There I was, another older member of Gen Z angstily making herself a ‘gaylist’ a few years ago while working up the nerve to ask out my crush, when Spotify recommended that I add an artist named Girl in Red to the mix.
I clicked on the first song that popped up, called ‘I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend’.
Omg, I thought to myself, I feel so understood.
I immediately texted the song to everyone I knew, probably adding something along the lines of “WOW, I LOVE THIS” to the text thread in the most melodramatic way I knew how.
As it turns out, I was not alone.
Girl in Red has garnered over 11 million monthly Spotify listeners, with ‘I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend’ clocking in at over 174 million total listens.
“Do you listen to Girl in Red?” morphed into not just a question but code for “Are you a woman attracted to women?” on TikTok and beyond.
So, who is Girl in Red?
A project of singer–songwriter Marie Ulven, Girl in Red made her debut on YouTube with the single ‘I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend’ in 2017 and has since made waves in the queer community for her openness surrounding her own queerness and mental health.
Her first full-length album, If I Could Make It Go Quiet, was released last month.
Fans went wild for its candour and vulnerability that let them seemingly inside Ulven’s mind.
I’ve been thinking lately, as I start to write more myself, about what makes different forms of art ‘good’.
Thinking back on high school and college English classes, there was always this notion that the English classics were a pinnacle of art – what we were supposed to strive towards.
I always felt scandalous sitting through lectures thinking, yikes, am I supposed to think this is good?
As I got a little older, I realised that art, in whatever form, is good as long as it touches someone.
I’m writing about If I Could Make It Go Quiet because it did exactly that – the album made me, and a lot of other fans, feel seen in a new and special way.
The album opens with ‘Serotonin’, with the lyrics “I get / intrusive thoughts like cutting my hands off / like jumping in front of a bus / like how do I make this stop” touching on a much-needed level of transparency that artists (and people in general, really) are rarely open about.
My first thoughts listening to the song ranged from “Wow, this beat is so awesome and angry and real” to “Thank you for vocalising this”.
In ‘Did You Come?’, the lyrics “Did you listen to her heartbeat like you did with me?” resonate, while “Was she good? Just what you liked? / Did you come? How many times? / Tell the truth, wait, never mind” are horny and vulnerable enough to keep listeners rapt.
Later in the album, Ulven pays tribute to Zendaya’s character in the HBO drama Euphoria with the song ‘Rue’.
It’s safe to say that Girl in Red herself would agree with my newfound definition of good art.
As she told The New York Times in 2019, “Even though I can’t be there for everyone as, like, a shrink, the music can be.”