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Futile Devices

a song analysis of Sufjan Stevens's 'Futile Devices' by Eman

art by Valerie @helgacores

Verse 1: “It's been a long, long time Since I've memorized your face It's been four hours now Since I've wandered through your place And when I sleep on your couch I feel very safe And when you bring the blankets I cover up my face” He talks about remembering his friends face as if he hadn’t seen for months or years. In reality, it had only been a couple of hours, since he visited his home. He then continues to claim how he feels safe sleeping on his friend’s sofa, and how he covers his face when the blankets are brought; possibly from embarrassment. Hook: “I do Love you I do Love you” He finally admits to his feelings and declares his love for his companion. Interlude: A hypnotic and repetitive rhythm layered from a piano and guitar. Possibly to emphasize how hes stuck in the same unforgiving state again and again. Verse 2: “And when you play guitar I listen to the strings buzz The metal vibrates underneath your fingers And when you crochet I feel mesmerized and proud” The singer expresses his admiration for his friend, particularly his hands; the way he’s able to excel at multiple activities and skills using his hands. It’s produces a juxtaposition between the ‘rough’ and ‘soft’ feelings; how he can create and manifest things from opposite matter. He’s filled with pride and completely captivated knowing his friend is so talented. Verse 3: “And I would say I love you But saying it out loud is hard So I won't say it at all And I won't stay very long” He loves the man but feels conflicted and ultimately decides not to tell him as he believes this is for the greater good of the relationship. He knows it’s difficult, he knows it’s painful but opts to go through with this plan anyway because he’s preparing to leave and escape in the near future. Bridge: “But you are the life I needed all along I think of you as my brother Although that sounds dumb” He expresses - or tries to – how this man is the joy and light he needed the entire time. He struggles to pin point the relationship because they’re just so close, does he see him as a brother? Or something more? He insists it sounds ‘dumb’ because he can’t find the line between a platonic and romantic relationship with him; is he projecting such strong feelings forcefully? Was this all in his head? Chorus: “And words are futile devices.” A single line to end the song – the only verse that conveys all his feelings. He finally arrives at the revelation, that, words themselves are destructive (futile) – such as the title of the song. The sentence conveys his stance in the situation; he’ll continue his relationship with him as it is, because, at the end of the day, not even an infinite amount of words can express his feelings. He loves his friend so much that, maybe, he won’t leave after all.


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