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I think Sufjan Stevens Drives a Subaru

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Sufjan Stevens playing Banjo while wearing wings for some reason
Photo: Joe Lencioni via CC

Hit indie musician Sufjan Stevens is known for many things: a soft voice, personal — if not always literal — lyrics, and a penchant for wearing flamboyant outfits during live performances. Unlike other celebrities who lead high-profile lives, though, Stevens has kept many of his personal details close to the (sequined) vest — including what kind of car he drives.

I posit that it’s a Subaru. Here’s why.

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Sufjan’s revealing lyrics

As I mentioned above, not all of Sufjan Stevens’ lyrics are meant to be taken at face value. For instance, most of the lines in “The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us” are open to interpretation. Similarly, the passage from “The Only Thing” in which he says, “the only thing that keeps me from driving this car, half-light, jack knife into the canyon at night,” probably isn’t a direct reference to any desire to take a header off of a cliff.

However, if we choose to take some of his writing literally, we may be able to find our first clue. You see, there’s a moment in the song “Eugene,” where Stevens recalls a moment from his childhood at a local pool. “The man who taught me to swim, he couldn’t quite say my first name. Like a father he led community water on my head and he called me Subaru.”

Is this a simple reference to the fact that Sufjan isn’t the easiest name to pronounce? Perhaps. Is it a hint as to Stevens’ preferred automaker? I choose to believe so.

Connecting the dots

Forgive me if I come across as a person standing in front of a corkboard strewn with thumb-tacked polaroids connected by red twine, but Mr. Stevens has other connections to the automotive industry — particularly Subaru.

To start, Sufjan Stevens was born in Detroit, Michigan — formerly the automotive capital of the world. However, Subaru of America’s headquarters is in New Jersey, and Stevens — to my knowledge — has never lived in that state. In order to find the connection, we must look higher.

Subaru’s logo is based on the Pleiades — a cluster of stars also known as the Seven Sisters. In 2017, Sufjan Stevens contributed to an album called “Planetarium,” which featured songs for all of our solar system’s planets. Oxford defines a planetarium as “a building in which images of stars, planets, and constellations are projected on the inner surface of a dome for public entertainment or education.”

If you unshackle yourself from the bonds of logic, it all starts to make sense. Stevens was born in the former car manufacturing capital of the world. A man once called him Subaru. The award-winning automaker’s logo could theoretically be seen in a planetarium — a word that shares a name with an album to which Stevens contributed. He even released a record in 2004 called “Seven Swans,” the same number of stars in the Pleiades.

Does this sound like some sort of automotive numerology? Well, yes. Is it all probably a coincidence tenuously connected by assumptions and the result of disregarding logic? Almost certainly.

Does Sufjan Stevens drive a Subaru? Yes. I’ve proven it with science.

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