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Criticism: girl in red’s ‘I’M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!’

Art+Critic+Emma+Ehle+says+girl+in+red%E2%80%99s+%E2%80%9CI%E2%80%99M+DOING+IT+AGAIN+BABY%21%E2%80%9D+is+dynamic%2C+powerful+and+unapologetically+confident.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Sony+Music+Canada%29
Art Critic Emma Ehle says girl in red’s “I’M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!” is dynamic, powerful and unapologetically confident. (Photo courtesy of Sony Music Canada)

Rating: 8/10

 

Marie Ulven — otherwise known as girl in red — has long existed in the upper echelon of a genre colloquially referred to as “Gay pop.” Standing alongside artists like Boygenius, MUNA, King Princess, Troye Sivan and the newly emerging Chappell Roan as contemporary performers who exhibit open expressions of sexuality and queer relationships in their work, girl in red’s newest project remains both vulnerable and unapologetic, with “I’M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!” solidifying the artist’s status as a staple of queer music.

Released on Friday, April 12, “I’M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!” is the 25-year-old Norwegian alt-pop artist’s second studio album. Following her 2021 breakout album “if i could make it go quiet” and 2019 EP “Chapter 2,” girl in red’s newest release swells with upbeat synth-pop and rock instrumentals, feeling more like a triumphant entrance into the mainstream music scene than a quiet return to the artist’s bedroom-pop roots. 

“The themes are being on top of the world and feeling in love and feeling amazing and living peak moments from life,” Ulven said in an interview with Apple Music, “and then other moments are reflecting on not being so good.”

In these “top of the world” moments, “I’M DOING IT AGAIN BABY!” is bold, confident and fiercely spirited, reflecting an unabashed illustration of the artist’s highest highs. Tracks fitting this classification include “DOING IT AGAIN BABY,” “Too Much” and “You Need Me Now?” featuring Sabrina Carpenter, all of which were singles for the album. 

“I’m on a new level / Something’s got me feelin’ like I could be inflammable / And I might be,” Ulven sings with seemingly steadfast confidence in “DOING IT AGAIN BABY.” “I’m gonna light it up / Nothing’s gonna stop me if I say this is what I want.”

However, it is “Too Much” and “You Need Me Now?” that truly boasts some of the album’s strongest and most dynamic moments.

“You go through life like you’re on a fucking runway / Dracula shoulders, baby, blocking all my sunrays / This throwing shade is so passe,” Ulven sings with a wicked sharpness in the former’s bridge. “Opposites attract, odds are more like blackjack / House always wins so I’m taking all my love back / With you I lose either way.”

As catchy as it is honest, “Too Much” depicts the utter dejection of feeling like you are “too much” for a partner, with Ulven chronicling experiences of having to nurture someone else’s security at the expense of one’s own happiness. 

“I think ‘Too Much’ is fun to have right after ‘DOING IT AGAIN BABY’ because that song is about being a lot and then ‘Too Much’ is about being confronted with the world again, or people around you who think you’re a lot,” Ulven said to Apple Music. “On the emotional journey of the album, this is where there’s a little bit of a dip because there’s a bit of sadness in here as well as ‘No, I’m going to be exactly how much I need to be.’ I feel like it’s an empowering song [about] not letting anyone dampen you or tone you down.”

“You Need Me Now?” showcases a similar swagger, with Ulven and Carpenter collaborating on a musical manifestation of the phrase “they always come back.” 

“I was secondary to everything / No, never been so insignificant / You’re stripped of love and it’s evident,” Culven sings with conviction. “Next to you, I was crumbling / The power balance stumbling / You wrecked it all and it’s sinking in / You’ll always be a setback.” 

Carpenter is later introduced for the track’s bridge, with Ulven including a candid, spoken-word clip of herself saying, “You know what would be really fucking cool on this? Sabrina. Like if we could get Sabrina on this, oh my god, that would — like seriously …” Carpenter then casually responds, “Oh my god, you’re so right. I’m gonna sing now,” before beginning her verse.

While, as a whole, “I’M DOING IT AGAIN BABY,” is a fairly strong project from girl in red, there are definitive instances where the album’s standouts make the rest of the work feel a bit half-baked in comparison. For example, while “You Need Me Now?” showcases nuanced and thematically complex lyrics like, “You made heartbreak look elegant / Abused me with intelligence / I could’ve sworn you were heaven-sent,” just one track later, Culven takes a much more simplistic route, singing “Pick me over him / let the loser win / I have so many things I wanna say / But I don’t know how to communicate” in the aptly named “Pick Me.” 

This is not to say that “Pick Me” — as well as other tracks such as “Phantom Pain,” “A Night to Remember” and “New Love” — are objectively bad songs; however, they don’t showcase the same level of lyricism, sonics and addictively-catchy hooks as the album’s singles. These tracks opt for a range of emotion that feels a bit more surface-level in comparison to their counterparts.

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