It’s a good year to be a Sufjan Stevens fan. Not only did he write two brand-new songs for the critically-acclaimed (and possible Oscar contender) Call Me By Your Name, but he also released The Greatest Gift, a mixtape of outtakes and remixes from his 2015 album Carrie & Lowell. Now, he’s shared another new song: a gorgeous, meditative ode to disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding.
Stevens has shared two different versions of the single “Tonya Harding,” and in an essay on the figure skater, he writes that he’s been trying to write a song about Harding since he first saw her skate in 1991. He adds that his song is unrelated to the upcoming biopic I, Tonya, starring Margot Robbie: “I sent it to the music supervisors but they couldn’t find a way to use it,” the musician noted in a blog post.
“I admit, early drafts of this song contained more than a few puns, punch lines and light-hearted jabs — sex tapes and celebrity boxing make for an entertaining narrative arc,” Stevens writes. “But the more I edited, and the more I meditated, and the more I considered the wholeness of the person of Tonya Harding, I began to feel a conviction to write something with dignity and grace, to pull back the ridiculous tabloid fodder and take stock of the real story of this strange and magnificent America hero. At the end of the day, Tonya Harding was just an ordinary woman with extraordinary talent and a tireless work ethic who set out to do her very best. She did that and more. I hope the same can be said of us all.”
Above, listen to one version of “Tonya Harding,” set to footage of her 1991 U.S. Figure Skating Championships performance, and read Stevens’ full essay here.