Artist – Sufjan Stevens
Album – Illinois
Year – 2005
Genre – Indie Pop/Indie Folk
Indie folk hero Sufjan Stevens is a hard man to pin down. Pitchfork (whom I usually have a strong opinion about) said in a review that his music was just as challenging to deconstruct as his incredibly song song titles. I’m not too well acquainted with a lot of his material, but this song is certainly an interesting one to start with. “The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts” features wild shifts in instrumental passages, but truly shows off Stevens’ songwriting chops and by the time it ends it really leaves a lasting impact.
The first 23 seconds of the song are a rocking and rolling riff that energizes you and gets you pumped…and then it promptly shifts to a beautiful finger picked guitar line and gentle woodwinds. This is the kind of abruptness that you’ll need to get used to in this song, but once Stevens starts to sing, you’ll forget about the awkward changes in tone.
Stevens’ voice is soft, earnest, kind, and genuine. The melody is absolutely lovely, and his soft tone lulls you into a great sense of calm and peace. To prove how memorable it was for me, I heard this song used in a film I recently saw, and I had to know what song it was. It was so beautiful in context with the film, but by itself it’s an incredibly moving song. Anyways, the gentle guitar is really all that’s needed to back the subtle softness of his voice.
The chorus parts in this song feature a chorus that backs Stevens up, and it adds a unique texture and unity to the whole song. It makes the message of the song more universal somehow, and I think it was a wise choice on his part. The horns are also a nice touch, and a signature aspect of Stevens’ catalog.
However, as the next verse begins, it becomes apparent that the verses are the main powerhouses of the song. His voice is just so emotional in its softness and honesty. You can’t help but be moved by the vocals in this song.
Another quick transition to rocking out and choral vocals, and then quickly back into a verse interlude with those horns. It’s actually the dynamic between these two parts, the loud and the soft, that make the song so impacting.
The final verse of the song is the best of them all. Stevens takes his pitch up for the final lines to great effect, and the transition from soft chorus to the final loud and triumphant refrain is actually one of the best parts of the song. The melancholic mood of the verses translates into joy and celebration. There’s a final fade out with choral voices and backing instrumentals before the song ends the opposite of how it began; quiet and reserved. The whole mood and feel of the song is directly impacted by the lyrics…
…which I will talk about now. Stevens is known for his Christian lyrical themes, whether overt or subtle. However, not diminishing the merit of Christian allusions, I see this song as a celebration of everything good in the world, and a lesson to us about how much we really can give to each other in love and in life. The verses are more atmospheric and detail feelings of sadness and love we find in our lives. They’re the most vocally beautiful, and very open to interpretation, so I’d be curious to hear what you all think! However, I find certain lines from the chorus particularly beautiful:
Only a real man can be a lover
We celebrate our sense of each other
We have a lot to give one another
To me, these speak about the potential for love and kindness in all of us. It takes a lot of growing up and searching to find it within ourselves to be a giving soul, but once we realize that, we can give so much to others and the world, which I think is Stevens’ true message of the song.
So after this review, I’m going to do ANOTHER Sufjan Stevens review. I’ve never done the same artist back to back, so this should be interesting, but I thought I’d give something new a try! So you can expect another Sufjan song for the next review, but which one? It’s a mystery! Well, until it’s up at least. But thanks for reading, as always. Be sure to let me know what you think of this song!