How Girl In Red Transformed Dream Pop

“Does she, you know, listen to Girl in Red?” reads a text message from my friend, in response to a picture of a celebrity crush.

It’s a question that always makes me laugh, but it is undoubtedly also an indicator of how monumental Girl in Red’s music has become to the LGBTQ+ community– especially queer women– since she first started out in 2017.

Born and brought up in Horten, Norway, Marie Ulven (alias Girl in Red) was first introduced to a guitar and songwriting at the age of 14. She taught herself the piano, guitar and music production from the comfort of her bedroom, and the rest is history.

In the past three years, Girl in Red has become a household name for young queer girls everywhere. She has become the queer pop icon she always craved when she was younger, and as an out lesbian, her music is defiant and unabashedly queer.

There is something so classic about the stories it tells– they are the same teenagers-madly-in-love stories that we’ve been hearing all our lives– except this time, the teenagers aren’t straight.

With her sugary voice and dreamy production, Girl in Red’s music transports you to a small town in some corner of the world, with narrow streets, starry nights and pools in backyards– where two girls are falling for each other, the rest of the world disappearing around them.

Her music is stunning and comforting, in the way that it refuses to shy away from expressions of honesty and sexuality.

Lyrics like, “They’re so pretty it hurts, I’m not talking ’bout boys, I’m talking ’bout girls” leave no room for confusion or technicalities– Ulven is lesbian, singing about girls, and she is not going to stop.

It’s also notable how Girl in Red’s music showcases queer relationships in their totality– there is love, nervousness, heartbreak, lust, sexual desire, vulnerability, loneliness– feelings that are a part of every romantic relationship, but that we’ve only seen depicted in heterosexual romance in mainstream media.

This time, though, it’s unapologetically queer.

While the genre of dream pop and bedroom pop– like most of the music industry– has been predominantly male and straight, Girl in Red’s music has changed that. She, thus, signifies the coming of LGBTQ+ youth in every corner of the music industry, creating a safe space for other queer artists and listeners to be themselves.

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Saachi Gupta is an LGBTQ+ activist, animal lover and the author of 'With Love, or Something Like That.' She is a strong believer in equality amongst mankind.
Saachi Gupta

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