Sufjan Stevens on Jimmy Fallon

A year ago, our own Brandon Stosuy interviewed Sufjan Stevens about art, the internet, and lots of other stuff. Note this passage:

STOSUY: I’ve never seen you play any Late Night TV shows. Everyone does those now. You just not want to do them?

STEVENS: I don’t understand why bands do that. It seems really tacky to me. I get asked all the time .Those shows are just promoting insipid comedies. Who watches those shows? And whoever does-I don’t think my music would speak to those people. I don’t even want those people to hear what I’m doing. I think musicians should stay off television generally.

Guess he changed his mind.

The nervy, synthy “Too Much” was Sufjan Stevens’ solo network TV debut on Friday night’s Late Night. Jimmy Fallon pronounced Age of Adz correctly and Soof’s band wore the spacey costumes we’ve peeked at recent live shows. ’Too much’ in the best way. Get your funk on, learn the choreography:

(Thanks Audio Perv for the vid.)

The Age of Adz marked Sufjan’s best sales week to date. Buy it from

Comments (42)
  1. Half his label is on stage.

  2. Spacejam Stevens

  3. He’s not fucking around.

  4. Age Of Adz=My Dark Twisted Fantasy in so many ways.

  5. it does seem really tacky… when you have your backup singers trying to do a cursory choreographed dance.

  6. im sorry but even the soofy fanboys/gals have to admit…this was not very good.
    and in case you haven’t noticed, a lot of his material is just contrived embelishments over simple stuff he’s done already…i know because i’ve listened to it all and can think objectively

    • I really have to disagree that “a lot of his material is just contrived embellishments over simple stuff.” Clearly his time focusing on “classical” composition has factored into his songwriting and arranging. I’m not suggesting that you can’t think objectively, I’m just strongly disagreeing. “Age Of Adz,” for example, develops fantastically amidst the chaos and becomes one of the most gorgeous things he’s done, although at first listen, it’s insanity. If anything, his work is much more subtle now, which sounds crazy because it seems so ostentatious, but if you listen to Michigan, the brass parts are basically scales, and a lot of the strings on it (and Illinoise) are pretty basic, too. Same with the woodwinds, backup vocals, etc. Now he’s using synths, vocal arrangements, brass, and strings together to create counterpoint, countermelody, harmony, etc. in a much more exciting way.

      I just think his arrangements are far from “contrived embellishments.”

      And yes, that video is not very good (sorry for the diversion from your original point). I wish he’d drop the costumes and choreography, but he’s always trying to disguise his sincerity in some way (insane arrangements, for example).

    • This was not the best video, but I think a lot of that has to do with the “TV show” mixing. I’ve heard a lot of bands that just didn’t transfer well to the late night setting. I’ve no problem with the choreography or anything like that. I saw his show in Seattle, and I have to say that the songs were phenomenal and his dancing was awesome. I just think some stuff doesn’t transfer well to the telemundo, especially when you pack a dozen musicians into a tiny little stage like that.

  7. I would say the one guys headdress + glasses combo is too much

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  9. Its cool but wtf… like he says “Too much”…………

  10. Of course, Pitchfork being the only people worthy of comprehending Sufjan Stevens, said Fallon looked “baffled”. Um, not sure where that came from. Dude pushed the album up into the camera lens. Uh, I think he likes the music.

  11. Damn, I love Sufjan Stevens so much more after he released Age of Adz. Makes all of the other stuff seem awfully sweet and nice. New album is so incredible, and he is a complete stud.

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  13. i gave the record a less than average review a few weeks ago. i just didn’t get why he would want to move away from all the pop folk he had done so well in years past to do some weird aphex-twin-meets-the-boston-pops stuff in place of that. this performance changes that impression substantially. so good.

    • That’s a fair assessment. Of course you’re more-or-less arguing about “taste”. I think you’re right to say there’s some joking around going on here. I think that’s why he opens the album with the most Illinois-styled track. It’s a gag, with Stevens saying, “Okay, hooked ‘em. Now let’s drop the real shit I’ve been working on.” And then we get all that space-aged, Disney-fied, St. Vincent-like effusiveness. It’s just natural progression that Stevens would want to move away from his first record. Despite all the clanks, feedback, volcanic gurgles, synths, auto-tune, and Age of Aquarius craziness, his newest record is still incredibly melodic and moving. I kinda think this album is trying to do something similar to Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” — balancing melody and noise.

  14. This makes no sense at all and I’m drunk(and as a college kid waiting to get Age of Adz until this week when I’m home for break) this was super weird but awesome and made me think of Girl Talk for some odd reason…

  15. Soof gives good spectacle.

  16. The audio on TV show performances always sounds so crap! I really like this video cos it’s cool to see his band play live but I reckon it sounded so much better in person. I have seen alot of bands live and been blown away then watched tv performances and been underwhelmed… There’s no bass for starters!

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  18. “I don’t even want those people to hear what I’m doing.”


  19. Have to give it up to Randy Savage in the wind section. He nailed it!

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  21. People have no room for nuance anymore. Can’t an artist have a way over the top and ridiculous and distracting performance AND be really talented and make a fantastic album?

    • sure. looks like some people don’t feel like that’s the case here, though. i’m not saying he’s not talented, just that this performance is dumb. way over the top is notoriously hit or miss (hint: miss). they look like dickheads.

    • I agree. I also don’t think that Stereogum needed to point out a conversation they had with him a year ago. Sufjan has changed his style, he’s worked hard, he’s grown and he wanted to try something different, something he’s never done before. I think he, as well as all of us, are allowed to change our minds. Sufjan changed his mind, he wanted to do a late night show. Maybe with all the challenges he faced with his health over the past year and a bit, he decided to live a little, shake things up.

      Given the extensive change in sound and style, it should be obvious that he may do things he wouldn’t have done in the past.

  22. This is great.

  23. theres a new white rapper that is AWESOME! i heard he just got signed but not sure… check out his new song here its already getting radio airplay!

  24. He sounded way better live. Incredible live. I love this album, even with the imense differences. Its pretty awesome, no matter what he wanted from it.

  25. Soof: I watch late night shows AND i love your music.

    Deal with it.

  26. Some music is art, some is entertainment. Sufjan is an artist who happens to be very entertaining.As an artist he is really just trying to explore ideas and communicate them. I doubt he cares what people even think. I think he’s a flipping genious.

  27. Yeah, this isn’t a very good performance. Don’t get me wrong, i LOVE Sufjan. I’m saying this because i saw him live last month and he was far and above way better than this. This performance seems cramped and awkward, and he seems nervous, as his voice sounded a bit shaky to me, and he didn’t sound like that at the concert. I dunno what was up but yeah. It’s a shame, because he really is so fantastic live, and I feel like people will see this and dismiss his stuff as just strange. The choreography did not seem so weird on a big stage.

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