If the only Rufus Wainwright song you have on you iTunes is his or “Across the Universe” cover, you’re missing out on one hell of a songwriter.
Theatrical, decadent, explicit and honest, Wainwright consistently manages to bare his soul and pour his heart on top of yours.
His voice is like a stage voice gone flat, and that’s okay. Rich and fluid, but pained and just so unique. Varied instrumentation and plenty of string arrangements create a baroque-sounding symphony of a melancholy, homosexual man. (read:awesome, if you like that sort of thing?)
Scores and scores of musicians play on Wainwright’s records–a few who are known, most who aren’t. It’s refreshing to see musicians reach out to others when they’re trying to craft their record. There’s no isolation, and his records end up being these unfolding panoramas, with all kinds of combinations.
The first record of his that I heard was “Poses,” god what a great CD. The opening track, “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk.” is a favorite song of mine. So fluid, so simple. And he plays with keys so well! He can change the mood without letting the song freeze, his melodies are always moving. (if that makes any sense…watch that one ^ and you’ll see what i mean).
I love how he makes simple, everyday things such tales. Great with metaphor, too. His themes are consistently the same–heartbreak, society, the usual of a songwriter–but his lyrics strike a balance between colloquial and creative. He manages an optimistic desperation–you savor the sadness but you’re not saturated by it. And he’s got a sense of humor–poking fun at himself with just the right amount of cheek (see “Old Whore’s Diet).
The man just drips of style. Videos feature artful decadence, but there’s something almost mocking about it. (See April Fools)
I’m dying to see him live.
Listening Rufus when you’re kind of bummed out can be uplifting–his melodies sound like they belong on Broadway, so there’s an element of theatrics that’s ultimately cheerful if you’re into that sort of sound. A Rufus Wainwright CD is great if you’re spending the night alone and wish you weren’t. He just sounds like he’s lonely, too.
Wainwright’s for a certain kind of taste, that’s for sure. If you’re not into stuff that’s really traditionally orchestrated (or if you can’t get over the gay factor) you probably won’t find much depth in it. But if you’re looking for something that’s fashionable and flavored with just the right amount of sass, he’s a fantastic, fantastic find.
A modern minstrel if i ever heard one:
(Beautiful performance, beautiful, honest song.)
And above all, an entertainer:
Oh, What a World
(Although…really? Why witches? I don’t really get it, but that’s okay. Do your thing, man.)