Girl in Red, the Norwegian various musician whose debut album arrives on Friday, is drawing a rising Gen Z viewers because of her craving songs about infatuation, heartbreak and psychological well being.
The new album, “If I Could Make It Go Quiet,” comes three years after the rising artist, whose actual title is Marie Ulven, wrote a track about unrequited love, “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend,” that went viral on YouTube in 2018. Since then, the 22-year-old singer-songwriter and producer, who’s homosexual, has gained near 10 million month-to-month listeners on Spotify and collaborated with Billie Eilish’s brother and producer, Finneas O’Connell. On TikTok, the query “Do you listen to girl in red?” has emerged as a means for teen women to really feel out somebody’s sexuality.
“Gen Z as a whole is really gravitating toward her,” says Ned Monahan, Spotify’s head of world hits, who oversees playlists like “Today’s Top Hits” and “New Music Friday.” “She is defining a style and a genre kind of unto herself.”
Ms. Ulven’s reputation displays a delicate shift in pop music in latest years: Gen Z indie acts are bringing a rawer, extra intimate sound that emphasizes introspection and emotional honesty. These artists, lots of them girls, are influenced by Taylor Swift, Lorde, Lana Del Rey and Billie Eilish. They write songs with a directness and vulnerability that contrasts even more starkly with the polished stardom and bombastic empowerment anthems of an earlier pop-diva period. One of the most famous is Olivia Rodrigo, who releases her personal album May 21.
Among this group, Ms. Ulven has emerged as a homosexual image, inserting her amongst a new technology of queer pop musicians who’re making LGBTQ artwork extra mainstream. Historically, the music trade has been inhospitable to overtly homosexual, lesbian and bisexual artists. In latest years, that’s shifted as acts like Frank Ocean, Brandi Carlile and Lil Nas X have pushed the envelope. Ms. Ulven is aware of LGBTQ musicians nonetheless face challenges, however she doesn’t wish to be completely outlined by it.
“If I write a song about love, I write a love song,” she says. “I never think about my sexuality when I’m writing a love song.”
Girl in Red has been working towards her debut album for half a decade.
Ms. Ulven was raised about an hour from Oslo. Her mother and father divorced when she was 5. In 2015, she began releasing Norwegian songs on-line beneath her personal title; after a few years, nonetheless, she turned to English.
She adopted the title Girl in Red in 2017. It initially got here to her at a music pageant. Ms. Ulven had been looking for a buddy—somebody she was in love with—in the group and noticed her crimson sweater. She despatched her a textual content, “girl in red.” The buddy, who didn’t share Ms. Ulven’s romantic emotions, impressed “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend,” Ms. Ulven says. A number of months later, she realized “girl in red” must be her artist title. “I was just really heartbroken,” she says.
“I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” took off on YouTube after somebody reposted the track, a video that has since attracted greater than 20 million views. Fans clamored for it to be positioned on Spotify. “I was like, oh my God, there’s momentum here, this is my chance,” Ms. Ulven says. Soon, report labels and artist managers have been calling.
Ms. Ulven performed it cool. “I feel like I’ve heard so many horror stories about artists just working with the wrong people and ending up in a bad place,” Ms. Ulven says. “I was like, ‘What can you do for me?’ ”
Instead of signing a conventional deal, Ms. Ulven continued to launch music independently. In 2018, Spotify’s Nordic and North American groups began placing her music on area of interest playlists, together with “Lorem,” which is standard with Gen Z followers. This March, she joined Spotify’s “Radar” program for rising artists, which included placement of her music on 127 editorial playlists. One of Ms. Ulven’s standard songs, “We Fell In Love in October,” has generated greater than 200 million streams on Spotify. On TikTok, it has spawned over 400,000 video creations, says TikTok label-partnerships supervisor Brandon Holman.
On her upcoming album, which Ms. Ulven is releasing with the assistance of AWAL Recordings—a substitute for conventional labels—she has a fuller and extra pop-oriented sound. New songs like “Rue” and “I’ll Call You Mine” differ from one another significantly, and infrequently blur genres and rely extra on piano than guitar.
The single “Serotonin” was co-produced by Finneas O’Connell and has hints of the frenzied “hyper-pop” style associated with artists like 100 gecs. After toying with seven or eight variations of the track, Ms. Ulven and her co-producer, Norwegian musician Matias Tellez, despatched “version three” to Mr. O’Connell, whom Ms. Ulven had met in 2019. Mr. O’Connell favored the track—particularly Ms. Ulven’s rapping—and needed to play a function, Ms. Ulven says.
On “You Stupid Bi—,” one of many album’s standout tracks, Ms. Ulven revives the direct lyrics and indie-rock really feel of her track, “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend.”
In the track, Ms. Ulven expresses frustration that her beloved doesn’t understand how good they’d be collectively. It’s a timeworn, common theme, interesting to all, whether or not homosexual or straight. But by treating queer love like every other love, Ms. Ulven is seen by some as capturing the fact of lots of her LGBTQ followers.
It’s “secondary for me,” Ms. Ulven says of her sexuality. “Because it’s so normal.”
Write to Neil Shah at [email protected]
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