Listen to Sufjan Steven’s New Song About Tonya Harding Called ‘Tonya Harding’

BY RELEVANT CULTURE December 06, 2017

Tonya Harding’s having her fifth or sixth moment in the pop culture conversation these days, with Margot Robbie’s highly anticipated biopic arriving soon. Sufjan’s new song isn’t associated with the movie at all (although Pitchfork says he offered it to them) but it is very good and very literal: a surprisingly gentle and sympathetic meditation on one of America’s most unique athletes.

In an accompanying essay posted to the Asthmatic Kitty website, Stevens explains his motivations behind the song, and it’s worth reading. “I’ve been trying to write a Tonya Harding song since I first saw her skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 1991,” he explains. He goes onto explain why he has a soft spot for Harding, who he calls a “strange and magnificent America hero.”

Tonya Harding’s dramatic rise and fall was fiercely followed by the media, and she very quickly became the brunt of jokes, the subject of tabloid headlines and public outcry. She was a reality TV star before such a thing even existed. But she was also simply un-categorical: American’s sweetheart with a dark twist. But I believe this is what made her so interesting, and a true American hero. In the face of outrage and defeat, Tonya bolstered shameless resolve and succeeded again and again with all manners of re-invention and self-determination. Tonya shines bright in the pantheon of American history simply because she never stopped trying her hardest. She fought classism, sexism, physical abuse and public rebuke to become an incomparable American legend.

You can read the whole thing here.