Sufjan Stevens Compares the Oscars to ‘a Horrifying Scientology End-of-Year Prom’

Oscar-nominated for "Call Me By Your Name," the singer/songwriter also said his performance at the ceremony was "traumatizing."
Sufjan Stevens performs "Mystery of Love" from the film "Call Me By Your Name" at the Oscars on Sunday, March 4, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Sufjan Stevens
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Sufjan Stevens is the darling of “Call Me By Your Name” fans thanks to the singer/songwriter’s contributions to the soundtrack, including his Oscar nominee for Best Original Song, “Mystery of Love.” At the 2018 Academy Awards ceremony, Stevens performed the romantic ballad onstage alongside collaborators St. Vincent and Moses Sumney, but in a new interview with The Guardian, he called the experience “traumatizing.”

“Honestly, one of the most traumatizing experiences of my entire life,” Stevens said of his live performance at the 90th annual Oscar ceremony that he likened to “a horrifying Scientology end-of-year prom.” The Oscars, he said, represent “everything I hate about America and popular culture.”

With 26 million viewers, the Oscars represented massive exposure for the shy musician revered for his plaintive and experimental folk-electronic music. Even so, it’s an experience he doesn’t want to repeat. Stevens, whose new studio album “The Ascension” dropped September 25, said he felt out of his skin amid Hollywood A-listers.

“I didn’t want to have anything to do with that world and that culture,” he said. “I don’t want to be part of any room full of adults hemming and hawing over plastic trophies.” (Each eight-pound statuette is actually made of solid bronze, and plated in 24-karat gold.)

The winning song was “Remember Me” from the movie “Coco.” Stevens was also up against Mary J. Blige for the song “Mighty River” from “Mudbound,” Diane Warren for “Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall,” and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul for “This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman.” Prior to his Oscar nomination, Stevens received one Grammy nomination, also for “Mystery of Love” in the Best Song Written for Visual Media category.

“Mystery of Love” is one of three songs from Stevens featured on the soundtrack for Luca Guadagnino’s lush romance “Call Me By Your Name,” including the teary goodbye to love that closes the film, “Visions of Gideon,” and a remix of his track “Futile Devices,” a song off his 2016 record “The Age of Adz.”

Stevens’ ambitious new album “The Ascension” has been earning the singer/songwriter some of his best reviews since 2015’s “Carrie & Lowell.”

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