Sufjan Stevens’ New Song “America” Deserves Its Full Title

This new song “America,” released July 3 by Sufjan Stevens, is his first new solo music since his 2015 album Carrie & Lowell. It’s the first track from an album due in September titled The Ascension.

But we would do well to consider what ought to be its complete titled based on its refrain:

“Don’t do to me what you did to America.”

Stevens explains:

This song was written during the sessions of the album Carrie and LowellI was dumbfounded by the song when I first wrote it. Because it felt vaguely mean-spirited and miles away from everything else on Carrie and Lowell. So I shelved it. But when I dug up the demo a few years later I was shocked by its prescience. I could no longer dismiss it as angry and glib. The song was clearly articulating something prophetic and true, even if I hadn’t been able to identify it at the time.”

Sufjan Stevens called “America” “a protest song against the sickness of American culture in particular.”

Is it love you’re after?
A sign of the flood or one more disaster?
Don’t do to me what you did to America
Don’t do to me what you did to America

I have loved you, I have grieved
I’m ashamed to admit I no longer believe
I have loved you, I received
I have traded my life for a picture of the scenery
Don’t do to me what you did to America
Don’t do to me what you did to America

I give it all up in laughter
The sign of the cross awaiting disaster
The dove flew to me like a vision of paranoia
The dove flew to me like a vision of paranoia

I have loved you like a dream
I have kissed your lips like a Judas in heat
I have worshipped, I believed
I have broke your bread for a splendor of machinery
Don’t look at me like I’m acting hysterical
Don’t look at me like I’m acting hysterical

I have worshipped, I have cried
I have put my hands in the wounds on your side
I have tasted of your blood
I have choked on the waters, I abated the flood
I am broken, I am beat
But I will find my way like a Judas in heat
I am fortune, I am free
I’m like a fever of light in the land of opportunity
Don’t do to me what you did to America
(Don’t do to me what you do to yourself)

Don’t do to me what you did to America
(Don’t do to me what you do to yourself)

Don’t do to me what you did to America
(Don’t do to me what you do to yourself)

Don’t do to me what you did to America
(Don’t do to me what you do to yourself)

Don’t do to me what you did to America
Don’t do to me what you did to America
Don’t do to me what you did to America
Don’t do to me what you did to America

Don’t do to me what you did to America
Don’t do to me what you did to America
Don’t do to me what you did to America
Don’t do to me what you did to America

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