22 year old Norwegian singer-songwriter Marie Ulven, also known as girl in red has built up a steadily growing following since her first release ‘i wanna be your girlfriend’ in 2018. Her debut full length album, ‘if i could make it go quiet’ was released this week. Three of our rrramble writers donned their headphones and gave it a listen…
First things first, this album slaps. From the opening chord, right through to the final note, girl in red makes us on a genuinely honest and relatable journey ‘through the corners of (her) mind’.
If you have listened to girl in red previously then you will know she is not afraid to explore topics that are usually neglected in mainstream music, from female and queer sexuality to the raw depictions of ongoing struggles with mental health, she provides us with a spectacular soundtrack to the many ups and downs of life.
Listening to the album through old headphones while on a long walk around the suburbs of my hometown felt like the correct way to do this album justice, especially on the first listen. The initial track ‘Serotonin’ immediately sets the tone, throwing the listener into the deep end with the very matter-of-fact explanations of what it can be like to experience intrusive thoughts. Similarly, ‘Apartment 402’ depicts the exact imagery one could associate with a depressive episode. Accompanied by a dream-like synth beat, it replicates the feeling of disconnect from reality that occurs during these moments. Both are shining examples of girl in red’s unique ability to reach inside the mind and retrieve a very specific feeling, which can be comforting to hear verbalised so eloquently.
The record continues at pace and we are gifted with a song made for playing at full volume with the windows down on a long drive with no real destination, while screaming along to the lyrics and directing it all at the image of your ex in your head. Not only a wonderful outlet for pent up emotions, ‘Did you come?’ normalises the discussion of the female orgasm and queer sex and relationships within music. The album provides us with a healthy balance of heavy, angry songs to jump around and stomp your feet to, contrasted with the more slow and serene moments, mirroring the rollercoaster of emotions offered to us in life, love, and everything in between.
‘if i could make it go quiet’ explores more difficult themes. From the exhaustion induced by self-hatred in a society that exploits and profits from these feelings, to the seemingly never-ending melancholy that heartbreak evokes. There is something so comforting and connecting about these feelings being discussed in such honest and raw terms.
The record closes with a calming instrumental piano piece, described by the artist as ‘feeling like the credits to a movie’, providing a moment to reflect and unwind, perfectly ending the album.
This album reminds me, especially as a woman today, that I am allowed to feel angry and depressed and hurt and betrayed, and anything I want to feel, while giving me the freedom to express and explore these feelings, without invalidating them. In being so honest about her experiences, girl in red is projecting this message to the listener and normalising these conversations, especially in queer spaces. My only issue with this album is that it ended too soon.
When I first saw the album cover for ‘if i could make it go quiet’, I thought that this album probably wouldn’t be anything to write home about. In all honesty, I thought ‘Oh here we go, usually when the album cover looks like it was created as part of a GCSE art project, the album isn’t anything special either’ – I was, obviously, wrong to think this, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard… If a little unsettled by how much I felt called out by the lyrics. However, despite this, I wasn’t blown away.
At some points in this album, I felt like girl in red’s lyrics were a little bit tried and tested, and almost cliché. For example, one of the opening lines of ‘Apartment 402’ – a song that seems like it’s trying desperately to create this vision of helplessness – Marie Ulven solemnly sings ‘There’s a pain/ There’s no doubt/ I’ve been through hell/ But on my way out’ I feel like you could name any song and say this lyric was from it and I’d believe you. It’s strange because this same song goes on to be one of the more memorable tracks of the album, ending with the echoing words ‘Will I die?’. At the beginning of the song, it’s as though Ulven just needed the words to rhyme and that’s how that line happened.
That being said, the 9th song of the album, literally called ‘.’ – like, it’s literally a full stop which is irritating in itself (I know it’s meant to be arty or something but honestly this gave me Billie Eilish vibes, and not in a good way) – has some simple but moving lyrics, like ‘I can’t say/’Cause I’m all out of words/Lost on this earth,’. I feel like we’ve all, at some point, felt this level of exhaustion when it comes to a past relationship, just too worn out emotionally to put it into words. The final line of ‘.’ – ‘I’m not doing so well’ seemed to resonate right through to my kneecaps.
Unlike most albums I’ve listened to recently, Marie Ulven does have an ability to make her lyrics relatable. Yes they are a little bit basic at times, for example in ‘I’ll Call You Mine’, describing the excitement of falling for someone, Ulven sings ‘Sitting in the backseat/ we’re driving so fast,’ – isn’t that the name of a Taylor Swift song? But despite this, it’s refreshing in a way. Unlike the aforementioned Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift’s discographies, I feel like lyrics can be overworked and too polished, where it comes across as desperate and a bit try-hard. I sometimes think, there’s no way these people actually think like this? Marie Ulven does state in her commentary that the first track ‘Serotonin’ was written with ‘no filter’ and shows emotion just ‘pouring out’, which is the sense I get from the whole album.
For a body of music that focuses on struggling with mental health, it makes sense that the lyrics aren’t too flowery or over-romanticised. The album shows the bottom line of human emotion. As someone with very little musical knowledge, I can’t comment too much on the technical composition as it will be evident to everyone here that I have no clue what I’m talking about, but It did sound a bit like Billie Eilish if Billie Eilish hadn’t had the benefit of nepotism on her side and had to write her own music.
Overall, this album was pretty good, it was really good for a debut, I didn’t like how much I could relate to the lyrics of ‘hornylovesickness’ but that’s not girl in red’s fault.
When I first sat down to listen to ‘if i could make it go quiet’ for the first time, I was apprehensive. The apprehension had very little to do with girl in red; whilst I’m not an avid listener of hers, I always enjoy her songs when they come up on shuffle—what I was afraid of was being transported back in time to my childhood bedroom, lying on the floor and feeling capital ‘S’ sad. It might sound like a backhanded compliment, but Marie Ulven (aka girl in red) seems to have a knack for writing songs that feel you with either debilitating longing or debilitating understanding. It’s a proud achievement of mine that I spent the week in the run up to Christmas listening to nothing but “two queens in a king-sized bed” everyday ( though less so due to emotional turmoil, more so because it’s a queer Christmas bop). girl in red’s music is well known for capturing all of the pain and confusion that comes along with young love. So it comes as no surprise that her debut album is essentially a microcosm of the teenage experience.
My favourite track was ‘Rue’, mainly because it had the two things I need most from a song; a catchy melody and the ability to make me have to scrunch my face up to stop the happy/sad tears from leaking down my face. Though the first half of the album teetered on containing too many versions of the same messy, angsty quasi-ballad for me, once I arrived at the second half, I felt like I was able to get a broader sense of the story being told, and I felt like I could see the journey of my younger self reflected in the various lyrics. This might be largely due to the fact that, not having gone through many of the relationship dramas Ulven has, going off the lyrics (Did You Come? I’m looking at you.), it took until ‘Apartment 402’ for me to really make a connection to the album as a whole. For me, it was the turning point: the sort-of-maybe-hopeful song. From that point onwards, having the tracklist grow more mellow, until finishing with a completely instrumental track, made me feel like I truly understood the album title; ‘i could make it go quiet’, above all else, is a yearning for inner peace, despite the crap our brains like to tell us all the time.
Though the album certainly feels like a debut, messy and unfiltered, it feels like a perfect sort-of official beginning for the evolving sound of ‘girl in red’. Overall, I found the move towards a heavier sound refreshing and well-suited to Ulven’s equally raw lyrics, as it seemed to provide space for the anger she has clearly been yearning to get out into the world. On behalf of my younger self, I feel like all I can really say is that it’s worth listening to this album, if for no other reason than to reconnect with your childhood self—to sit in that teenage angst with retrospective empathy feels healing in its own way. Besides, teenager or not, there are some real good headbangers in here, and headbanging is always good for the soul.
‘if i could make it go quiet’ is out now.