The year 2021 saw the release of queer icon girl in red’s much-awaited debut album, if i could make it go quiet. Born in Norway, Marie Ulven — better known by her alias, girl in red — started the girl in red project in 2017, and has, since, become something of a household name for queer women around the world. The singer’s debut album signifies her entry into the world of mainstream pop, but girl in red does this with her signature sound — unique, honeyed, and disarmingly vulnerable.
On first listen itself, if i could make it go quiet stands out as brilliant. The record has a distinct concept — apparent from its very name — and Ulven has a clear idea of what she wants her listeners to take away from it. Masterfully produced, the album revolves around the musician’s struggles with mental health, and how they affect her relationship with people, and the world. As a result, if i could make it quiet is more in-her-head than any of Ulven’s older music. While her previous songs, with the exception of a few, touched upon the world outside — girls Ulven had feelings for, house parties and coming of age — if i could make it go quiet feels like being inside Ulven’s mind, hearing her best and worst thoughts like a stream of consciousness. It feels refreshingly unfiltered as Ulven untangles her feelings slowly but surely, sorting through her intrusive thoughts, failed relationships, and struggles with fame.
From the very first track, Serotonin, Ulven dives right into the grit of the story without beating around the bush. Did You Come, the song that follows, is strikingly bitter and vengeful. Body and Mind, the third track on the album, shows us a frustrated Ulven coming to terms with how unhappy she is. hornylovesickmess stands out, not only because of its name, but also because it focuses more on the external, providing context and letting us into something that plays a major role in the way Ulven feels. If I had to pick a song that represents a turning point in the album, it would be midnight love, the fifth track. The tune feels like a return to girl in red’s classic heart-wrenching, honest love songs. In the next track, however, this vulnerability turns into exasperation, if not outright anger as Ulven sings “You stupid bitch, can’t you see? The perfect one for you is me.” Rue, the seventh track on the album, named after the main character from the series Euphoria, is another one that stands out due to the feelings of incompetence and desperation that it highlights. As we near the end of the album, Apartment 402 feels like a reckoning — another turning point that makes us feel like the album is leading us somewhere different. It is in this track that Ulven questions her sanity and if she’ll ever get better, then delves into her past relationship so that she can move forward. ‘.’ revolves around Ulven’s most recent break-up, which still hurts her. She acknowledges the mistakes she made and the trouble she had opening up, and is still filled with remorse despite her partner moving on. Following this, we finally find ourselves in the present: in I’ll Call You Mine, Ulven laments her failed relationships, while at the same time tries to celebrate how she has grown since then. Narrating moments as they pass by, she convinces herself that she will be able to move past her failures and unhappiness to love her partner the way they both deserve. The album closes with a soothing instrumental tune. it would feel like this is, beautifully, a continuation of the album name as Ulven finally finds something akin to peace: ‘if i could make it go quiet, it would feel like this’.
if i could make it go quiet is a stunning departure from girl in red’s older music, but still manages to be classic girl in red. It is characterised by the perpetual rage and fury Ulven feels — for herself, for her loved ones, for the world and the situation it’s put her in. It shows the ugly side of mental health and how it destroys us inside-out, without the romanticisation that we often see in pop culture. It also highlights the different aspects of Ulven’s identity and how they intersect. Ulven’s vocals are flawless and magical, blending seamlessly with the haunting production. The vulnerability in this album is just as present as in Ulven’s older music — but this time, instead of soft, starry-eyed wonder, we see it come out as rage, fury and a rabid determination to improve the state of things.