Song of the Day: Sufjan Stevens – Tonya Harding (in Eb Major)

Song of the Day, The Afternoon Show w/ Kevin Cole
photo by Andrea Morrison

By Michael Tedder

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Tonya Harding (in Eb Major)” by Sufjan Stevens, a single which is available via Asthmatic Kitty Records.

Sufjan Stevens – Tonya Harding (in Eb Major) (MP3)

Sufjan Stevens nagged himself an Oscar nomination for "Mystery of Love,” one of his contributions to the Call Me By Your Name soundtrack. While his song for the tender coming-of-age film is worthy, and we're crossing our fingers (Coco's Robert Lopez is a genius and all, but he's already an EGOT; let's spread the award love), if we lived in a saner world, Sufjan could well have been competing against himself this year.

Sufjan Stevens wrote the song "Tonya Harding" for the producers of the Margot Robbie-starring biopic I, Tonya, only to have the ignorant clods cruelly reject his work. What were they thinking? As always with Sufjan (give or take an outré dance album or symphonic ode to the BQE here and there), "Tonya Harding" is delicate and insightful and swooningly beautiful, and would only have improved the final cinematic project.

Ever thoughtful, Stevens had provided "Tonya Harding" in two keys. While he has fun with the embattered figure skater's public image ("Nancy Kerrigan’s charm/Well she took quite a beating/So you’re not above cheating/Can you blame her for crying?"), he also finds sympathy for a figure that has come to stand-in for a great deal of unresolved and distinctly American hang-ups about class hierarchies and sexism, offering her support as best as he can ("May God bless you with incense/You’re my shining American star").

You can hopefully see Stevens perform at the Oscars in March, and you can definitely watch the video for "Tonya Harding" below.

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