Rufus Wainwright’s new album is called Out of the Game, and it proves he is anything but. The 12-track pop effort is produced by Mark Ronson (the guy who produced Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black and records by Christina Aguilera, Lily Allen, Adele, Estelle
. . . the list is crazy) and features black female backup singers, horns, Wainwright’s first semi-danceable material in forever and a new joie de vivre. The video for the first single features long-time friend (and one-time backstage stalker, as Wainwright reveals) Helena Bonham Carter as an uptight librarian who eventually comes undone and Wainwright making out with three versions of himself.
“I was gonna be the librarian with three special guests, but then I had to play three roles,” Wainwright says during an intense press day in Toronto. “In the end I was like, Why don’t we all just have sex together, which is sort of like the finale to everything I do — I wish!”
Rufus laughs a lot during the interview, and in general these days. He has a daughter (whose mother is Lorca Cohen, daughter of Leonard), a sexy fiancé — Jorn Weisbrodt, who is now the artistic director of Luminato — and an optimistic, honest new record to sing about.
Out of the Game is a pop record. It’s part Bowie, part Elton and part Rufus. There’s a definite and comfortable ’70s easy-listening vibe to the first half, then later things get synthy and more upbeat.
“It took a long time for me to appreciate popular music,” Wainwright explains. “I’d been in that arena for a long time, I was signed to a major label and I’ve hung out with Courtney Love — and I’ve done worse things than that even — all in the name of pop. But I always maintained this slight disdain for the genre and thought that the world of opera was more enticing. Lo and behold, I went into that world, wrote an opera, had a lot of success and met a lot of interesting people but then ran into a wall in terms of the limitations of creative licence.
“I developed this yearning for where I come from, which is a freer, younger, sexier existence — the world of pop. So, going back into the making of this record with Mark Ronson, I had this visceral sense of what I needed to do, which was just enjoy myself. Who woulda thunk? I didn’t have as much to prove — it was just about having fun.”
It didn’t hurt that Ronson was a delicious specimen to work with. “Mark is one of the most charming and handsome men; sorry, fiancé, but he’s very beautiful and we had this instant bromance. I want his hair. That’s about all I’m gonna get, dammit.”
“Bitter Tears” is as close to a club banger as Wainwright will ever get. “Perfect Man” is a funked-up vocal acrobatics act, and “Candles” is a beautiful tribute to his legendary musical mama, Kate McGarrigle. It’s truly a family affair of the heart, with a song for his man, his long-time publicist Barbara Charone and his daughter.
“I’ve written three songs about my daughter, Viva, only one of which I’ve put on the album,” Rufus gushes. “I didn’t want to come off as this horribly overbearing, doting gay father, but it’s an amazing experience. What’s really nice is I’m so organized in my artistic exploits, it’s nice to have a child because she adds a lot of unexpected issues and left turns in my life. And I’m excited for it not to be all me all the time — believe it or not.”
The Rufus Songbook
Sun, June 10
Pecaut Square, at King and John streets
Love Over and Over: The Songs of Kate McGarrigle
Fri, June 15
Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St
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