Earlier this year, Sufjan Stevens announced the details of his eighth solo album The Ascension, due out on Sept. 25 via Asthmatic Kitty Records. He also shared its 12-minute lead single “America,” alongside a video shot by Stevens. Today, he’s unveiled the second single “Video Game,” with a clip directed by Nicole Ginelli. The video was choreographed by and stars Jalaiah Harmon—the teen behind the viral “Renegade” dance.
Much like “America,” “Video Game” relies on electronic instrumentation, but it’s less atmospheric and centers more on compressed ’80s pop and contemporary synthwave. Stevens’ vocals are heavily filtered as he sings about rejecting the desire for validation: “I don’t wanna be the center of the universe / I don’t wanna be a part of that shame / In a way I wanna be my own redeemer / I don’t wanna play your video game.”
Stevens says of the new song and video:
It’s unfortunate that we live in a society where the value of people is quantified by likes, followers, listeners and views. So many people are seeking attention for the wrong reasons. I think we should all be doing our best work without looking for accolades or seeking reward.
The main takeaway of “Video Game” for me is: your worth (invaluable) should never be based on other people’s approval (ephemeral). Just be yourself. Keep it real. Keep it moving. Do all things with absolute purity, love and joy. And always do your best.
Jalaiah epitomizes all of this and I’m truly inspired by her. So I thought, “what if we could get Jalaiah to star in a ‘dance video’ about not wanting to star in a dance video?” I’m so honored she agreed. She clearly owns it, and her work here is beautiful, poignant and true.
Her dance shows incredible energy, work-ethic and spirit. She is dancing for herself, not anyone else. Her choreography is sophisticated, nuanced, and fun. She is a star. She keeps it real. She keeps it moving. She keeps it true. What a blessing!
Watch the video for “Video Game” below. Preorder The Ascension here.