“Do you listen to Girl in Red?” has become a widely known phrase for TikTok users in the past year. A seemingly innocent question, the inquiry is now used as code to identify any queer person on the social media platform who just likes girls.
Although the bold lyrics and allure of her sound that is so purely “indie” make it obvious why her songs are loved by many, how Girl in Red became an overnight sensation from the comfort of her own bedroom is a feat that many aspire to in the age of COVID-19. Unfortunately, creating “bedroom pop” isn’t as easy as it seems.
Girl in Red was born Marie Ulven in Horton, Norway, in 1999. As a child, there were no instruments in her household. It wasn’t until her grandfather gifted her a guitar for Christmas in 2012 that she had the opportunity to learn how to make music. Ulven didn’t even pick up the guitar until a year later and became interested in songwriting at the age of 14.
Originally, the Norwegian pop star released Norwegian music to SoundCloud under a different moniker. At this point, Ulven was renting out studio space to record her music, but it wasn’t long before she created her own studio in her bedroom.
The concept of “bedroom pop” is one aspect of Ulven’s music that fans find so alluring. All of the music that she produced under her iconic alias was conceived, written and recorded from the comfort of her own bedroom. Perhaps this method is what gives Girl in Red that staple sound, provocative yet personal and deeply familiar all at the same time.
Not long after constructing the makeshift studio, Girl in Red first released her debut single, “i wanna be your girlfriend,” on SoundCloud, the song that would attract millions of listeners in the coming years. The song attracted thousands of listeners on its own but took off exponentially after being featured on a Norwegian website for emerging artists called NRK Urørt.
After its initial release, Girl in Red re-released it on Apple Music in 2018 alongside singles “girls” and “summer depression.” All three of these songs quickly racked up millions of streams online. It seems that Girl in Red had a quick turnaround as an artist. One month, Ulven was an 18-year-old with an impossible dream. The next, millions were fawning over her fearless lyrics and raw sound.
Girl in Red’s next big release came in September 2018 in the form of her debut EP, “chapter 1.” The EP includes Ulven’s three previously mentioned tracks alongside two of her other releases, “say anything” and “4am.” In the same month, the Norwegian artist opened for Clairo at her shows in Paris and Dublin.
Just two months later, Girl in Red released her most popular song to date, “we fell in love in october,” and “forget her” in November 2018. The former of the two songs gained traction the following year in October 2019, coming in at No. 14 on the U.S. Rock Charts.
Around this same time in 2019 is when the TikTok community discovered Girl in Red, whose songs are featured in many of the short videos that users make on the social media platform. The phrase “does she listen to girl in red?” became a sort of code that TikTok users would use to identify other queer women on the app.
As with many TikTok songs, Girl in Red’s “i wanna be your girlfriend” and “we fell in love in october” blew up online along with the platform’s own popularity, which began to pick up significantly in 2020. Girl in Red is slowly starting to become a household name as she gains popularity, in the U.S. especially.
As a result, in March 2019, Girl in Red joined American influencer and singer-songwriter Conan Gray for their first North American tour in March 2019. This was a big step toward stardom for both emerging artists as they traveled to sold-out shows across the U.S. and Canada.
Following a productive summer with releases like “bad idea!” and “watch you sleep,” Girl in Red released a second EP, titled “chapter 2.” At this point, Ulven was preparing for her first solo tour called “world in red” which started in October 2019. Also in October 2019, Girl in Red appeared in the publication “Paper,” who deemed her a queer icon and role model to young members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The following December, Ulven was featured on the cover of Dork magazine and Gay Times, and was featured again on the cover of NME in January 2020. Dork awarded Girl in Red the No. 1 spot on their 2020 Hype List, which predicts which artists will make it big in the coming year.
Girl in Red had planned on releasing her debut album in October of 2020, and it seems that she isn’t going to let something like COVID-19 stop her now. The name of the album, also called “World in Red,” indicates Ulven’s ultimate goal: world domination. “Coronavirus ain’t gonna stop World in Red baby! I have some pretty dope-ass plans for the winter. I’m going to be f—ing mad if they don’t happen,” she said.
With TikTok stardom already under her belt and the promise of her new album looming in the distance, Girl in Red is in the perfect position to launch herself into international stardom this upcoming fall. Be on the lookout for her debut album this autumn to see if she achieves her dreams of world domination. All signs are pointing toward a world in red.