Artist Profile
Rufus Wainwright
Montreal, Quebec

not a lot of people can pull off what Rufus Wainwright can – pen some of the most amazing music written and displaying that talent through an equally as astonishing voice. Also a very fluid pianist and guitarist, he was born from a royal music couple, Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III. A very out of the closet gay man, Rufus’ flamboyance and courage make him an amazingly vivid public figure as well. Some may call him a critic’s darling, some may call him boring, but I’ll call him what his music makes him – a true treasure to our modern music.

Only releasing two major records to date on major label Dreamworks, Rufus Wainwright has proven well on his way to legendary status. His first record Rufus Wainwright, released in 1998 was highly received. And there was no doubt why – he had an original way about him. A style of writing and performance that evoked moods largely absent from popular music since the inception of rock 'n roll. You can visualize turn of the century absinthe bars in France on “In My Arms”. You can hear remotely classical arrangements in “Baby”. Tin Pan alley sound and Broadwayesque (think West Side Story, more specifically “Maria”) have been descriptors tossed around in descriptions of his music. Listen to “Barcelona” or “Foolish Love” and judge what they are to you.

With predictions of a “sophomore slump”, Wainwright’s next album, Poses, was released in 2001. Upon first listen, the prediction was not far off. Upon next listen, people started regretting their prediction. Upon third and following listens, that prediction was swiftly and neatly swept under the rug. Very arguably his best record to date and one of the finest releases of 2001, Poses played out as a paradox – very commercial yet painfully emotional and personal. Although the lyrics did suffer at times, the overall melodies and feel proved to be far superior to most singer-songwriter efforts today. Two songs that best exemplify this superiority over the previous record are “Cigarrettes and Chocolate Milk” and “The Tower of Learning”. The beginning verse in both of these songs seem poorly thought out and at times, contrived. But when the chorus hits, and does it hit, the listener is indefinitely wooed and in love with the music.

And he’s not even close to done writing amazing music. Showcasing some of his new songs at live concerts, Wainwright seems poised to release an album sooner than the three years between Rufus Wainwright and Poses. Rufus Wainwright – sings like Homer’s siren, plays like Scott Hick‘s David Helfgott but writes and composes music like Rufus Wainwright – that is to say, like none other. A few words come to mind while thinking about Rufus’ music like “astounding”, “overwhelming” and “intense”. Far more words don’t come to mind when you are actually listening to his music.

Quick Facts:

Location: Montreal, Quebec

Style: Singer/Songwriter

Labels Appeared On: Dreamworks

Major Releases:

Rufus Wainwright (1998, Dreamworks)
Poses (2001, Dreamworks)

Essential: Poses (2001)


By: Adam Blackbourn
Published on: 2003-09-01
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