Norwegian indie-pop singer Marie Ulven, better known as Girl in Red, has quickly risen to fame as a queer icon known for her explicitly gay lyricism centered around queer love experiences and mental health. With the release of her debut album this past April and not being able to tour just yet, Ulven turned instead to the internet to share her music with fans. As part of Spotify’s online livestreams in lieu of in-person shows, Ulven brought youthful intensity as well as her widely-known authenticity to her “World in Red” performance.
Before the show began, audio that resembled the din you’d hear at a concert venue was played, complete with muffled chattering, thumps and clinks that were like ghosts of what once was. Then, Ulven and her bandmates appeared on screen in a secret venue somewhere in Oslo, Norway. In her baseball hat, oversized sweatshirt and lack of shoes, Ulven launched into “Serotonin,” off of her new album. The camera zoomed in and out of focus, honing in on the singer as she thundered through the song’s verses. Combined with her short, powerful bursts of rapping, the flashing red lights overhead undoubtedly gave listeners ample amounts of their own serotonin.
As she performed one of her earlier songs, “4am,” Ulven continued to tackle mental health issues, singing about swarms of thoughts preventing her from falling asleep. She danced around the floor as she belted, “I don’t wanna go out tomorrow.” The camera spun around the room, shaking as if in the perspective of an audience member dancing along to the music.
Ulven then welcomed fans to the show, quipping, “I’m in a weird a– place somewhere in Oslo.” She said that she was trying to pretend an audience was present, just like many fans likely wished they were there to experience her antics in person.
She jumped from song to song, never missing a beat in between. Queer love banger “Bad Idea!” was a painfully modern take on the woes of catching feelings from a casual relationship. The hurt in her voice but also the hope that things may get better was palpable as she spun around the stage. “I’m totally fucked!” she screamed into the screen near the end, continuing to yell the last chorus.
It wouldn’t be a proper Girl in Red show if the singer didn’t bust out her bright red Telecaster guitar. She switched up the dynamic of the show by slowing it down a bit with “Summer Depression,” a tender song where Ulven opened up about her pushing away depression in a struggle to be more normal — but the song was far from soft, instead lively, introspective and increasingly relatable. As the song finished, she joked, “I’m quitting shoes for the summer,” in an effort to keep things light.
Though Ulven’s set started out at an 11, she still managed to have moments of complete softness amid the impassioned songs. Her ability as a performer to know when to switch things up is a skill that serves her well in keeping the attention of her listeners; on this set, in particular, it allowed for those watching to catch their breath.
The singer also went through the household favorites from her discography, such as “We Fell in Love in October,” “Girls” and “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend.” “We Fell in Love in October” gave off gentle, puppy love vibes while the latter two switched the energy back to the beginning of the set as Ulven preached sexual acceptance. “This is not a phase,” she sang with fervor.
And then, with a flash, the lights came back on, and Ulven was seen dancing and celebrating a successful set with her bandmates as the camera zoomed away from her. The 50-minute show was an emotional rollercoaster, packed to the brim with the singer’s raw and real personality as well as blunt lyrics of tender and fiery tellings of not only queer but universal love. It truly is Girl in Red’s world, and we’re just lucky enough to be living in it.