Sufjan Stevens’ Tribute Songs to Tonya Harding Are Glacially Pretty

“[She] was just an ordinary woman with extraordinary talent and a tireless work ethic who set out to do her very best,” writes Stevens in an essay about the songs.

Sufjan Stevens is the indie folk Frederick Wiseman, (though genre probably means nothing to him at this point) taking the mundane or niche and elevating it into something near-transcendent. To close out a pretty good year for himself, Stevens has shared a new single called “Tonya Harding” that’s dedicated to the titular figure skating champion who was banned for life from the sport after being involved in an attack on rival skater Nancy Kerrigan. There’s a Margot Robbie-starring biopic about her out this week, but Sufjan had apparently been wanting to make a song about Harding since 1991, as he writes in a lengthy essay accompanying the song on Bandcamp.

“She’s a complicated subject for a song partly because the hard facts of her life are so strange, disputable, heroic, unprecedented, and indelibly American,” he says. Stevens was evidently so moved that he recorded *Frank Ocean voice* two versions of the song. What’s presumably the main recording is in the key of D major and drifts atop one of Stevens’ patented electronic soundscapes. The second, a semitone higher in E-flat major, is a sparkling piano ballad with different chord variations compared to the “D” version. Both versions are hilariously beautiful, magical pieces of music, which again is par for the course for Stevens. Listen to the D major version of “Tonya Harding” above and the E-flat major version below.

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