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Maybe I killed someone!” Marie Ulven, aka girl in red, quips over Zoom, quoting her faux online apology video. It’s early afternoon in Oslo and the singer is comfortably sitting cross-legged in the kitchen of her sister’s minimalist apartment, wearing a navy blue LA Dodgers cap and dark red v-neck sweater. The Norwegian musician is playfully referencing her YouTube-ready ‘I’m Sorry’ skit; a three-minute SNL-style sketch produced by best friend Isaac Jensen. It’s here, during her staged plea to fans, she lays down the rules: 2024 is a big year for girl in red – and she’s right. 

The 25-year-old’s immense sophomore album, I’M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!, is out now, a project she couldn’t have done without her community of friends and Luna, her Bernese Mountain dog, who’s scooped up in her arms. “I’m curious: how do dogs hear songs?” she questions, off-topic. “Do they just hear noise or that there’s a rhythm? Luna’s favourite song is probably ‘Doing It Again Baby’ because that’s when I always start jumping around.” There’s plenty of mosh pit energy in girl in red’s rowdy new record, a 10-track alt-pop catalogue that readily sheds the low-fi label often ascribed to her sound. She’s spent the last few years tending to suppressed emotions, getting therapy and bouncing back from a break-up, resulting in a zany comeback album decorated with an airy, optimistic tone. After all, the album title lands like a pop-induced call to arms: girl in red is back and bigger than ever. 

It has been three years since girl in red’s vibrant debut album, if i could make it go quiet, a record which propelled her into mainstream success. It was picked up (and praised) by Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish gave kudos to its lyrics, while singer-songwriter FINNEAS lent a skilful production hand to synth-rock hit ‘serotonin’. It’s an album of dark omissions, recognising self-destruction, and sapphic love. Now, back in the monotony of press promo and encouraging single streams, she’s been paying attention to how she’s grown as the auteur of her new era. (“I have so many different sides to me,” she says, thinking aloud). She’s begun bringing people – notably family and close friends – back into her life: inviting people over to dinner and accepting that she’s open to love. “I used to be really scared of those things because I had so much social anxiety,” she says. “I’ve grown so much into myself, so nothing feels out of character almost anymore.”

“World domination”, baby – that’s what girl in red wants. The face of the infamous “do you listen to girl in red” queer code, there’s already some level of subcultural immortality to the 25-year-old’s legacy. And, with this album, it’s an impact she’s eager to cling onto. Her name has been affixed to online cultural trends and has become an unquestionable part of the queer scene. So, as her legacy grows, the singer has learned to appreciate, and embrace, the moments her career has connected with the LGBTQIA+ community. “[The “do you listen to girl in red” line] was more than just a trend. It really stuck with people and people really appreciated it,” she says, before reeling off an impromptu Taylor Swift ‘All Too Well’ lyric. “It’s very surreal and it’s special and rare…. I was there, it was rare. I remember it all too well.” While there’s a shift in the musician’s outlook, she revisits themes and emotions across her discography, crafting songs around bolshie beats and vibrant pop tracks. ‘Pick Me’ cleverly unspools the singer’s insecurity of dating a bisexual girl, her current girlfriend. “I had all this jealousy and insecurities and I knew it wasn’t [about] her. I think there’s a lot of shamefulness that comes with jealousy. I used to be like ‘Oh, I’m never going to be a man to her’ or ‘I’m never going to be everything for her’,” she explains. “But, now, I’m like ‘Who cares? I’m a cool ass, motherfucking gay girl!’” 

There’s a newfound confidence that drives this album. As she narrates on album opener ‘I’m Back’, girl in red revels in her “new level self-esteem” as she cuts through the city “like a rockstar from the 70s”, wearing Ray-Bans with swagger.This time around, girl in red rewrites her introduction. No longer is she lamenting over ‘running low on serotonin’, like she did on her 2021 single. Instead, she’s leaning into a new, upbeat image, an optimistic musical direction that steps away from the longing, queer love songs with which she made her name. “Expect the unexpected – that’s the easiest motherfucking thing to say!” she jovially says. On I’M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!, she pulls on powerhouse pop – getting support from “sick” breakout star Sabrina Carpenter on ‘You Need Me Now’, a collab that happened thanks to an Instagram DM. The artist crossover, admittedly one which fans might not have anticipated, reflects the joyful new direction that has shaped much of this album. “I’m entering a new part of my life,” she says. “I want to be goofy now – I’m in my goofy era!” 

As girl in red embarks on a new journey, I’M DOING IT AGAIN BABY! seeks to channel the singer’s forthright whimsical nature; her slick remarks and insightful self-referential jabs. No longer feeling like a self-resigned “NPC, lowkey” character, she’s joyfully connecting the dots within her discography, creating another layer of the “world in red” universe. “I’ve been referencing my own music since the very beginning. I was referencing the other songs on the album. On ‘I’m Back’, I’m referencing ‘serotonin’ because they are both album openers, but they’re opposites,” she says. “Even though this album feels different, and a step away from the first album, it also feels like they’re very much linked. I also have the old album cover on the back of the vinyl [cover art] because I’m just extending the world.” 

girl in red’s internet empire has been on the go since 2017. The days of Bandcamp uploads with advice warning you not to fall in love with the straight girl would make its rounds of queer Tumblr. (“Damn, you go way back!” she jokes.) But she’s more than a URL success. Since those days in the late 2010s, the Norwegian artist has opened for Billie Eilish, won multiple Spellemannpris awards – aka the Norwegian Grammys –  and landed a coveted spot on the Eras Tour alongside MUNA, Gracie Abrams and Boygenius. Hindsight, for the singer, has been a useful career navigator when forecasting her next steps. “Looking back, Taylor Swift recognising my [debut] album was a milestone in my life, but also ‘the do you listen to girl in red trend’ too,” she says. “It’s super special when something happens, culturally, and it sticks in people’s minds, especially in the times we’re in. I just feel like nothing sticks anymore and I just have an immense gratitude. I’m also super scared of losing it all.”

Looking back, Taylor Swift recognising my [debut] album was a milestone in my life, but also ‘the do you listen to girl in red trend’ too… It’s super special when something happens, culturally, and it sticks in people’s minds

As the musician is just getting accustomed to the fame of global success, she’s eager to embrace whatever opportunities come her way. “I’ve loved playing shows all over the world and it’s such an insane opportunity. Recently, I’ve just been so scared of losing it because what will I do then?” On ‘I’m Back’, the singer candidly gives mention to her mental health break following her 2021 album – “I was gone for a minute ’cause I went to get help” – but she’s not quite ready to hang up her career, at least not now. While being a full-time musician at a young age is no doubt taxing, girl in red has returned re-energised with a newfound commitment to her career. “This is my whole life. These past few years have been everything to me. This feels like this is the life that I was supposed to live – I was always supposed to play shows, make music and connect with people in that way. Now I’m at a place where I hope I get to [keep doing] this, you know?”

So far, she has amassed over 16.5 million Spotify listeners, left her mark in the queer pop canon and rolled out this eagerly anticipated new album, so what comes next after that? For girl in red, it’s all about being true to her own direction. “I don’t know what that thing is that makes people connect because that’s something that is not tangible. It’s something that’s magic,” she says. “Everything that I’ve done so far has been to create stuff that I think is cool and make things that interest me, and it comes from a real place. The only thing I can do is to try to stay connected with the people who have supported me and keep the spark that started everything.” 

The creative curiosity of girl in red is holding steady, no matter if she’s hanging out in the Chelsea hotel lobby or imagining she’s in NYC, as she writes on ‘★★★★★’. She’s taken to picking up advice where she goes, getting nifty snippets of advice from the likes of Ed Sheeran and The National’s Aaron Dessner, who persuaded her to take Taylor Swift’s offer to play the Eras Tour, something she almost turned down to avoid clashing tour dates, a potential logistical upset she was able to avoid. However, girl in red’s most grounding input doesn’t come from big-name acts. Instead, it’s trusted insight from close family and friends. “Isaac, my best friend, who is also my creative director, my sister, Tina, and my mom. I feel like those are the people that are guiding me through everything and keeping my feet on the ground, so I’m not becoming an asshole, not that I’m prone to that. I’d rather stay careful and on the ground.” 

girl in red has told us: she’s doing it again baby! “I’m really pursuing [my career] now. I’m not going to leave for three years again,” she says. “I want to make music a lot more now and I want to be present as Marie and I feel like that’s what girl in red 3.0 is, it’s non-stop. I’m not stopping. girl in red 3.0, let’s do it!” 

I’M DOING IT AGAIN BABY! is out now via Columbia.

This interview is taken from the May 2024 issue of GAY TIMES. Head to Apple News + for more exclusive features and interviews from the issue.