co-op?

I was stacking shelves, on the tills, all of it.

Did you ever sneak a few items over the barcode reader for customers who were struggling?

I think I did the opposite, where I scanned things more than once but that was by accident. It wasn't on purpose. I wasn't targeting rich people!

What were your first attempts at making music?

I used to work with my friend [R&B singer MaZz] a lot. I wrote and produced for her and I felt like, through her, I was able to have a bit of a musical identity. And then in January this year, I went on TikTok and it worked super well.

Why did you choose TikTok?

Everyone's on it. The reach on the app is crazy and the algorithm is really random, so any video can go viral, no matter how many followers you have.

Image source, PinkPantheress / TikTokImage caption, The star has 1.1m followers on TikTok and 6.3m monthly listeners on Spotify

What was your first experience of making something that went viral?

I kept saying to my friends, "I'm going to make a viral video". And I remember… I actually don't want to tell this story, it's so embarrassing – but basically, I got a video of Post Malone signing autographs, and I did a voice-over going, "Oh my God, I just farted, I'm so sorry!"

It didn't go crazy viral but it had 300,000 likes and I was like, "OK, this is do-able, so why not apply it to something like music?"

As PinkPantheress, you started out with the challenge of posting a song a day. Was that to force yourself into a work ethic?

Yes it was that, but I'm also very impatient! I was just like, if I try a song a day, then the incidence rate of one of them doing really well goes up. And then if people liked something I'd end up writing a whole song. So yeah, it saved me a lot of time.

And you're doing this in the middle of the night?

Literally, I do it in my uni room.

Do you have to sing more quietly because everyone else is asleep?

I think I sing quieter but, also, I sing more confidently when I know no-one can really hear me.

There's something about it being really late and dark and relaxing and silent that's more inspiring than a busy, sunny day. Especially for my music.

Pain became your breakout hit, but when your first posted it, you called it "a dud" and "rough around the edges". Do you still think that's true?

Yeah I do! It's not the perfect song. I just wanted to have a feel-good one that you can listen to but not really deep it too much.

Figure caption, Warning: Third party content may contain adverts

What made you gravitate towards drum and bass beats?

What I noticed about drum and bass is that there wasn't much singing on top. There were sometimes vocal notes and vocal cuts but there definitely wasn't much singing. So that's the reason I chose that particular type of beat to sing on – because it hadn't really been done that much.

You've also sampled Brazilian samba tracks and Korean rappers. Is your music knowledge broader than you've been given credit for?

Yes and no. I'm going to use an oxymoron – it's broad, but broad within a rigid, small circle of songs. I don't tend to update my playlists for years, so the songs will all come from different places but I only have, like, five songs I listen to on repeat.

Your music is often described as nostalgic. What do you think about that term?

I don't really know. Nostalgic is such a weird word because I literally felt like I hadn't heard it once in my whole life until this year.

For me, if someone says nostalgic I literally think of me in primary school. But I feel like some people think of nostalgia as something from the past that should be cherished and wrapped up and kept safe, almost like gatekeeping. But my stance is like, if people want to call it nostalgic, then it's cool.

Image source, Brent McKeeverImage caption, Her stage name derives from a question on ITV quiz show The Chase – "What is a female panther called?" She added Pink because someone else already had that username on TikTok.

You write a lot about relationships and obsession. Where does that come from?

None of them are necessarily personal experiences. I study film so I like telling stories in a visual or sonic way. I really like the song Stan by Eminem and the fact that it tells a story, so I try and do the same thing.

But people expect it to be autobiographical. I've been asked so many questions on my lyrics. I've had concerned people actually ask me, "Are you okay?"

Because of songs like Passion and Alive that talk about depression?

Yes, because the lyrics can be so over-dramatic. But realistically, I'm just a big fan of dramaticism and theatre. I loved My Chemical Romance when they were singing about vampires and murderers. I wish I could do all that stuff now but I know that's not going to be palatable for everybody so I try and make it fictional in, I guess, a less morbid way.

Just For Me has become your signature song. Did you know it was special from the start?

Not really, because basically I wrote that melody in another session with another producer. And that version of it, I felt, could be better.

Then I went to another session with [dance producer] Mura Masa, who had the beat, and I remember being really tired and thinking, "I can't really be bothered to write right now, so I'm going to see if there's any other melodies that might work." And the one I did in that earlier session just fit too well. I was like, "Okay, this is perfect." And then it kind of took off.

What did you think of Coldplay's cover?

It felt crazy because I actually like Coldplay. They made it quite emotional, quite sombre… quite Coldplay! It was really different.

Figure caption, Warning: Third party content may contain adverts

You played your first ever concert in October. Did it feel weird to step out of the shadows and reveal more of yourself?

It was actually really fun. It's been a gradual process anyway. It hasn't been zero to 100, so it's been kind of cool.

And do you still have to finish your degree?

I don't. I actually don't think I'm at uni anymore, to be honest. I'm enrolled but I don't attend the courses.

So you can just concentrate on the music next year…

Yeah, new music. I shan't give too much away but expect a feature or two. I've been a bit of a lone wolf so far, but I've been really been trying to get into my collaboration bag. That's the thing I'm most excited for.

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