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
During this synth-based track, Sufjan Stevens declares that rather than basing his worth on others' approval, he wants to be true to himself. "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," he said. "I think we should all be doing our best work without looking for accolades or seeking reward."
This is the second single from The Ascension, an 80-minute electro-pop album that asks the listener to take stock and recognize their own powerlessness. Stevens explained to Mojo magazine: "I'm trying to encourage people to live with an eagerness for truth and transformation. I know the sounds like a bunch of platitudes, but the album is a friendly reminder to the world that we can't go on with business as usual, so maybe we need to challenge our way of life. We need to eradicate are former consciousness and move in the direction of rebirth. We need to die and be born again."
The Ascension is bedded in electronica. Stevens told Mojo this is more a product of necessity than choice. In 2017 he was booted out of his old office and recording studio in Brooklyn after his landlord renovated it while he was out on tour, resulting in his instruments being stuck in storage. "All I had left was my computer, my Prophet synthesizer and a drum machine, so that's what I made The Ascension on. And I did it alone," he explained.
By the time Stevens' collaborators Casey Foubert (bass and electric guitar), James McAllister (drums), and Bryce Dessner of the National (electric guitar) came on board, most of the album had been completed.
Nicole Ginelli directed the kitschy '80s-inspired video. It was choreographed by its star dancer, Jalaiah Harmon, the teenage creator of the TikTok "Renegade" dance. Harmon admitted that choreographing the clip was a task that made her "a little nervous in the beginning."
"But once I really broke the song into parts and listened to the lyrics over and over, I just put moves together that connected to the words and felt natural for me to do," Harmon said. "I think I'm still really trying to get used to this kind of success, so I can't really define it just yet. I just know that when you work hard and you treat others with kindness and fairness, good things come back to you."