Published Apr 19, 2020In 2003, Sufjan Stevens began an enormous undertaking following the release of his highly-acclaimed record, Michigan, proclaiming that he planned to write an album for every state in America, calling it the "Fifty States Project" — a plan he later admitted was more promotional gimmick than actual commitment. Nearly 17 years later, that project is finally complete. Well, sort of.
Comedian, A.V. Club contributor and self-proclaimed "not a huge Sufjan fan," Joey Clift, has crowdsourced his own "Fifty States Project" and has released a massive collection of new albums dedicated to 26 States so far. The remaining albums are set to be released later this month.
"Sufjan Stevens said he was going to make an album for all 50 US states, but he gave up after 2 albums because he's a coward," Clift wrote in a statement. "Now, I'm banding together with the goofs of the internet while we're all under quarantine to finish this project once and for all."
Clift admits he took on the project to "dunk" on Stevens, as well as "give the internet the catharsis it'd wanted for almost a decade." So, full disclosure, most of the albums don't exactly pay homage to Stevens's unique soft-spoken rock/pop/electronic sound. It's pretty clear through most of Clift's project that his primary intention is to make fun of Stevens.
Nevertheless, you can listen to Clift's Wisconsin album, as well as read his full statement about the project, below.
Head over to Clift's "Our Fifty States Project" SoundCloud page to hear the rest.
Sufjan Stevens is a popular pop / folk musician who, in the mid 2000s, proclaimed that he was going to release an album for all 50 States and called it his "50s States Project." This got a ton of press when he announced it and he got even more press after he gave up after 2 albums, calling the whole thing "a joke."
Sufjan's fans were pretty upset and are honestly, 10 years later, still pretty upset about this because they'd wanted him to write an album about their state. There was even an in-depth and heavily shared article on "The Ringer" about it last year.
I'm not a huge Sufjan fan, but I've always thought the gall of him committing to, and then immediately abandoning his project was really funny and about five years ago, I came up with the idea to just get a bunch of friends together and finish his 50 States Project in a weekend or some other extremely short span of time to dunk on him and give the internet the catharsis it'd wanted for almost a decade. I'd even pitched the idea to a few comedy websites I'd worked at and the general consensus was that the idea was funny and should be done, but it always got bogged down in the sheer logistics of like, "even to haphazardly slap together 50 albums or 400 to 500 tracks worth of music would take a lot of work and a lot of people."
So the idea sat, written on a dusty notecard on my desk that I'd look at every few months and try to think of how I'd even begin to pull this thing off. As recently as December, I was thinking about pitching it to a few places as a podcast. Finally, last month a show I was writing on got shut down due to the whole global pandemic we're all in and while driving home from my last day on the job, it hit me. I could crowdsource it! All of my comedy and artist friends are now unemployed. Theaters are closed so there aren't any live shows. All of these creative people are stuck inside with nothing to do so now was the perfect time to pull the trigger.
So, last month I set up an e-mail account and tweeted that I was looking for songs to finish Sufjan Stevens 50 States Project and within a few hours I'd already had almost 200 e-mails from people from all over the world who wanted to contribute a song and we were at the races. A good mix of talented musicians, established comedians (James Adomian provided a few tracks for our Minnesota album), artists and creative folks who just wanted something to do. The whole process has been a lot of work. I spend anywhere from 4 to 7 hours per day replying to e-mails, organizing songs and states on a spreadsheet, approving songs and putting together set lists, but in this crazy quarantine, it's honestly given me a lot of stability while I wait for the entertainment industry to start up again. A lot of folks, when they send me their songs, e-mail me a sincere thank you for giving them something to do instead of focusing on the news and on top of that, I get the joy of knowing I'm maybe annoying a moderately popular folk musician.