Friday, September 25, 2020

MEET... Girl In Red

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Marie Ulven, better known as girl in red, is a singer-songwriter from Norway. Girl in red creates serene and emotionally raw songs in which she openly talks about her struggles with mental health and coming to terms with her sexuality. It is this willingness to be unequivocally herself and sing openly about her feelings, that has no doubt contributed to her ever growing fanbase who relate to and believe in her music.

Ulven acclaims her love of music came from her grandad who she received her first guitar from in 2012. The 21-year-old went on to teach herself how to play the guitar and piano and produce music all from her bedroom and soon started posting her music onto Soundcloud. The release of her debut single ‘i wanna be your girlfriend’ placed girl in red firmly in the ever-growing bedroom pop scene.

This bittersweet song describes the singer’s intense feelings of lust and longing for a girl named Hannah who she feared would not reciprocate the same feelings.

Following the success of ‘i wanna be your girlfriend’, Ulven released her debut EP, ‘chapter one’, in September 2018. The EP features the song ‘say anything’ which is based on a movie of the same namesake, which she refers to in the lyrics, ‘it’s an old movie you probably don’t know / but my mother showed me years ago’. The light-hearted tone and simplistic lyrics of this song lead you on a journey as if you were living out the plot of a movie which reflects Ulven’s desire for such a simplistic life.

‘Summer depression’ disguises itself as a happy song with uplifting and simple guitar chords yet this is juxtaposed with brutally honest lyrics about her own struggles with her mental health; ‘My worst habit / Is my own sadness’.

‘4am’ captures the essence of the bedroom pop scene which pairs a simplistic guitar riff and stripped back vocals. The vulnerability portrayed in this song, ‘I’m thinking too much again/ How my life will end?/ I have to live tomorrow/ I don’t wanna live tomorrow’, allows fans to connect to girl in red on a deeper emotional level to which many relate to her struggles.

The closing song to ‘chapter one’, ‘girls’, describes the struggles Ulven has faced as a lesbian and how she has come to terms with her sexuality. The closing bridge to the song, ‘Cause I don’t know what to do/ it’s not like I get to choose who I love’, sends a powerful message to young LGBTQ+ people that their feelings are valid and she has successfully created a community where fans feel safe and welcome to be unapologetically themselves. This song also became popular on TikTok which contributed to the rise in popularity of Ulven’s music.

Following the success of her first EP, Ulven released two stand alone singles, ‘we fell in love in october’ and ‘forget her’. ‘We fell in love in october’ quickly became one of the artist’s most popular songs and is currently her most played song on Spotify, with over 107 million streams. The song is a beautiful declaration of love and a willingness to be in a relationship which is indicated through the repeated lyrics ‘you will be my girl’. The music video for this song beautifully presents Ulven’s relationship which makes the single ‘forget her’ appear as a tear-jerking story in which she has had her heart broken by the woman she was in love with.

The second EP girl in red released, ‘chapter two’, has a much more sombre and melancholic tone as Ulven opens up further about her struggles with her mental health. The second song off the EP, ‘i need to be alone’ sees Ulven at her most vulnerable. The lyrics are sung quietly, almost a whisper, suggesting these are thoughts she struggles with alone; ‘it’s getting harder to exist / I don’t want to feel like this’. The chorus is sung much louder with the repeated lyrics ‘I need to be alone / or I’m gonna lose my shit’ which suggests she has reached a tipping point and wants everyone to know she needs space and time alone.

The outro song to ‘chapter two’, ‘bad idea’, explores being in a casual but addictive relationship with someone. Ulven knew the relationship was not healthy for her yet kept going back to it while ignoring the consequences. This track is different to the usual sound you might expect from girl in red; the fast-paced beat and loud vocals demonstrate how she is not afraid to try something new and explore new genres.

Her latest single ‘rue’ gives her fans a first taste of what her debut album, details of which have not yet been announced, will sound like. Ulven told NME this album will be more mature than her earlier releases. The direction girl in red has chosen to take for this record is really exciting. ‘Rue’ captures how she feels about how her mental health problems have affected her loved ones. She recalls the lengths her loved ones have gone to in order to help her; “I remember you stayed up all night / To make sure I was alright.” The lyrics refer to girl in red trying to escape her own mind which is further reflected in the mysterious music video. In the video, Ulven is running through a forest and trying to escape a spotlight which is following her; this is suggesting she is trying to escape her own thoughts and get better so she no longer feels like a burden to her loved ones. This video fits perfectly with the song and allows the listener to fully grasp the concept of the song.

‘Rue’ Music Video:

Girl in red is making some really promising and exciting music and is evolving and finding a sound that works best for her. After the success she has had with the release of her first two EPs, her debut album is sure to be a well-received album with some incredible songs. 

2021 is sure to be the year of girl in red. 

- Zoe Wheeler


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