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Figure Skaters Can Use Music With Lyrics For First Time In 2018 Olympics

Jan 8, 2018
Originally published on January 8, 2018 8:35 pm
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The other night, figure skater Jimmy Ma was in the middle of his routine at the U.S. national championships. And he took a break between songs, then started gliding across the ice and this song dropped.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TURN DOWN FOR WHAT")

LIL JON: Turn down for what?

MCEVERS: The crowd goes crazy. And here's what the NBC commentators say.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED COMMENTATOR: OK (laughter) I like it.

MCEVERS: USA Today's Maggie Hendricks covers figure skating, and she is with us now. And I understand, Maggie, you have some thoughts about this song choice - Lil Jon on ice working for you?

MAGGIE HENDRICKS: Absolutely. It's part of something new that we're going to be experiencing this Olympics, which is there being lyrics in figure skating routines. It's just so much fun because it allows for moments like Lil Jon breaking out in the middle of a figure skating competition and the crowd going insane for it. And it just - it's a lot of fun. And why not? Figure skating should be fun.

MCEVERS: Right 'cause, like, when I think of figure skating routines I think of, like, "Swan Lake" and more traditional stuff. So why was the decision made to allow songs with lyrics?

HENDRICKS: There's a part of me that thinks that judges were just sick of hearing "Carmen" again and again and again.

MCEVERS: (Laughter) Right.

HENDRICKS: And so they wanted to give something different. And it's great because it allows us to get to know figure skaters in a way that we never had before. Like for Jimmy Ma's other skate he skated to Rachmaninoff.

MCEVERS: Right.

HENDRICKS: So, you know, we have this balance of skater and learning about who they are in ways that we never could when you were having lyricless music or just classical pieces or opera pieces. You're just getting this whole new side of them.

MCEVERS: I understand one of your favorite programs that involved lyrics is from last year, a skater named Yuzuru Hanyu. Can you tell us about that?

HENDRICKS: Oh.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET'S GO CRAZY")

PRINCE: Dearly beloved.

HENDRICKS: I love this skate so much. So Yuzuru Hanyu is the reigning world champion and Olympic champion. And he did his short program to "Let's Go Crazy" by Prince.

MCEVERS: Say no more.

HENDRICKS: He's one of the best skaters to ever walk this earth. He has very much a rock star swagger. In Japan, he is a rock star. Japan, he is as big as Steph Curry is here. He is just an absolute star. The way he brings the spins, you start to see Prince's music happening on the ice when you see Yuzuru Hanyu skate to it.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRINCE SONG, "LET'S GO CRAZY," CHEERING)

MCEVERS: What's he doing during this part?

HENDRICKS: He's doing all of these different spins. And they're incredibly difficult. And he's earning a lot of points. They're athletically difficult. And even at one point he sort of takes his leg behind his head and plays it like he's playing a guitar.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRINCE SONG, "LET'S GO CRAZY")

MCEVERS: So it sounds like a part of the idea, too, is just to attract young viewers to this sport. Do you think that's working?

HENDRICKS: Yeah. I think it's attracting young viewers because, I mean, when a figure skating program goes viral there's somebody watching that somewhere and saying, hey, maybe I can try figure skating. And that is a huge part of the Olympics, is every sport gets a little bump. It gets some people interested in it and trying it because they've saw it and they saw something in it. And I don't know if all of the young kids out there would have necessarily seen something of themselves in the Rachmaninoff, but they sure as heck would see it in the Lil Jon version.

MCEVERS: Maggie Hendricks, reporter at USA Today, thank you very much.

HENDRICKS: Thank you so much. This was a blast.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TURN DOWN FOR WHAT")

LIL JON: Turn down for what? Turn down for what? Turn down for what? Turn down for what? Turn down for what? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.