Ever-eclectic Rufus Wainwright is at work on a studio project that he’s calling his “a very manly record,” and his “most sort of ‘pop’ and commercially viable, radio-friendly work.”
Due May 8 from Decca/Universal, Out of the Game is being produced by Mark Ronson, known for his Grammy nominated work with Amy Winehouse. Wainwright has said this new album’s influences include the music of Elton John, Queen and David Bowie.
“I hate to say it, but it’s kind of a very manly record, I think, which I think is cool,” said Wainwright, who adds that the project’s direction was also impacted by his newly arrived child Viva, born to Leonard Cohen’s daughter Lorca. “I’ve certainly made enough gay records.”
This is the seventh album for the genre-crossing Wainwright, and is set to feature members of the New York retro-soul band the Dap Kings, sister Martha Wainwright, guitarist Nels Cline of Wilco, Sean Lennon and “Doveman” Bartlett.
Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Rufus Wainwright. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
RUFUS WAINWRIGHT – RELEASE THE STARS (2007): I am convinced that Wainwright is this generation’s finest melodist. I can’t think of a single young artist who so beautifully crafts vocals in such a way that it simply doesn’t matter what he’s singing about: You just want to hear the melody he’s singing. And there is a lot of Broadway in his vocal style, but he uses it for good, not evil, turning out stunning performances in material that would normally have a nasal-voiced singer like him kicked out of every open audition he tried out for. Wainwright’s vocals simply stretch beyond the normal. There’s power and emotion that so few honestly display in modern rock.
RUFUS WAINWRIGHT – WANT ONE (2003): With his 2001 release, Poses Wainwright (yes, the son of Loudon Wainwright III) gave the world a breath of fresh air. Often set to what amounts to modern day Tin Pan Alley tunes, Wainwright uses his voice to display something that so often goes ignored these days — melody. Possessed of a breathy, laid-back voice, it’s easy to get caught up in Rufus’ effortless and yet understated sense of dramatic melody. So powerful is his gift that jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas chose the title track to lead off his 2002 album, The Infinite. Dave knows the good stuff when he hears it.
VARIOUS ARTISTS: COME TOGETHER: A NIGHT FOR JOHN LENNON’S WORDS AND MUSIC (2008): This concert, first envisioned as a benefit to raise anti-violence awareness through the work of John Lennon, was scheduled to be held on Oct. 2, 2001, at New York City’s famed Radio City Music Hall. Then came Sept. 11, and the event quickly evolved into both a poignant reminder of what the world lost when Lennon was killed but also a tribute to the city he called home for the last years of his life. A highlight is “Across the Universe,” from the Fab finale Let It Be, which features Moby, the former Beatle’s son Sean Lennon and this quivering, almost tearful vocal by Rufus Wainwright. They embolden a song that once held a memorably dreamlike quality with this shaky defiance: “Nothing’s gonna change my world,” the trio sings, in a world that did, in fact, feel completely changed.
VICIOUS WORLD – PLAYS THE MUSIC OF RUFUS WAINWRIGHT (2011): Originally named for a Rufus Wainwright song, it was perhaps inevitable that Vicious World would eventually devote an entire album to this underrated contemporary singer-songwriter. That doesn’t make the prospect any less daunting, considering the sharp turns and blind alleys associated with Wainwright’s deeply idiosyncratic style. But Vicious World, a septet co-led by saxophonist Aaron Irwin and trombonist Matthew McDonald, matches the music’s mysterious melodicism with an expanded lineup that also includes lush textures from violinist Eliza Cho and cellist Maria Jeffers — notably on the elegiac “Memphis Skyline.” It’s an album of lasting depth, filled with both poignant pauses and plenty of swing — no small surprise.