girl in red: if i could make it go quiet (World in Red/AWAL) - review | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, June 21st, 2021  

girl in red

if i could make it go quiet

World in Red/AWAL

May 07, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Marie Ulven, the 22-year-old Norwegian musician behind girl in red, has had a meteoric rise over the past several years. At this point it’s a well-established trajectory: a teenage songwriter builds a supreme amount of hype in indie circles with promising lo-fi bedroom pop releases before jumping into a high production debut record. Artists like Clairo, Snail Mail, and beadadoobee have all pulled it off admirably, notwithstanding the expected cries of “industry plant” that have plagued all of the above.

Ulven certainly is well-poised to do the same with her debut record, if i could make it go quiet. She has built up a dedicated fanbase, especially amongst Gen Z LGBTQ communities, so much so that “Do you listen to girl in red?” has become a winking code-word, a signfier of queer identity online. That fanbase initially galvanized around Ulven’s first breakthrough singles such as “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend,” “girls,” and “Say Anything”—giddy tributes to young love, soaked in rose-colored romanticism and hazy bedroom pop arrangements.

In comparison, if i could make it go quiet is rawer, louder, and much heavier on pop stylings. That intention is announced with the record’s opener, “Serotonin.” The track is a bold blazing broadside, hitting like thunder with arena rock guitars, rapped verses, and slick production from FINNEAS. That energy peaks early on the album, never quite hitting those highs again, though the lush release of “I’ll Call You Mine” and the raucous indie rock of “You Stupid Bitch” come closest.

However, Ulven undeniably hits hard on the record. The aforementioned “Serotonin,” the cutting bitter edge to “Did You Come?,” and the percussive pop brilliance of “hornylovesickmess” all make for some quality album highs. Much of that has to do with Ulven’s talent for blunt lyricism. She has an uncanny way of boiling down deteriorating mental health, jealousy, and longing into couplets dripping with caustic angst. The record’s most somber tracks let this talent shine, as on “midnight love” or the devastating dark confessions of “Apartment 402”—“There’s a dissonance in all that I do/Nothing feels right or true/Black out on the floor just once more/The place I call my home/I could die here and nobody would know.”

Make no mistake though, even in its more subdued moments if i could make it go quiet feels far more like a big glossy pop record than girl in red’s lo-fi bedroom pop early material. It is refreshing to see Ulven step outside of that initial sound and the opening tracks set Ulven up well to explore new territory. Even so, the record’s big ambitions ultimately do little to define a lane for her. Instead, tracks like “Body and Mind” or “Rue” sound towering but lack in execution, failing to leave much of an impression once the closing notes ring. While Ulven has clearly outgrown the bedroom pop moniker it is less clear where she’s headed, as she dips into various flavors of indie rock and pop without forging much new territory of her own.

Furthermore, while her direct lyrical approach most often works well, once again the record’s strengths at one turn prove to be its weakness at another. Ulven drifts into some ugly territory on a few points here, most especially on “You Stupid Bitch.” While the track is a fun mid-record rager, replete with catchy hooks and boisterous energy, the lyrics essentially boil down to an especially toxic revival of the tired “friendzone” trope—“But you never listen/Take my advice as criticism/Then make the worst decisions…You stupid bitch, can’t you see/The perfect one for you is me.” It’s the type of unflattering cliche that should have been long since retired. Though “Did You Come?,” “midnight love,” and “hornylovesickmess” all ponder on bitterness and longing, they also come paired with introspection and empathy from Ulven that is sorely missed here.

Yet for all the record’s flaws, it’s hard to come away from if i could make it go quiet too disappointed. Ulven is a talented songwriter and artist with the foundation of an already solid body of highlights and the potential of even greater things to come. If i could make it go quiet delivers on a great deal of that initial promise, launching Ulven in the same trajectory as her fellow former bedroom pop prodigies with new shifts in style and sound. She clearly has a lot to say and ambition to match her instinct for cinematic drama. Hopefully, given the time and space to experiment, she can make those ambitions reality. (www.worldinred.com)

Author rating: 6.5/10

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Average reader rating: 5/10



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