Friday, July 2nd, 2021

PinkPantheress – Break it Off

“Break” > “Take” > “Shake”


Ian Mathers: Not sure why I “knew” that something like that break was about to come in (maybe it’s the Roni Size-ass bassline, also great), but as soon as it did I was gone. Genuinely wish this was longer, which is a rare enough sensation that I treasure it when it occurs. I suppose it’s easy enough to go back to the source material, Adam F’s “Circles”, not least because she’s very vocal about crediting and loving it.

Tim de Reuse: Jungle-pop, huh? The static drone and quickly looping bassline keep it faithful to the conventions of the genre, which is cool, but there’s a reason you don’t see a lot of jungle tracks that start fading out after a minute and twenty seconds! That’s enough time to get an earworm out there, but it’s not enough time for a groove to percolate and get memorable. If we’d gotten a little development it might have felt like a fully formed idea; four or five more “What’s stopping you?”s wouldn’t have hurt either.

Thomas Inskeep: 93 seconds of a young-sounding female vocal over Adam F’s 1997 drum’n’bass classic “Circles,” which is fine, but — why not just listen to the original? PinkPantheress doesn’t do anything here that I need, other than possibly remind younger generations that “Circles” is utterly timeless.

Edward Okulicz: “Circles,” I could listen to forever, and it’s not a difficult song to make an endless loop of. So given that, why not accept that it’s just as valid to cut it off at any point, and put something short, sharp and great over the top and call it a day? Some thoughts and feelings don’t need any extra words or extra repetition — this is a perfect moment.

Juana Giaimo: I sometimes feel these really short tracks we’ve been seeing more lately are an excuse to just display an idea without developing it further. When the beat came in it was a shot of adrenaline, but then it doesn’t happen a lot more after that — just the same melody with the same bass — and the song fades out without leaving any trace behind.

Alfred Soto: Better to end an idea of mild promise before lethargy sets in. In addition, I can play “Break It Off” before “Circles.”

Dorian Sinclair: My favourite part of “Break it Off” is the bass groove, which originates elsewhere. It’s recontextualized well though, dominating the mix as the vocal line circles around it. I’m a little frustrated by how fragmented and incomplete the song feels, but I can’t deny it’s appropriate; in the lyrics, PinkPantheress is asking questions she doesn’t have and won’t get answers to. If she’s left hanging, maybe it makes sense that we are as well.

Oliver Maier: PinkPantheress’ modus operandi — at least prior to her newest (and best) track, which I believe to have been produced from scratch — has been to pluck grooves from older songs and string new toplines overhead. It feels cheekier than sampling normally does, I think mainly because of how irreverent her usage is. I mean that in that the literal sense of the word, that she seems to treat these sources with little reverence or concern beyond what they can add to her miniature cosmos, no matter how massive or beloved they may be. She sings a little lackadaisically, rarely ventures past the two-minute mark, and sometimes allows the samples to loop imperfectly, just a tad off-beat. It would feel designed to annoy purists if it felt like it cared remotely what they think in the first place, but only feels like an obvious development in the TikTok ecosystem, where nostalgia and ahistoricism co-exist, reconciled by the immense power of Vibes™. What lets her pull this trick off at all is that she is obviously talented, and has good taste in magic moments (I think often of Jacob’s assessment of “Say So” on this site — “it’s not a genius song, but it’s a glorious loop” — which I think is the guiding principle in PP’s work). “Break it Off” is probably the strongest offering this approach yields, not just because Adam F is a more left-field pick than Michael Jackson, but because the sample brings out the best in her voice (a de Casieresque coyness with a sad Lily Allen pout) and vice versa (“Circles” takes on a melancholy reminiscent of “Walking Wounded”). Is it worth getting indignant that a handful of teens might not know it’s a sample? Probably not.

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