- Now that sung music is allowed, it's time to listen to the skaters' choices and award gold medals in a variety of categories.
In case you missed it, (you did not miss it), new rules enacted after the completion of the Sochi Olympics allow for sung music in figure skating and ice dancing routines. This means that while some skaters will stick with Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, others can get a bit more adventurous with their selections. This also means that I took it upon myself to endure the difficult task of binge-watching hours of figure skating and ice dancing and taking very serious notes about each song used. As a result, I've become a lot more familiar with the music from Moulin Rouge. I've also learned some confusing things (Wonderwall by...Paul Anka??...is a song?????) In an attempt to do something with all of this new, universe-expanding knowledge, I've handed out gold medals to the best song selections, the most confusing song selections, and other songs that simply deserve a medal, for men's, women's, pairs and ice dancing. This will be updated throughout the Olympics.
Gold medals for best song selections go to:
Let Me Think About It by Ida Carr and Fedde la Grande: Adam Rippon (USA)
All hail Adam Rippon. While other skaters in the men's short program chose more traditional, classical pieces, or slower, more alternative sung hits (or Kansas's Dust in the Wind, for some reason???), Rippon chose house music from Dutch DJ Fedde la Grande that could easily be blasting at a sprawling four-story European club at 5 a.m. The ability to have more flexibility with music choices this year has led to a few programs with energetic, lighter feels to them, but in terms of unadulterated joy, no others will quite measure up to what Rippon exudes when he's on the ice. He's America's breakout star of these Olympics, and sassing the judges to a song with the lyrics "You saying baby I'll take you for a ride/Let's get together, work it all night/I'll be your lover, your sexy affair" shows us all exactly why. Not to mention that the self-proclaimed "glamazon b--ch ready for the runway," landed every one of his jumps, too.
Coldplay medley: Paradise – Fix You – Paradise: Alex & Maia Shibutani (USA)
Navigating the Coldplay discography is a slippery slope. Clocks is too overplayed. The Scientist is too sad. Viva La Vida is too…stolen. But Paradise is the perfect mix of theater and crowd-pleasing pop. The beginning allows the siblings to show off their grace, as it builds from the stripped-down piano version, while the Fix You bridge teases the song long enough to make everyone momentarily bummed (tears stream! Down your face! When you lose something you can’t replace…”) and then quickly switches back toward the real climax: the big "PARA! PARA! PARADIIIISE! ending (complete with many Twizzles). The entire medley worked seamlessly with the grace of their dancing, and made me reevaluate my tapered feelings toward Coldplay for five minutes.
Moulin Rouge Medley — Scott Moir & Tessa Virtue (CANADA)
Yes, Moulin Rouge has become a bit of a cliché for skaters this year. (Baz Lurhmann even tweeted about how happy he is that everyone feels a connection to his music). Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim, the U.S. pair skaters, used Come What May on its own, which worked just fine for their routine. But music this dramatic needs a performance to match it, and who better to pull that off than beloved Canadian ice dancers and gold medal hopefuls Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, with their powerful whoa-there-I-need-to-fan-myself chemistry. Is the combination of Ewan McGregor belting out a version of The Police’s Roxanne, (with the emphasis on “you don’t have to sell your body to-the-niiiight”) and McGregor and Nicole Kidman’s duet about loving you until your dying day over the top? Absolutely. Does it work perfectly, as the song’s crescendo hits right as Moir balances Virtue on his legs and hoists her above him as she raises her arms triumphantly? You bet it does.
Ne Me Quitte Pas by Celine Dion — Carolina Kostner (ITALY)
Italians, man. They know how to embrace the drama. Carolina Kostner decided to try to make everyone in the arena as depressed as possible by picking Ne Me Quitte Pas (which the trusty commentators reminded us is not actually a love song, in case we couldn’t tell from the very ominous chord progression.) The Nina Simone version is even bleaker, but the Dion version is more fitting for the figure skating environment, and Kostner, dressed in appropriate red, silences and stuns the crowd with it—in a very good way.
Beatles medley: Come Together-Let It Be piano version-Help! — Matteo Rizzo (ITALY)
My ultimate dream would be for Matteo to go out there and troll everyone by skating to a Revolution #9 -- > Wild Honey Pie --> Bungalow Bill medley, but alas, he has common sense and functional eardrums. I could’ve lived without that I'm-putting-you-on-hold-music version of Let It Be in the middle, but finishing with Help! got people rockin’…and he looked amped, too. Putting the dad rock jokes aside (don’t worry, those will come later!), it is nearly impossible for anyone to not enjoy this selection.
Make it Rain by Ed Sheeran — Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (FRANCE)
I can’t say I would have expected the Ed Sheeran song selected at the 2018 Olympics would not be Shape of You, but this works even better. I don’t actually know this song well (Sheeran's is a cover of the original, by Foy Vance) but Ed Sheeran actually sounds…soulful in his rendition. It allowed James and Cipres to sass up their routine, which foregoed the traditional end-in-each-other’s-arms sequence for a saucy conclusion, as James slides away from Cipres.
Gold medal for "You just chose a Disturbed cover of a Simon and Garfunkel song in the Olympics" goes to:
Sound of Silence - Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (FRANCE)
It is incredibly weird to choose Sound of Silence for your Olympic figure skating routine. It is eons weirder to choose the heavy metal Disturbed cover version of Sound of Silence for your Olympic figure skating routine. Which is exactly what James and Cipres did in their free program. And it was mesmerizing.
Gold medals for “That was a very inventive use of your Latin short program song choices” go to:
I Like it Like That - Mondo Bongo by Joe Strummer — Kana Muramota and Chris Reed (JAPAN)
The short program for ice dancers during the team event at times felt repetitive, as the Latin music theme led to some repeats in choices (see: multiple versions of Despacito . So, it feels refreshing when skaters try to branch out a bit. Japan’s Kana Muramota and Chris Reed did that here, starting off with “I Like it like that and transitioning into Mondo Bongo by Joe Strummer. Let's just pause to appreciate how it's still taking everyone a little bit of time to adjust to the change of music rule. The commentator's response to choosing a song by Joe Strummer, lead singer of the Clash, a group that formed in 1976: "Wow, Joe Strummer! Talk about new!”
Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones- Hotel California by the Eagles-Oye Como Va by Santana — Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue (CANADA)
Virtue and Moir achieved it as well, delivering us squarely into the Dad Rock portion of the evening. Regardless, Sympathy for the Devil is a great song to dance to, and its transition into an instrumental version of Hotel California, and then into Santana, may have been the most creative take on the program.
Gold medals for “WHY ARE YOU CHOOSING THIS??” go to:
Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley — Patrick Chan (CANADA)
Patrick is incredibly graceful when he skates, and I can even live with the ill-advised Kansas selection from the short program. But why is he choosing the go-to song for death scenes in every popular television drama of the last 15 years as his free skate song?! This song is unfathomably sad, and it’s been used to…no pun intended…death. Note that he landed all of his jumps to start, and then fell right on the line when Buckley utters that “love is not a victory march/it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.” Perhaps he was too shaken up from flashbacks of the demise of [insert any beloved television character from the mid-2000s here].
With or Without You cover, by April Meservy — Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (CANADA)
A trend in figure skating that confuses me: Opting for the soft, sad cover of popular songs, when the performance would actually benefit from the louder original. Sure, there’s a desire to add subtlety to the performance and assure the judges that you’re not too flashy, but when you’re as talented as Duhamel and Radford, you shouldn’t have to tone it down. This performance was lovely! It earned the Canadian pair 76.57 points! But the music added nothing. Do we really need a whispery, hushed cover of U2’s With or Without You that resembles the music of one of those melodramatic beer or gum commercials that attempts to tug at your heart strings? The intensity of the performance would have actually worked well with Bono’s screechy AND YOU GIIIIIVE! YOURSELF AWAYYYY! portion of the song. Instead, we got a song that sounds pulled straight out of a sad Grey’s Anatomy scene.
Music from Ghost: Alexa Scimeca-Knierim/Chris Knierim (USA) and Paige Conners/Evgeni Krasnopolski (ISRAEL)
Earlier in my ice dance-binge-viewing experience, while taking notes on each performance, I saw that Paige Conners and Evgeni Krasnopolski, the pair skaters from Israel, used the music from Ghost in their routine. I wrote down: “This is insanely dramatic. Also, do people still watch Ghost?!??” Paige Connors was born in the year 2000. That is 10 years after it was released. Did she get wind of the pottery scene and watch it for the first time a few weeks before they had to make a song selection? Little did I know that a couple of hours later, I would learn they weren’t the only ones. Apparently TWO sets of pairs felt moved and inspired by the 1990 film, as American pair skaters Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim chose it as well, though their music description aptly noted that this selection was from “Ghost the Musical”, which again, who knew there was such a thing? The knowledge I’ve obtained about Ghost has been the most shocking part of the 2018 Olympics so far. The music itself , which is made up of the score and then a duet of Unchained Melody, is inoffensive and perfectly suitable for an Olympic routine. I just wasn’t expecting a double dosage of it at an Olympics taking place in the year 2018.
Gold medal for the most fun song performed goes to:
That Man by Caro Emerald: Aljona Savchenko & Bruno Massot (GERMANY)
Savchenko took the ice dressed like a flapper, and this song fit the part perfectly. The first two seconds of the routine elicited a “Sassy!” from the commentator, and the crowd was into it immediately. Savchenko sang along at some points, and Massot impressively spun her while snapping his fingers.
Gold Medal for music used from a television show goes to:
Yuri On Ice — Miu Suzaki and Ryuichi Kihara (JAPAN)
In case you are unaware, Yuri On Ice is the theme music to a 12-episode anime television series about figure skating. It’s also just a pretty and triumphant piece of music. This is much cooler than dancing to the music from Ghost.
Gold medal for “Wait, this is a song?” goes to:
Wonderwall by Paul Anka — Paul Fentz (GERMANY)
Did you know that Paul Anka has a big band cover of Wonderwall? No? Is your life worse for knowing it now? Paul Fentz fell twice while skating to it…perhaps apt symbolism for the quality of the song…but it’s hard to not appreciate his over-the-top gesturing and pointing throughout the piece. And, to be fair to Paul’s inventive selection, the Oasis version may have been an even weirder choice … don’t know how Liam Gallagher’s voice would’ve gone over with the judges.
Gold medal for “You were so close to having an all-timer of a selection” goes to:
Beyonce Medley: Halo/Run the World — Mae Berenice Meite (FRANCE):
There are really no words to express the excitement of watching French figure skater Mae Berenice Meite take the ice, eschewing the tradition of a dress for pants with a music selection listed as “Halo/Run the World - Beyonce”. But instead of using the original version of Halo, she chose a return to those pesky Whispery Cover songs! Someone else sings Halo, far less impressively, before Meite transitions to the real version of Run the World, which predictably drives the crowd nuts. It’s an exciting routine nonetheless—and at least we weren’t subjected to Whisper! Run the World—but it could have been the real MVP of the song choices. Instead, it has to settle for honorable mention.