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Revealing the Scary Parts: girl in red’s ‘Serotonin’

via girl in red’s YouTube

‘Serotonin’ is the first track on girl in red’s upcoming debut album if i could make it all go quiet. Marie Ulven, the 22-year-old Norwegian singer-songwriter behind girl in red, has “built a tight-knit community of devoted fans in a remarkably organic way, based on her self-assured songwriting and deeply personal lyrics,” says Ned Mondahan, Spotify’s Head of Global Hits. While she’s created a bunch of singles and two EP’s over the last couple of years, lesbian and bisexual women everywhere are excited that girl in red is releasing a full-length album by the end of April.

girl in red told Spotify she’s developed a new respect for veteran artists who have finished multiple albums, now she understands the process of creating one. “I’ve had a little bit of a realization making this record. I just gained so much respect for people who’ve dropped their eighth studio album. I want to be like that artist — one day — who has eight records because they just love making music.” girl in red admits that she once made music “sort of sporadically,” whenever she got inspiration, but creating this album was very different. “I’ve gone three weeks straight — every single day, from 9am to 6pm in the studio — and that’s been really different because I have to deliver, musically, in a whole other way.” 

girl in red has realised that the concept of ‘genius’ is flawed through creating the album. Successful artists — who don’t have privileged access to the music industry — have usually worked extremely hard to get where they have. Waiting for ‘genius inspiration’ doesn’t cut it. “[It] was a really good experience for me and also really exhausting. I’ve never made an album before, so I didn’t really know what I was going into either. But I feel like I’ve realized, ‘Oh, I want to do this for the rest of my life, and this is the grind.’”

The album if I could make it go quiet isn’t going to be a cohesive, start-to finish story, according to girl in red’s Marie Ulven. “I’m just pouring everything into that concept [of making everything go quiet]…just trying to understand myself a little bit,” she says. “Making things go quiet,” as a theme, a concept, a well to draw inspiration from in writing and singing each track, is evident in the recently-released single, ‘Serotonin’, a teaser for if i could make it go quiet.

Not only has girl in red committed to creating an album for the first time — something she admits has been hard work — she promises fans something different than she’s done before. In ‘Serotonin’, girl in red raps, saying “I definitely think I want to go a little bit into that direction, but in my own way. Like Ed Sheeran, he raps but like it’s still Ed Sherran, you know what I mean?”

So what should we expect from the new album if i could make it go quiet, using Serotonin as the barometer? Marie Ulven says to Pitchfork, “if i could make it go quiet is an attempt to learn what it’s like to be human; to deal with the scariest parts of myself; to live with the pain of knowing i’m only flesh and bones; to be angry, broken and unforgiving yet still able to wear my heart on my sleeve; i’m shedding light on the darkest parts of my mind and i’m letting everyone in; if i could make it go quiet is me simply trying to understand what the f*ck is going on.”

Collaborating with Billie Eilish’s brother, Finneas, ‘Serotonin’ depicts Marie Ulven’s real-life experiences with mental illness. The first verse, “I get intrusive thoughts like cutting my hands off / Like jumping in front of a bus / Like how do I make this stop / When it feels like my therapist hates me?” has some truth behind the lyrics. Ulven explains to BBC, “I’ve had intrusive thoughts for quite some time, probably for the past 10 years: thinking I’m going to jump out of a window, thinking I’m going to jump in front of the train. It’s really intense and you feel like you have to fight with yourself not to do it…I don’t want to jump in front of trains. I want to be alive but if I’m at a train station and I see that yellow line, it’s like, ‘Oh my God.’ I feel like I need to hold myself and go away and lean against the wall to be sure that I’m not going to do anything crazy.”

‘Serotonin’ has everything girl in red promised for the upcoming album: she’s “dealing with the scariest parts” of herself, she’s dealing “with the pain of knowing [she’s] only flesh and bones,” she’s “angry, broken and unforgiving yet still able to wear [her] heart on her sleeve,” she’s “shedding light on the darkest parts of [her] mind” and “letting everyone in.” The single doesn’t romanticise or glorify having mental health issues: it’s real, raw, and describes the exhausting nature of wanting help but feeling hopeless.

AJ Kelly

Contact AJ at [email protected] or view the rest of her work on aj-kelly.tumblr.com

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