Sufjan Stevens debuts “Sugar,” a new song from his forthcoming eighth studio album The Ascension, today. Listen here, and watch the video, choreographed by acclaimed choreographer, MacArthur Fellow and Doris Duke Artist Award recipient Kyle Abraham and directed by Ezra Hurwitz, here.
Filmed in Brooklyn, the video features noted dancers Raymond Pinto, Samantha Figgans, Celeste Mason and Walter Russell III portraying a family as their world dissolves around them.
“‘Sugar’ is ultimately about the desire for goodness and purity (and true sustenance),” says Sufjan. “On the surface the song is just a string of clichés, but the message is imperative: now is the time to gather what is good and pure and valuable and make it your own, and share it with others. Feed your soul and speak new life into those around you. Give each other love, respect and sacrifice. Relinquish all the old habits, all the old ways of thinking and doing, all former practices—‘business as usual’—and bring new life to the world. This is our calling.”
“The way I approach choreography tends to blend elements of the everyday with moments of abstraction,” says Abraham. “I was compelled by the tempo and the tone of the song…especially when choreographing the duet material and solo material for Samantha Figgans and Raymond Pinto. This song and its undertones created a lot of really fun scenarios to play with choreographically.”
The Ascension, the long-awaited follow-up to Sufjan’s Carrie & Lowell, is set for release September 25 on Asthmatic Kitty Records. “Sugar” follows debut single “America” and August’s “Video Game”—which The New York Times praised for its “upbeat tempo, a melodic hook, and lyrics that bob between the sacred and profane” and Pitchfork called “a stirring call to have faith in yourself, coated sweetly enough to reach a country that may need that message now more than ever.” Pre-order the album here.
The Ascension is an indictment of a world crumbling around us—and a roadmap out of here. Sufjan says the foundations of the album are “a call for personal transformation and a refusal to play along with the systems around us.”
“My objective for this album was simple: Interrogate the world around you. Question anything that doesn’t hold water. Exterminate all bullshit. Be part of the solution or get out of the way. Keep it real. Keep it true. Keep it simple. Keep it moving.”
The result is a “lush, editorial pop album”—as Sufjan describes it—that finds us all at a “terrifying crossroad.”
The physical release date for The Ascension has been moved from September 25 to October 2 due to unforeseen COVID-19-related manufacturing and logistics delays. The Ascension will be released on all streaming and download platforms, as scheduled, on September 25.