TikTok queer icon girl in red released her debut album if i could make it go quiet on 30 April via AWAL. The Norwegian artist—real name Marie Ulven—insisted in an interview with HYPEBAE that: “The record is not a conceptual one with an overarching theme or message.” Instead, it is a time capsule: her 2019 life in album form.
Despite the lack of a deliberate cohesive theme tying the 11-track record together, the third song ‘Body and Mind’ neatly summarises what all these songs are about. The mental is contrasted with the physical throughout; the static in album opener ‘serotonin’ creates the impression of a busy mind in overdrive as it wrestles with intrusive thoughts—scary compulsions “like cutting my hands off” that Ulven has experienced since her Dad was in a car crash when she was 12.
‘Did You Come’ is all about the physical act of orgasm: it oozes with post-breakup bitterness, perfectly encapsulating the conflicting emotions you experience after a relationship ends—you want to know all about your ex’s life and yet some details are too unsavoury for you to stomach: “Did you come? / How many times? Tell the truth / Wait, nevermind”.
The record treads well-worn subject matter such as the difficulty of being a touring musician. ‘hornylovesickness’ is similar to Harry Styles’ ‘From The Dining Table’, but as Ulven sings about the isolating nature of fame and missing a former partner while on the road, it’s the queer angle that makes her music refreshing.
‘midnight love’ is a piano ballad from the perspective of a booty call, who is frustrated with being used for late night ends. The lines “I can’t be your second best / Close but not your favourite” lead nicely into the next track, ‘You Stupid Bitch’; this song was inspired by the coming-of-age film The Perks of Being a Wallflower, famed for the quote: “We accepted the love we think we deserve”. It’s a triumphant indie-rock offering with a title suggesting the central relationship is somewhat abusive.
The sense that the protagonist keeps chasing people and situations that might not be good for her is compounded by ‘rue’, which is inspired by 17-year-old Rue from the drama Euphoria. As a character with bipolar disorder, the song is concerned with mental illness and how that affects interpersonal relationships, with constant self-questioning: “I hate the way my brain is wired / Can’t trust my mind, it’s such a liar”. This self-flagellation is similar to a lot of LGBTQ+ act Halsey’s music.
The stress of living with mental illness continues to be explored in the sombre ‘Apartment 402’, where the building metaphor suggests the relationship is built on unstable foundations: “There’s a crack in every wall”. A self-deprecating number that starts off as a piano ballad, this song is all about feeling like a burden.
The curiously-titled guitar-driven track ‘.’ is also about watching your ex with their new partner, except gone is the bitterness of ‘Did You Come’. With a bit more time to process what went wrong, the protagonist realises that they were partly to blame for not being upfront about their needs. That doesn’t mean it hurts any less, though: there’s raw desperation in the line “Honey I’m not doing so well”.
A lot of people with complex mental health problems deal with dependency issues, with many individuals with bipolar disorder able to identify a ‘favourite person’ whose actions can dictate their moods. In ‘I’ll Call You Mine’, which is a summery road trip anthem, we see the way this unhealthy dependency is fostered, as Ulven pleads for her partner to “Show me that you’re gonna stay / On my worst days”.
Album closer ‘it would feel like this’ completes the record’s title: what if you could make the intrusive thoughts stop for just one moment and sit quietly, content in the knowledge that your partner loves you and isn’t going to leave you for someone else who will make them cum a thousand times? Well, reader, it would sound a lot like this.
Words by Beth Kirkbride
This article was published as part of The Indiependent‘s May 2021 magazine edition.
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