Doveman interviews Sufman for Salon.com:

THOMAS BARLETT: Why so many versions of “Chicago”? What is it particularly about that song that it needed so many incarnations?

SUFJAN STEVENS: It’s just a pop song. You know how sometimes there’ll be this great radio hit, and people will do covers of it, alternate versions — Madonna has a dance remix, a club mix, a radio mix, an acoustic version — I think it’s a part of that whole tradition. But I just did it all myself because I knew no one else would probably do it.

The curse has been that this is a song that I never really valued that much. I think the story behind the song is important to me, and the emotional intention is there, but the song itself, technically, is just so primitive: It’s just four chords, verse-chorus-verse-chorus, it’s very repetitive. There’s not much to it … which is probably why it’s so popular (laughs), because it appeals to the lowest common denominator.

TB: You’ve expressed surprise in the past that so many people have responded to your 50 states project. Do you think that’s possibly because we live in an era of singles and downloads, and in response there’s a real hunger for meaningful full-length albums?

SS: I think there’s a reduction in quality and a lowering of standards overall in art and music. I’m not sure what the cause of this is — maybe it’s television, advertising, pop culture — but there’s definitely a decrease in literacy rates and languages and endangered species lists are going up. There’s just, throughout the ages, a process of reduction and simplification. Maybe it’s a decline of civilization, and as there’s a proliferation of computers and technology, that the human mind is in decline.

TB: Are you being serious?

SS: Dude, I have no idea what I’m talking about.

Sufjan Stevens has 0 friends. ’Sup Suf? Too cool for MySpace?

Comments (46)
  1. Do you think he trims his pubes?

  2. Flumixed  |   Posted on Jul 13th, 2006 0

    I’ve been told by a credible source that he does shave his pubes but only with a string section.

    does that make sense??

  3. Alex  |   Posted on Jul 13th, 2006 0

    I agree with what he’s saying even if he doesn’t.

  4. christy  |   Posted on Jul 13th, 2006 0

    Saw this joke on a metafilter post on Sufjan yesterday:

    Q: How many Indy Rock hipsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    A: *sigh* I have this joke on vinyl.

  5. that’s pretty funny, but I don’t know if it’s as good as the headline.

  6. Darwin  |   Posted on Jul 13th, 2006 0

    And, according to myspace, apparently he’s a Canadian, too!

    (One more reason to hate the Canucks, eh?)

  7. Erk  |   Posted on Jul 13th, 2006 0

    Why all the shit about Sufjan? One minute everyone is hailing him as a God and the next you’re dissing his pubes. Do you not enjoy the music anymore?

  8. I like sufjan stevens.

  9. the punchline to the version of that hipsters-lightbulbs joke I heard was,

    “What? You don’t KNOW???”

  10. The hipster joke goes like this:

    “Hey, did you hear about that new thing?”

    “Wh-”

    “It SUCKS.”

  11. We kid ’cause we LOVE.

  12. pat  |   Posted on Jul 13th, 2006 0

    whats with the backlash against sufjan stereogum?? He goes from album of the year, to a pretentious douchebag in the span of a few months?

    Theres no hating necessary, sufjan is a ridiculously talented songwriter.

  13. Jaime  |   Posted on Jul 13th, 2006 0

    I think he’s kidding, pat. Obviously Sufjan is talented. There has been a bit of Sufjan overload lately, though.

  14. Its a simple song, but seriously who can’t love the Multiple Personality Disorder mix? You gotta love it.

    http://www.musictimes.com.au

  15. Yes, he is a pretentious douchebag. And a ridiculously talented songwriter. What I can’t laugh at him and enjoy his albums?

    Hey, try to name a great songwriter who isn’t a pretentious douchebag.

    It’s harder than you think.

  16. Hi guys,

    I wanted to set the record straight that being gay is wrong. I also want to say that activist judges are out of control. Here’s proof: http://www.theonion.com/content/node/30475?issue=4228&special=2004

  17. liv  |   Posted on Jul 13th, 2006 0

    yes, we kid because we love. sufjan is even more admirable because he thinks most of his stuff is shit, and because of the somewhat sufjan overload some say has been going on. it doesnt work with guys like james blunt because his stuff actually DOES suck.

  18. Bartles and James  |   Posted on Jul 14th, 2006 0

    so, does he shave his pubes or not?

    1. “The pre-Columbian Mississippian culture located near present-day Collinsville, Illinois danced with Saul Bellow as Abe Lincoln shaved Sufjan’s Balls”

  19. the truth  |   Posted on Jul 14th, 2006 0

    >>Hey, try to name a great songwriter who isn’t a pretentious douchebag.

    >>It’s harder than you think.

    Robert Pollard

  20. Little Man  |   Posted on Jul 14th, 2006 0

    >>Hey, try to name a great songwriter who isn’t a pretentious douchebag.>>

    Elton John?

  21. Todd  |   Posted on Jul 14th, 2006 0

    Jon Brion isn’t a pretentious douchebag. Neither, for that matter, is Sufjan. What is it that makes him pretentious, exactly? That he’s been popular for a year?

    As for the indie hipster jokes, I’ve got a great one none of you have heard yet.

  22. david bazaan is not a pretentious douchebag but he’s kind of a sissypants

  23. efs man  |   Posted on Jul 14th, 2006 0

    “Hey, try to name a great songwriter who isn’t a pretentious douchebag.

    It’s harder than you think.”

    Geoff Rickly, Jade Puget, Tom Petty, Dustin Kensrue

  24. Not trying to be a hater, folks, but I allmusic has a really well-written article on Mr. Stevens:

    A Case Against Sufjan Stevens

    Can’t help but agree with a lot of it.

  25. Christy  |   Posted on Jul 14th, 2006 0

    I love my Sufjan with the white-hot intensity of a thousand sons, but when he starts dissing himself I fell torn. I feel compelled to agree with whatever he says, yet he doesn’t want me to like him? Come find me rocking in a corner somewhere and slap me.

    Also, Todd: “As for the indie hipster jokes, I’ve got a great one none of you have heard yet.” Was fucking hilarious.

  26. Andrew  |   Posted on Jul 14th, 2006 0

    I’m extremely bored of him now. Two or three years ago I thought he was great, but this 50 states thing is already boring. It’s also boring hearing all these kids rant and rave about how great ‘Illinois’ is when its his worst album and they’re only really holding that opinion because he’s the next cool thing that they’re still way behind on.

    He’ll be forgotten faster than the Arcade Fire.

  27. Paul Westerberg  |   Posted on Jul 14th, 2006 0

    Who are Arcade Fire?

  28. Why do “indie boys” feel the need to diss on everything? Backlashes are so 1994.

  29. “It’s also boring hearing all these kids rant and rave about how great ‘Illinois’ is when its his worst album and they’re only really holding that opinion because he’s the next cool thing that they’re still way behind on.”

    You’re funny.

    Do you think it’s too soon to bring back fanny-packs?

  30. tom of myspace  |   Posted on Jul 14th, 2006 0

    Damn, not even Tom is his friend…and that’s me.

  31. Karl  |   Posted on Jul 14th, 2006 0

    Never liked Sufjan, never will.

  32. Sufjan admits? He must’ve done it with a violent roll of the eye, having made his foolery so obvious from the very beginning. If the world takes Sufjan too seriously, it’s the world’s fault. And I’m on Sufjan’s side on this one.

  33. Chris  |   Posted on Jul 14th, 2006 0

    Naa – he’s always been a pretentious douchebag, but it doesn’t mean we don’t like his music. What’s up with the”lowest common denominator” line?

  34. mrRsquared  |   Posted on Jul 14th, 2006 0

    sufjan is actually pretty cool. yeah… he did kinda burn out chicago with all these remixes, but he is still very talented. he may be the next big thing in the radio/pop world but we still gotta admitt we all once liked him.

  35. Mike  |   Posted on Jul 14th, 2006 0

    “he may be the next big thing in the radio/pop world but we still gotta admitt we all once liked him.”

    So is the implication here that once an artist becomes popular we should be ashamed that we enjoy his/her music?

    That, right there, is the definition of pretentious.

  36. Ashley  |   Posted on Jul 15th, 2006 0

    Why is Sufjan pretentious? Because he reads books?

  37. I love it when people get worked up about something you say on the internet. I wasn’t aiming for that reaction at all with my last comment, all I was pointing out was that he’s just repeating himself now, he needs to go back and take more of the ideas he had around the point of ‘year of the rabbit’ and come up with something slightly different rather than releasing the same thing over and over. I daren’t even touch the new thing he’s released. ‘Illinois’ obviously wasn’t planned as a double disc release, its quite clearly a way to get money out of the tracks he left off the album or ideas he’s had since. Every band writes at least five tracks more than the album holds, but rarely are they released as a seperate album, they’re usually left for b-sides, but I doubt Sufjan is going to release many singles (‘the dress looks nice on you’ will be enough for a couple more albums).

  38. just some guy  |   Posted on Jul 25th, 2006 0

    Of course Sufjan is pretentious… Just look at his overly long and unnecessary song names, the fact that his CDs are littered with short instrumentals of nothingness, half of A Sun Came!, the whole of Enjoy Your Rabbit, not to mention his whole 50 states project…

    doesn’t mean that he doesn’t make great music.

  39. olivia  |   Posted on Aug 12th, 2006 0

    myspace is owned by fox. data mining.

  40. bennet  |   Posted on Dec 29th, 2006 0

    why do i get the feeling that most of the people bagging on sufjan are criticizing their own kind? everybody who’s going on about how “he’s boring, he’s sub-par, he’s a pretentious douchebag” are just as bad as the hipsters they’re denouncing. you realized that sufjan got cool, so you take your cue and hop on the hipster-train, making up reasons as to why he’s no longer a good artist. which is pathetic, because you’re doing what you’re making jokes about. when somebody’s so deathly afraid of being with ‘the scene’, you can tell that their strive towards a cheap sense individuality is pointless.

    and at first, yeah, i though he was pretentious, but in order for anybody to play pretend, there has to be something to mimic. that means there’s got to be one genuine sufjan out there. what makes you think it’s not.. oh, say.. sufjan stevens himself?

  41. rose  |   Posted on Jan 5th, 2007 0

    Sufjan did seem a bit rude at his concert.
    but you can’t not like him. or his music. whichever.

  42. Jordan  |   Posted on Jan 23rd, 2007 0

    i wouldn’t go as far as saying he’s pretentious. he is very ambitious, however.

    “As for the indie hipster jokes, I’ve got a great one none of you have heard yet.” best joke ever.

    ps. Bono seems like a pretentious douchebag… but he’s not.

  43. haha, great

  44. I don’t know what you’re talkign about Sufjan Being Hipster, as far as I’m concerned he’s the opposite of all that, That’s the very reason I love him! No one knows that there actually is great bluegrass indie underground. Then again I am in Austrlia so that may explain my total lack of knowing what this argument is about, and to all you who say Chicago was over done and that he’s a douche, Screw You! The man kicks your ass at anything you would even try to do….. You try thinking up like 5 versions of the same song. Douches.

  45. amanda  |   Posted on Sep 23rd, 2007 0

    what ever happened to just enjoying music and leaving it at that?

  46. Ben  |   Posted on Jun 17th, 2008 0

    These comments would make great fodder for a satire on hipsterdom. Although, I guess the point of hipsterdom is that it sort of transcends parody, because its core psychology is basically just self-loathing that can only be temporarily assauged by discovering and fetishising something new. Hence, the whole point is just a hyper-cycle of adulation and derision. So I guess that’s what they mean when they say “ironic” hipster. Yeah. Someone should write that book.

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