Sufjan Stevens made everyone cry with his performance of “Mystery Of Love” at the 90th Academy Awards, but no one, it seems, was weeping harder than the songwriter was on the inside. In a new interview with The Guardian pegged to his fascinating new album, The Ascension, Stevens called the evening “one of the most traumatizing experiences of my entire life.”
“I didn’t want to have anything to do with that world and that culture,” he said of the Hollywood A-listers for whom he was crooning. “I don’t want to be part of any room full of adults hemming and hawing over plastic trophies.” Not content to stop there, he dubbed the Oscars “a horrifying Scientology end-of-year prom” representative of “everything I hate about America and popular culture.”
This might sound jarring if you’re only familiar with Stevens’ bubbly, feel-good Illinois tracks, but it tracks with his recent comments—“I’m inherently a pessimist,” he told The Atlantic earlier this month—and with the themes of The Ascension, an album rooted in anxiety over the impact celebrity worship has had on American politics. “What gives me hope? Oh God. Diazepam! Lithium!” he cracked to The Guardian.
Stevens also addressed the “naivety” of his bright-eyed, bushy-tailed early work, smirkingly noting, “Experience makes fools of us all.”
He continued: “There was a hopefulness, joyfulness and playfulness to a lot of those early records that’s been slowly receding over the years. It’s hard for me to speak for it because it’s happened so gradually, like watching a tree grow. But you start to lose faith in the structures of society as you get older, and I think that’s coming to the surface now.” To say we relate would be an understatement.
In peppier news, Stevens has spent lockdown working on new music that, per the paper, will “be another left turn in a career full of them.” Just don’t expect a pop crossover. “I don’t have the constitution for something like that. If Kanye calls, I’m not home, OK?” he said.
Revisit his gorgeous “Mystery Of Love” Oscars performance below, preferably while imagining the lightning-lit cloud of disdain that was storming through his guts the entire time.
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