The song, like the full album, is an indictment of a world crumbling around us—and a roadmap out of here. According to Stevens, the foundations of the record are “a call for personal transformation and a refusal to play along with the systems around us."
“I was dumbfounded by the song when I first wrote it,” he says. “Because it felt vaguely mean-spirited and miles away from everything else on Carrie & Lowell. So I shelved it.
“But when I dug up the demo a few years later I was shocked by its prescience. I could no longer dismiss it as angry and glib. The song was clearly articulating something prophetic and true, even if I hadn’t been able to identify it at the time. That’s when I saw a clear path toward what I had to do next.”
He says he then re-recorded it and spent the next two years writing and recording the accompanying material which would make up the rest of The Ascension, created almost entirely by himself on his computer, working with a drum machine and a handful of synthesizers.
Hear "America" below.