Monday, May 10, 2021

Girl in Red’s Debut Album – ‘If I Could Make It Go Quiet’, delivers a Cathartic Insight into Mental Health and Queer Relationships

Girl in Red is the moniker of Marie Ulven, the triple threat Norwegian singer-songwriter and producer. Establishing a cult following through her honest exploration of queer identity in her previously released EPs – ‘Chapter 1’ and ‘Chapter 2’. Her name has become synonymous with queer pop, culminating in the emergence of the phrase “do you listen to girl in red?”, a covert way of inquiring into a person’s sexuality.

Visceral and biting, girl in red oozes pop-punk brashness whilst maintaining her earlier established bedroom-pop sensitivity in her long-awaited debut album – ‘If I Could Make It Go Quiet’. Weaving a poignant portrayal of intrusive thoughts and depressive episodes with evocative insights into her relationships and associated heartache and pining.

Opening the album, ‘Serotonin’ divulges – in unflinching intimacy, graphic depictions of Ulven’s intrusive thoughts to a frantic pulse, descending into vocalisations implicative of a disordered mental state. Confessional style, candid lyrics disclose experiences in rapid-fire succession, including thoughts of; “cutting my hands off” and “jumping in front of a bus”. This song perfectly presents the impulsive and often alienating nature of intrusive thoughts, and in its release provides a beacon of understanding.

This disclosure continues in ‘Rue’, an evocative and mournful song and the namesake of Rue Bennett – the protagonist of HBO’s ‘Euphoria’. The song explores escapism and recovery, as well as the emotional toll which mental health issues have on Ulven’s friends and family. The weakly whispered promise: “don't wanna make it worse / I'm gonna make it work” spotlights her exhaustion and is followed by a pulsating wall of sound, emphasising the mental noise she has yet to overcome.

Ulven also channels this unrestrained expression into songs about her experiences with love, friendship and betrayal. ‘Did You Come’ is a biting reprimand of an unfaithful lover. The punchy, pop-punk stylings pair impeccably with aggressive lyrics, where Ulven venomously sings: “I spelled it out, you're illiterate” and “never listen to a monologue / told by a lying fraud”. This sound is also prominent in the assertive ‘You Stupid Bitch’. Pairing direct lyrics and noisy guitars, the track perfectly blends explosive fury and unrequited pining.

However, her aforementioned sensitivity is present in the reverberant production of the closing minute of ‘Hornylovesickmess’, featuring floating, echoey vocals and fragile reversed piano samples. ‘Midnight Love’ shares the same vulnerability, both lyrically and musically. A heart-wrenching exploration of an exploitative friends-with-benefits situation, underpinned by a soft instrumental, ebbing and waning alongside the resolute lyrics. The mood of this song is compounded as Ulven sings; “able to look you right in the eyes / say I'm not your consolation prize”.

The album closes with a short instrumental, ‘It Would Feel Like This’. Seemingly a continuation of the album’s title, it captures a delicate moment of peace, opening with simple, soft piano before being strengthened by strings and glacial twinkling sounds. This final instrumental holds a closure of sorts, with the lack of lyrics allowing the listener to reflect and enjoy a moment of catharsis.

Jess Elford

Image: Official Album Artwork

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