Sufjan Stevens Premieres ‘Video Game,’ Choreographed By and Starring TikTok Star Jalaiah Harmon (Creator of the ‘Renegade’ Dance)

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Rock Cellar Magazine

Sufjan Stevens is back with another new song, and “Video Game” has a heavily stylized new music video to boot — one featuring Jalaiah Harmon, the viral TikTok star responsible for the “Renegade” dance that has become a huge hit on the social media platform.

(Click here to pre-order Stevens’ new album, The Ascension, from our Rock Cellar Store).

Here’s the song/video, which was directed by Nicole Ginelli:

More on the song and video, from Stevens, Harmon and Ginelli:

“It’s unfortunate that we live in a society where the value of people is quantified by likes, followers, listeners and views,” says Sufjan. “So many people are seeking attention for the wrong reasons. I think we should all be doing our best work without looking for accolades or seeking reward. 

“The main takeaway of ‘Video Game’ for me is: your worth (invaluable) should never be based on other people’s approval (ephemeral).  Just be yourself.  Keep it real. Keep it moving. Do all things with absolute purity, love and joy. And always do your best. 

“Jalaiah epitomizes all of this and I’m truly inspired by her. So I thought, ‘what if we could get Jalaiah to star in a “dance video” about not wanting to star in a “dance video?”’  I’m so honored she agreed. She clearly owns it, and her work here is beautiful, poignant and true. 

“Her dance shows incredible energy, work-ethic and spirit. She is dancing for herself, not anyone else. Her choreography is sophisticated, nuanced, and fun. She is a star. She keeps it real. She keeps it moving. She keeps it true. What a blessing!”

“This was my first time being asked to create choreo for a whole song,” says Jalaiah. “So I was a little nervous in the beginning, but once I really broke the song into parts and listened to the lyrics over and over, I just put moves together that connected to the words and felt natural for me to do. I think I’m still really trying to get used to this kind of success, so I can’t really define it just yet. I just know that when you work hard and you treat others with kindness and fairness, good things come back to you.”

“I was inspired by how much Jalaiah loves to perform,” says Nicole. “She brings such a powerful and specific energy, it’s infectious. There are parallels between Sufjan’s story and song and Jalaiah’s story and her choreography. I wanted to make something defiantly joyous, and to show what it looks like to reclaim agency, strength and moves in order to take control of one’s own projections and imagery.”

“Video Game” is another preview of The Ascension, the new album from Stevens that will be out on Sept. 25 via Asthmatic Kitty Records. Previous singles have included “America,” an enthralling 12-minute composition that the acclaimed indie/folk singer/songwriter/producer shared in early July:

The b-side of that single is a track called “My Rajneesh,” which itself spans more than 10 minutes in length. The song won’t be included on the new album, though, and coupled with “America” the two tracks comprise Stevens’ new America EP.


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