Sufjan Stevens’ newest album The Ascension saw Stevens explore a brand new electro-pop sound. The album’s lyrics are complex and delve into deep questions about the American dream, like on “America” when Stevens sings, “I have loved you, I have grieved / I’m ashamed to admit I no longer believe.” Riddled with intricacies and thought-provoking lyrics, it is the type of album that deserves visually interesting and dynamic music videos enhancing the album’s meaning. Sadly, “Tell Me You Love Me” fails to generate any meaning in its music video.
The video starts with a black screen before it’s illuminated by tiny, multi-colored lights—purple, orange, green, and red—rhythmically flashing along to the music’s beat. This visual returns later on in the video, but instead of flashing in time with the music, the lights sparkle haphazardly off beat. As the lights dim in and out on the screen, Stevens’ vocals build before cutting to a new scene. Although these lights only take up a small portion of the song, they aren’t visually interesting enough for their inclusion to be justified.
Switching to a white backdrop, figures are depicted writhing and laying within a white void—and these visuals continue for nearly the whole song. The dancers’ emotions, depicted through their languished movements, match the melancholy tone of Stevens’ lyrics. As Stevens sings, “My love, I feel myself unraveling,” dancers roll across the floor and attempt to pick themselves up from the despair they feel. The music video is intercut with a few shots of paintings and a fox in a snowy forest, along with a return of the opening light visuals. With recurring visuals, the music video fails to maintain the viewer’s attention the longer it goes on, but it also seems to beg the viewer to find some deeper meaning in the nonsense.
“Tell Me You Love Me” is a very forgettable music video that just doesn’t have anything truly interesting. Stevens’ album deserves much more captivating videos to accompany it than this half-hearted attempt at depicting heartbreaking love through obscure scenes.
Photo Courtesy of Asthmatic Kitty Records