“Happy birthday to me”: France’s Marlene Larsen Channels Inner Turmoil into Her Empowering, Spirited Alt-Rock Anthem “Birthday”

Marlene Larsen © XUS Photography
Marlene Larsen © XUS Photography
Loneliness and turmoil erupt on Marlene Larsen’s achingly intimate alt-rock anthem “Birthday,” the fiery and raw opener to the French singer/songwriter’s debut EP, ‘Galore.’
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Stream: “Birthday” – Marlene Larsen

So why do I get off in violence, when the truth is that I’m a force to be reckoned with?

Marlene Larsen’s debut EP starts off with a whisper, but it might as well be a shout.

You have no idea how lonely this life is,” the French singer/songwriter declares in a visceral exhale of raw feeling, her tender voice shimmering over effected guitars and a layer of warm vocal hums. With every breath she takes, the air thickens; tension rises as the turbulence within spills out not as an avalanche, but in successive waves – gentle, graceful, emotionally-charged waves that will consume us, if we’re not careful.

We don’t need to know what happened, or how Larsen got to where she is, to feel the weight of the world pressing down all around her. We’ve all been there: Alone, a bit lost, and in our heads – yet at the same time, knowing exactly where we need to be, if not how to get there. Loneliness and turmoil erupt on Larsen’s achingly intimate alt-rock anthem “Birthday,” a fiery, raw confessional born from life’s darkest depths – but running for the light.

Galore EP - Marlene Larsen
Galore EP – Marlene Larsen
I don’t want to see anyone
I don’t want to blow any candles
I don’t want no piece of cake
I don’t want to play pretend
Like last year, f*** last year
27 lost my friends
Lost the wrong ones anyway
27 lost myself
Still trying to find my place
So no present, no party
I’m all alone
Happy birthday to me

Released together with the rest of Larsen’s debut EP Galore on September 15, 2023 (via Unicum Music), “Birthday” is a striking, soul-stirring introduction to an artist full of spunk and passion – the kind of person whose open heart burns with a raging fire deep down inside.

Hailing from Lyon, France, Larsen is charismatic, unapologetic, and unflinching: She debuted her project last spring with the EP’s title track “Galore,” a melodramatic upheaval that perfectly set the scene for all that was to come, both melodically and thematically. Following her gentle giant of a sophomore single “I Said I’m Fine” (released last July), the five-track Galore represents a more comprehensive and altogether enchanting first-look, giving Larsen’s candid lyricism and spirited, breathtakingly emotive voice the spotlight each deserves.

The shiver-inducing “Birthday” establishes who Larsen is in so many ways from the get-go, capturing in its 2½-minute run the depth of her lived experiences, and how she channels her own pain and heartache into empowerment. “27 lost my friends – lost the wrong ones, anyway,” she sings, her innermost reckoning coming to life with infectious energy. “27 I lost myself and I’m still trying to find my place. So no present, no party; I’m all alone. Happy birthday to me.”

The song builds and tension continues to rise steadily until Larsen hits a fever pitch, unpacking her intimate worries and processing her own anxious thoughts in real time. We, the audience, feel the emotional brunt of her brutal self-reflections as, metaphorically, she stares at herself in the mirror – picking things off piece by piece.

I’m too loyal, too honest
Too big, too kind
I’m too scared to live
I doubt myself so bad
I’m angry at everything
And I break my own heart
I’ll never settle, emotional
Afraid to be like my dad
I’m scared to be like my dad

“I wrote this song on my birthday, a couple years ago, when I had no one to celebrate it with,” Larsen tells Atwood Magazine. “It was a time in my life when I felt incredibly lonely. And somehow, even though it started with this distressing feeling of loneliness, it turned into a self-reflective kinda fun song. Songs do that sometimes, they write themselves. And this one definitely wanted to help me find the light in the dark.”

Marlene Larsen © XUS Photography
Marlene Larsen © XUS Photography

“Birthday” does resolve toward brighter pastures, first with the honest recognition that the line “if it doesn’t hurt, then it isn’t love” – one which so many resonate with – is a false equivalence in reaction to painful past experiences. From there, Larsen starts to hold her head a little higher: “The truth is that I’m a force to be reckoned with,” she asserts boldly, ready for whatever life throws her way.

And yet, she’s alone in the moment – so that boldness will have to wait a day. “Here’s to a new year, and happy birthday to me.” What was once a lament is now a moment of catharsis and renewal: Larsen resolves to look ahead with hope, and we, her audience, can’t help but look up as well, feeling that once-heavy weight lifted as the storm breaks and the clouds disappear.

If it doesn’t hurt, then it isn’t love
If it doesn’t hurt, then it isn’t love
And I know that isn’t true
So why do I get off in violence
When the truth is that
I’m a force to be reckoned with
But for now I’m all alone
Here’s to a new year
and Happy birthday to me

— —

:: stream/purchase Galore EP here ::
:: connect with Marlene Larsen here ::
Stream: “Birthday” – Marlene Larsen

— — — –‘

Galore EP - Marlene Larsen

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? © XUS Photography

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