Music

Sufjan Stevens Has Released The World’s Saddest Christmas Song, ‘Lonely Man Of Winter’

Not-so happy holidays!

You might think you love Christmas, but you don’t love it (can’t love it, could never love it) like Sufjan Stevens does.

Between emotionally shattering releases and conceptual collaborative albums about the solar system or the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, he’s recorded 100 Christmas tunes across two five-CD collections dedicated to the holiday season. Better make that 101: today, Stevens has graced us with ‘Lonely Man Of Winter’, which we’re going to call The World’s Saddest Christmas song.

Where Stevens’ ambiguous lyrics usually lead us to ask if the song’s about God or being gay, here he’s offered a seasonal twist, imagining a ‘lonely man’ who could be a lover, Santa Claus, or both.

Backed with the shimmering, ever-searching-for-meaning synths we heard across last year’s The Greatest Gift b-sides collection, Stevens alternates lines with singer Melissa Mary Ahern, “imagining theories” about Mr. Claus’ day. As it continues, it’s clear they’re singing about a frosty lover (‘the loneliness of holding your hand’) who they’re trying to thaw through understanding their inner thoughts — a futile device, if ever there was one.

The song ends with the couple at Christmas, Stevens pleading for them to pretend they had something better than what they have. And a happy holidays to you too.

Still, the song is a gift: it’s a rarity that was first recorded in 2007 but never received a release. Instead, it was given to one fan, Alec Duffy, as reward for a Christmas song competition — while Duffy played it at listening parties across the world (via Pitchfork), this is the first time it’s been heard widely since. It’s packaged with a remix by Doveman, who produced the track, as well as Duffy’s ‘Every Day Is Christmas’, his competition-winning track.

Listen to the track and its accompaniments below.