In 2016, a young Norwegian singer-songwriter by the name of Marie Ulven uploaded her debut single, ‘i wanna be your girlfriend’, to her SoundCloud account. The track was a bona fide hit on the site and catapulted Ulven, now known as girl in red, into the hearts of Gen Z-ers all over the world. Fast forward to 2021 and Ulven has become one of the leading voices of indie queer pop.
Ulven’s debut album, ‘if i could make it go quiet’, is the body of work that her millions of fans have been waiting for. It’s raw, relatable and is the perfect extension of Ulven’s haunting soft rock-flavoured sound. The album is made up of 11 songs, each one carefully crafted to explore some part of love or the relationships that Ulven has experienced in her life.
‘Serotonin’ (previously released as a single) and ‘Did You Come’ open the album. The former reflects on Ulven’s journey with her mental health, while the latter gives Ulven the chance to confront a potential lover with a boldness that Ulven’s fans will love. Sonically, both tracks lean into soft rock and alternative pop as Ulven’s vocals soar over the adrenaline-pumping rhythms and stoic sounds.
“There are things on this album that I haven’t been able to talk about in my songwriting previously,” says Ulven. “... I’m addressing a lot of things I haven’t been comfortable talking about, or admitting to myself, or even things to tell my closest friends and family.”
In that regard, ‘if i could make it go quiet’ is like Ulven’s diary. The young singer-songwriter has much to say. On the Amy Winehouse vocal-esque flavoured, ‘Body and Mind’, Ulven admits that she’s ‘been seeking solace in the strangest of things’. You’ll find yourself nodding along to this song and with it’s dark electropop feel, the track is a standout on the album.
‘Hornylovesickmess’, ‘midnight love’ and ‘You Stupid B*tch’ take listeners on a journey through the ups and downs of love. ‘Hornylovesickmess’ is an anthem for unapologetic sexuality. With the track’s chords and perky piano keys, Ulven lays bare her desire for physical intimacy with her unnamed lover. In a way, this feeling is carried into the atmospheric ‘midnight love’ and the retro rock ‘You Stupid B*tch’. Both tracks are essentially about what Ulven can’t have in a relationship. In particular, ‘You Stupid B*tch’ is another standout moment on the album as fiery guitars and garage rock band vocals culminate in Ulven’s anthemic declaration ‘you stupid b*tch / can’t you see? / the perfect one for you is me.’
“ … [L]ove is so big, and there are so many sides to love. I feel like I’m exploring a little bit more of the hate side of love with this album. I also feel like I’m exploring a little bit more of being vulnerable and letting someone in. I haven’t talked about that before… [The album] is a big, boiling pot of thoughts and things I haven’t said,” says Ulven.
The latter half of the album is noticeably quieter than the first half. Here, ‘Rue’, ‘Apartment 402’ and ‘.’ all revert to following ‘midnight love’s’ more atmospheric sound. It feels as if Ulven has taken her listeners through her more tumultuous views on love (and self-love) and has chosen to show us her innermost thoughts. They’re all on display here, the silent contemplations that ran through her head when thinking about her insecurities or her relationships. And with lines such as ‘it’s been so hard ever since you broke my heart,’ on ‘.’ and ‘when there’s a crack in every wall / is there a way out after all? / if I lose my grip and fall / will I die?’ on ‘Apartment 402’, it’s easy to see why Ulven’s lyricism is highly regarded, both by her fans and critics. To shake things up, the second last song, ‘I’ll Call You Mine’, speeds the album up with it’s Taylor Swift-esque sound. It’s a welcome addition to the album and juxtaposes with its successor in a way that’ll keep you on your toes.
The album’s final track, ‘it would feel like this’, only uses a piano and other instruments to close out the tracklist. ‘if i could make it go quiet’ takes listeners through a compelling journey of love and self-reflection. Having it wrapped up with an orchestral soundscape reminiscent of a fairy tale is not only interesting, but a clear symbol of Ulven’s journey in creating her masterpiece.
“I really poured my heart into a lot of these lyrics, fully,” she [Ulven] says. “I just feel like I emptied myself in this album.”
All in all, ‘if i could make it go quiet’ is an incredible body of work from an artist who was born to write and sing. From the Norwegian wilderness to the speakers in your room, Ulven’s album will have you lying awake at night to digest every heartfelt lyric and passionate note.