Onstage in concert, Sufjan Stevens strives to make the stage his playground, often donning neon outfits and massive angel wings for her performances. The grandeur complements his intimate music, which frequently blooms into sheer grandeur from tiny moments.
And at the 2018 Oscars, Stevens had to keep it a little more conservative, style wise. No angel wings, but he recruited pals St. Vincent, bluegrass experimentalist Chris Thile (of Punch Brothers), folk-R&B maestro Moses Sumney, and others for a beautiful and lightly whimsical rendition of his aching "Mystery of Love," from Call Me By Your Name.
In a pink-and-black striped jacket and massive bowtie and flanked by his musical cohorts (including Casey Foubert and James McAlister), Stevens anchored the sweet song that plays in the film while Elio and Oliver explore the sprawling beauty of the Italian countryside (and their mutual connection).
Thile, a master of sprightly finger work, handled the song's spindly mandolin lead, while St. Vincent, a guitar virtuoso, lent atmospheric electric work. The only bad part was the song's clipped runtime, which was likely cut down due to broadcast constraints. But "Mystery of Love" — the best Carrie & Lowell b-side that never was — sounded as haunting as ever up on the big stage, as Stevens's whisper resounded throughout the Dolby Theatre.
"Mystery of Love" is nominated for Best Original Song at this year's awards show, alongside Coco's "Remember Me," The Greatest Showman's "This Is Me," Mudbound's "Mighty River," and Marshall's "Stand Up for Something." He contributed this song, as well as the haunting "Visions of Gideon" (which totally should've been nominated instead, if we're being real) and a re-worked version of his 2010 song "Futile Devices."
Even if he doesn't walk away with a statue, Stevens can go home tonight knowing that for approximately three minutes, it seemed like time stood still while he sang. Blessed be the mystery of love.