I've tweeted twice now - once, twice - on the fact that Sufjan Stevens says "fuck" on his new album. I don't mean to come off as a tittering 12 year old, shocked and awed by an expletive, so let me explain. I made fun of what the press release for Age of Adz said when it was released for being super duper pretentious but well I guess it's the way to go with this album because I find the reaction it's stirring in me upon just a little listening is bringing forth the pretentious twat inside of me, too. I will be embarrassed by what I say here, in other words, but it feels like it has to be said.
I don't write about music much because I don't really have the vocabulary to explain my reaction to it. I can't read music, I couldn't tell you the difference between half of the instruments Sufjan's trudging out for this record, I just know how it hits me on a gut level. And when Sufjan says "fuck" on "I Want To Be Well" I started to cry.
Which, ya know, is an odd reaction to that word. Only, as somebody that's loved and listened to Sufjan for a long ass time now, the word carries real weight spewing from his lips. Here's the second gorgeous stanza where he the word comes into play:
No, he is assuredly not fucking around. And to go and get as gross as that original press release was, when Sufjan goes there, there being "fuck", it carries an ecstatic charge. It's like my entire religious upbringing cracking open all over again. I've had a real attraction-revulsion thing with Sufjan's Christianity and how it plays out on his records - it makes for the prettiest of music, but the message, sometimes, wore me down. Thankfully he's played with and recognized that tension himself throughout everything he's written, but it's never carried the charge that emanates from this simple swift explosion of vulgarity here. It's a real kick in the pants, in other words! It's like he's grabbing his delicate little banjos and harps and smashing them on the floor and grabbing you by the collar and smacking you across the face. And the whole album, even while indulging that old loveliness, manages to feel like that.
And shall I kiss you even as you take me that way?
With the pill or demon as my body changes
Apparitions gone awry
They surround me, all sides
From what am I seeing, only changes
I'm not fucking around
I'm not, I'm not, I'm not fucking around
So I listened through the entire album last night when I was cleaning, and with that one listen it seems an astonishing feat. This album is insane. I haven't had a record hit me this hard right out of the gate in ages. But ever since I heard "I Want To Be Well" last night the rest of the album has been put onto temporary hold while I listen to this song over and over and over and over again. I can already tell that when he plays this song when I see him perform live in November that not only will I tear up again but the roof is gonna rip right off of the Beacon Theater. Awesome.