Words by Joe Booley.
Just two weeks after the release of Sufjan Stevens’ mixtape, ‘The Greatest Gift’, we are treated to a surprise release of the new single, ‘Tonya Harding’. With two versions of the track, Sufjan displays two sides sides of himself.
In ‘Tonya Harding (in D major)’, we are greeted with the smooth electronic vibe displayed in his ‘Carrie & Lowell: Live’ album. With the lyrical content being about the famous figure skater, Sufjan discusses Tonya’s upbringing by referring to her as ‘Portland White Trash’, and the various scandals she was involved in throughout her career.
Due to Tonya’s sudden rise to fame, she was under great scrutiny from the press, figure skating committees, making it incredibly difficult to validate herself within such a sport. But in the singles description Stevens’ talks about how extraordinary Harding was, with not only being one of the greatest figure skaters at the time, but also a race car driver, boxer and even in a band for one performance only all by the time she turned 30.
The second track of the two is ‘Tonya Harding (in Eb Major)’, a more subdued and understated version of the more electronic track. Leaving Sufjan’s vocals bare and accompanied by gorgeous piano, similar to that of ‘John My Beloved’ and ‘The Owl and the Tanager’. This allows the lyrics to stand out more than the previous multi layer version, ending the tracks with the lyrics ‘You’re my shining American Star’.
Ending with this line states exactly what Tonya Harding is, with her rise to fame from nothing, many people would say she lived ‘the American Dream’, maybe she did, maybe she didn’t, but either way, her life inspired this gorgeous biographical single from the always unpredictable Sufjan Stevens.