Eclectic singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens has released a new single called “Video Game” with a music video featuring young dance star Jalaiah Harmon. It’s the second single released for Sufjan’s upcoming album The Ascension, which is due on September 25 via his own Asthmatic Kitty Records.
“Video Game” is a repetitive synthpop track with a catchy hook, “I don’t wanna play/I don’t wanna play/I don’t wanna play your video game.” While the verses are packed with memorable lines, this straightforward type of songwriting makes it quite different from Sufjan’s previous two singles.
The Ascension’s lead single, “America,” is a twelve minute progressive pop song with three major sections, the first of which is a political protest and the last of which is ambient. Sufjan’s second recent single, “My Rajneesh,” won’t be on the album, but it’s a tiny bit shorter than “America” at just about ten minutes long and will serve as the B-side to that track on its vinyl release. Sufjan also released a different album earlier this year called Aporia, an ambient collaboration with his stepfather Lowell Brams.
In the video for “Video Game,” fourteen-year-old TikTok star Jalaiah Harmon choreographed and danced inside a virtual setting with a very 80’s look, fitting of the tune. Earlier this year another dance Jalaiah choreographed, filmed and posted to TikTok called ‘The Renegade’ went viral as many others on the platform attempted to replicate it, including celebrities like Lizzo and Charli D’Amelio. The young dancer apparently loves performing, as indicated by her appearance on The Ellen Show.
Sufjan spoke about the song and video in a press release, “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.”
Photo credit: Sharon Alagna