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Trivia / Sufjan Stevens

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  • Approval of God: Inverted; his song "Tonya Harding", an empathetic but honest ode to the ice skater, was met with less-than-warm reception from Harding herself.
  • Attention Deficit Creator Disorder: Outside of his career as a solo musician, he has been a member of the alternative / comedy hip-hop group Sisyphus; has written music for the New York City Ballet; has collaborated on a classical music project commissioned by the Dutch concert hall Muziekgebouw Eindhoven; has contributed to the work of (and appeared in concert with) The National; has done movie soundtracks (Round-Up, Call Me by Your Name) and directed music videos.
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  • Breakup Breakout: In the late 1990s, Stevens was a member of Marzuki, a college band that enjoyed minor success in Michigan. The band failed to make it big and eventually broke up, but Stevens and bandmate Shannon Stephens (no relation) went on to have successful solo careers.
  • Copiously Credited Creator: He has his own label, which he co-founded, and is normally the one writing, recording, engineering and producing his albums (although the exact percentage of his contributions varies from record to record). In addition, he's also served as the art director / graphic designer on some of his album covers, and has directed animated music videos for his label.
  • Creator's Apathy: He has stated in interviews that the commissioned project The B.Q.E. sapped his creative strength and led to a temporary Creator Breakdown.
  • Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: Until the 2018 vinyl release (which sadly does not include all the extras), Songs for Christmas existed only in digital form or as a deluxe box-set collection (5 discs, 40 pages of liner notes, including guitar tabs and short stories, an animated music video, a poster with a full-page comic strip on the back, and stickers).
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    • The soundtrack for The B.Q.E. can either be purchased as a CD / DVD combo pack (including the soundtrack album, the complete film, and a Viewmaster reel) or as a vinyl album (with an accompanying comic book).
  • Orphaned Reference: Carrie & Lowell features numerous references to Oregon, as do a number of tracks released in 2017, including the the outtakes from The Greatest Gift: "Exploding Whale" (about a whale carcass detonated in Florence, Oregon), "The Hidden River of My Life" (a reference to Rogue River), "City of Roses", "Wallowa Lake Monster", "Mystery of Love" (which again namedrops Rogue River) and "Tonya Harding" (about the eponymous, Portland-born figure skater). This is because Carrie & Lowell was supposed to be a revival of the Fifty States project tackling Oregon, until Sufjan's co-producer convinced him otherwise.
    • "My Rajneesh," released in 2020 but apparently written alongside the other Carrie & Lowell-era material, also concerns the Oregon-based Rajneeshpuram commune.
  • Referenced by...:
    • Snow Patrol name-drop him in "Hands Open" (mispronouncing his name in the process):
      Put Sufjannote  Stevens on / And we'll play your favorite song
      "Chicago" bursts to life / And your sweet smile remembers you.
    • The Roots have used "Redford" (from Michigan) as the lead-in to the instrumental piece concluding their 2011 Concept Album Undun. Redford Stevens, the fictional character at the center of the album's narrative, is also named after Sufjan.
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    • His music has been frequently sampled in hip-hop, e.g. by Social Club Misfits, Kaleb Mitchell, and Asaiah Ziv.
      • Kendrick Lamar sampled "All for Myself" in "Hood Politics".
      • Logic also sampled "All for Myself" in "Life of a Don".
      • Mac Miller sampled "Vesuvius" in "Donald Trump".
      • Chiddy Bang sampled "Chicago" in "All Things Go".
      • Lecrae sampled "Djohariah" in "Can't Stop Me Now".
    • Childish Gambino, going under his DJ alias mcDJ, made an album called Illin-Noise that consisted of several songs from Illinois sampled into beats. He also mentions Stevens in the track "Fire Fly":
      No live shows, cause I can't find sponsors
      For the only black kid at a Sufjan concert
    • Mentioned in Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda (the protagonist of the novel is a fan).
    • In You're the Worst, Gretchen stops Sam from investing "in Sufjan Stevens's broth restaurant".
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Sufjan reportedly sent his song "Tonya Harding" to the music supervisors of I, Tonya, but they couldn't find a proper way to utilize it in the film.
    • As mentioned above, Carrie & Lowell was at one point conceived as an Oregon-based follow-up to Illinois and Michigan.
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