My gift is my song, and this one’s for you… and you… and you… and them and them, too.
Figure skating officially begins today in PyeongChang with the start of the team competition (catch the men’s and pairs’ short programs, starting at 8 p.m. ET on NBC). Anyone who intends to watch all 11 days of the sport in South Korea (culminating in the ladies’ medals being decided Feb. 22), will notice one thing: figure skaters really do love the Moulin Rogue soundtrack. By our calculations, it’s the most popular music choice this year, with five different programs to be skated to it in the Gangneung Ice Arena.
The best of those programs, hands down, will be the free dance of Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the 2010 gold medalists in ice dancing who took home silver in Sochi. They purposely waited to do a Moulin Rouge program until this Olympic season, and, considering it earned them a perfect score at Canadian Nationals last month, it was the right call. They start with “El Tango de Roxanne” (watch the perfectly-timed conclusion to their twizzle sequence at 1:11, and the gravity-defying entrance to a lift at 2:26, in the video above) and end with Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman’s “Come What May” (their signature lift, below, will give you chills at 3:57).
Other athletes using songs from the 2001 Baz Luhrmann movie musical include American Vincent Zhou, reigning U.S. pairs champions Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim, Australia’s Kailani Crane, and the Philippines’ Michael Christian Martinez. The film’s popularity — due in part to the fact that this is the first Olympics where the ladies, men, and pairs can use songs with vocals without deduction (something ice dancers have enjoyed since the late ’90s) — pleases Luhrmann. “It’s an honor to see Moulin Rouge embraced by these champions, and I can only wish them the absolute best at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics,” he tells Yahoo Entertainment via email.
As a sampling of the music selections at this year’s Olympics proves, the universal rule change — which went into effect in 2014, after Sochi, to attract more and younger viewers to the sport — has definitely shaken things up. Yes, we’ll still see four Carmens, three Swan Lakes, and two “Moonlight Sonata”s in PyeongChang (and we won’t complain when those programs are as spellbinding as this free skate from French ice dancing favorites Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron). But now we’re also going to see three “Hallelujah”s (one Jeff Buckley and two K.D. Lang covers), and three Coldplay programs (including American Adam Rippon’s ethereal free skate, which ends with “O,” and a “Paradise” free dance from American ice dancers Maia and Alex Shibutani, a.k.a. the Shib Sibs).
The rest of the ice dancing field’s free dances (their long program) includes one Queen medley, multiple uses of Muse’s “Exogenesis Symphony Part III,” and, from the other Americans, John Lennon’s “Imagine” (Madison Chock and Evan Bates skate a stunner choreographed by Christopher Dean of Torvill and Dean) and Beth Hart’s “Caught Out in the Rain” (a sultry number from reigning U.S. champs Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue).
Because the ice dancers are all required to skate Latin American rhythms for this year’s short dance (ergo, three couples skating to the sounds of Perez Prado, including the Shib Sibs), you will definitely have “Despacito” stuck in your head — three couples use it. (Virtue and Moir, meanwhile, partner The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” and The Eagles’ “Hotel California” with Carlos Santana’s “Oye Como Va,” and Papadakis and Cizeron opt for Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” and “Thinking Out Loud.” Controversial!)
On the ladies’ side, expect to hear a bit of Beyoncé, Celine Dion, Madonna, Sade, and AC/DC (yes, Hungary’s Ivett Toth skates to “Thunderstruck” and “Back in Black” for her short program.) The pairs competition has Lorde, more Ed Sheeran, Adele, Christina Aguilera, and Coldplay covers. The men enlist The Sugarhill Gang, Paul Anka, Imagine Dragons, Kansas, Pink Floyd, Seal, James Brown, Elvis Presley, Michael Bublé, a Snow Patrol cover (for Zhou’s short program), and Benjamin Clementine’s “Nemesis,” which is an ultra-cool pick for reigning U.S. champion and gold medal favorite Nathan Chen).
Moulin Rouge aside, movie soundtracks remain ridiculously popular: we count at least 40 films in the mix. Somehow there’s only ONE La La Land program (perhaps everyone assumed it’d be the music choice this year and backed off), yet three people are using “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” from Yentl and another two have medleys that both involve Star Wars: A New Hope and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Of course, one expects a couple Schindler’s List and Godfather programs, and tributes to James Bond and Charlie Chaplin — check, check, check, and check — but there’s also three programs to the score of 2013’s Romeo & Juliet (did we know that film existed?). And then there’s 2015’s Cinderella (from reigning U.S. national champ Bradie Tennell), On Golden Pond (which American Karen Chen choreographed herself), and everything from Life is Beautiful to Pirates of the Caribbean.
Also, we regret to inform you that you won’t be seeing American Jason Brown’s Hamilton program; he’s only an alternate in PyeongChang. But two pairs teams are using Ghost the Musical, including the American champs (watch their quad twist at 1:09 below).
And finally, just in case the free skate of Germany’s Paul Fentz doesn’t make it into primetime, you should know that it’s Game of Thrones.
Winter (Olympics) is here.
Figure skating coverage kicks off Feb. 8 at 8 p.m. on NBC. Check NBCOlympics.com for full listings.