New Music Reviews

Sufjan Stevens’ Video Game: An Ode to Self – Belief

Sufjan Stevens is an artists who takes big swings in his music from writing entire records to represent states in America, Michigan and Illinoise, Christmas records, Songs for Christmas, to records exposing his own personal pain, Carrie and Lowell. He has big concepts that translate into complex and beautiful music. His new single, Video Game is no different. In this track he takes on the abstract concept of self – belief within lush electronic post – production effects, which stretches himself musically.

This track is one of two tracks released from his upcoming record The Ascension. Stevens often explores spiritual and religious themes within his music, which harkens back to his religions upbringing. Musically, Sufjan returns to lush electronic landscapes that he originally explored in his record The Age of Adz. However, synths and beats in Video Game have a warmth not present on Adz. Even though his vocals are distorted through a robotic filter, they retain their beauty and fragility. This is a musically deep and warm track that puts the vocal / lyrics at the forefront and does not bury them under intricate post – production work.

Lyrically, Sufjan is rejecting the virtual world of video games for the real world of the self. He constantly references not wanting to play “your game” and openly rejecting the idea of being on set tracks. He sings: “I don’t wanna be a puppet in a theater / I don’t wanna play your video game.” He is rejecting a predetermined life, like that in a video game, for the freedom of the self. Much like other Sufjan Stevens’ songs, there are countless religious / spiritual references throughout the track. He sings about “personal Jesus,” the devil and saints intermixed with secular references to video games and resumes. The core conflict at the heart of this track is the tension between his spiritual and secular life, which is evident in the line “In a way I wanna be my own redeemer.” Self – belief and individualism is the cornerstone of capitalist / western secularism; however, Sufjan juxtaposes that with redeemer imagery that harkens back to Jesus the Redeemer.

Sufjan Stevens rejects the scripted virtual world for the tangible spiritual world he finds within himself. In a way, Video Game is a call to action during these challenging, and sometimes isolating, times. Stevens is imploring you to reject virtual escapism and use this time to turn inward and have a spiritual connection with the self. Having said that…..Last of Us 2 and Ghost of Tsushima are really cool……I’ll just finish those Sufjan and then I’ll connect with my spiritual self…..at least until Cyberpunk 2077 comes out.

Listen to Video Game

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