Other than the name, I know nothing of Tonya Harding. Sufjan Stevens, however, is a comparative scholar by the sounds of this eponymous single which, ‘years in the making’, comes accompanied by a 678-word essay on who he considers ‘one of the greatest figure skaters of her time,’ and in two keys.
The first variant, in D major, proves considerably more reminiscent of the melancholy majesty of The Age of Adz than it does anything the Michigan polymath has stitched his name tag to before or since, an icy excellence offset by spiriting lyrics of immense solidarity (“Tonya Harding, my friend/ Well this world is a bitch, girl/ Don’t end up in a ditch, girl/ I’ll be watching you close to the end,” and so on).
The precise same lyrics – but for one ‘or’ replacing an ‘and’ for purposes syllabic – of course still feature in Eb major, wherein hiemal, yet heartwarming keys slight enough so as not to forsake a trace in the softest of snow recall the introspective verisimilitude of both Carrie & Lowell and so many of Stevens’ skyscraping career high-points before it. But as per always, in intimacy, he makes his most becoming, comely moves, of which this particular rendition is most certainly one.
Tonya Harding is available now via Asthmatic Kitty.