Song of the Day #121: ‘Sanssouci’ – Rufus Wainwright

rufusliveAmong the many things I adore about Rufus Wainwright is how unabashedly gay his lyrics are.

It seems the openly gay artists in my collection usually write in the third person or make clever use of pronouns. I’ve been scanning Indigo Girls lyrics for awhile now and I’ve yet to find a love song of theirs that couldn’t be written for a man.

But Wainwright is unapologetic about his sexuality, record sales be damned. Take ‘Gay Messiah,’ his call for a gay savior “reborn from 1970’s porn, wearing tubesocks with style and such an innocent smile.” After declaring himself “Rufus the Baptist,” he offers up this wicked double entendre:

Someone will demand my head
And then I will kneel down
And give it to them looking down

Yeah, that’s pretty gay.

‘Sanssouci’ is a nice, jaunty tune from Wainwright’s Release the Stars album. It’s far from the gayest thing he’s written but the usual references are there. I see this as a song about his longing for a hedonistic lifestyle (perhaps the one he gave up after battling a meth addiction).

On the album, ‘Sanssouci’ is produced to the hilt… full of swirling flutes and strings. It’s very different, but equally wonderful, with just voice and guitar.

Who will be at Sanssouci tonight?
The boys that made me lose the blues and then my eyesight
All together, playing games of cards
Gambling the tiny shards of brass, once my heart

Who will be at Sanssouci tonight?
I’m lookin’ through the window from the garden
Waitin’ for the call in my hotel room
I’m tired of writing elegies to boredom
I just want to be at Sanssouci tonight

Who will be at Sanssouci tonight?
Surely not the one that loves me truly, only
He’s probably down at the stables there
Gently polishing my cabriolet, only

I don’t care, I really want to go
So I’m opening the doorway to the ballroom
Callin’ up some dude from my hotel room
I’m tired of writing elegies in general
I just want to be at Sanssouci tonight
Tonight, tonight…

The candles seem to all have been blown out
Cupid’s wings have cobweb rings and no one’s about
Could it be I came to the wrong place?
But I swear I saw them climb the stairs, that sweet master race

Who will be at Sanssouci tonight?
It’s only when you’re outside that you notice
Only through the window you can see them
Once the door is open, all will vanish
Ain’t nobody at Sanssouci tonight
Tonight, tonight

5 thoughts on “Song of the Day #121: ‘Sanssouci’ – Rufus Wainwright

  1. Amy says:

    I’d like to hear Counting Crows cover one of his songs. I like his lyrics and his music; it’s just his voice I find grating. But… I find it a bit less whiny in this live video than on his recordings. Well, the whine just kicked in – maybe it’s equally whiny. Anyway, I bet if Adam wrapped his fabulous voice around some of these lyrics, I’d be a fan of the songs and the songwriter.

    As for an unabashed embrace of homosexuality, Amy Ray’s rendition of “Romeo and Juliet” is hard to beat. No, she didn’t write it, but the fact that she changes not a word of Mark Knopfler’s wonderful song, as she calls out for her Juliet is certainly a bold assertion of her homosexuality

    This video is of only a portion of the song, but I love how the crowd is singing along, knowing every intonation of the way Ray delivers these lyrics. Having been part of one of the few obvious heterosexual couples at one of their concerts, I must say that the Indigo Girls are open about their homosexuality.

  2. Clay says:

    Well, sure they’re open about it… but how much of it shows up in their original songs? Of course, I only have a few of their albums so there’s a bunch out there I’m ignorant of, but I had trouble finding anything on the Web while searching.

    And speaking of grating voices… “BAD BAD company!” 🙂

    It’s interesting that you picked Adam Duritz, because if anything, there are more complaints about his voice being whiny than there are about Wainwright’s. I happen to love both of their voices, but I can see why many don’t.

    It’s kind of like the Bob Dylan thing for me… I completely understand why many people find Bob Dylan unlistenable, and his songs could certainly be “improved” in one sense if sung by, say, Sting or Michael Stipe. But I find singers like Dylan, Wainwright and Duritz bring something to their original material that no cover artist could ever match.

  3. Dana says:

    Note that the first comnent on the blog came from Amy, not me.

    My comment is simply to question how you could find the likes of James Taylor and Norah Jones boring and find this song remotely interesting.

    As I have said before, I like some of Rufus’ stuff, but join as one of those who can’t take much of his voice.

  4. Clay says:

    Voice aside, there’s no competition between Taylor, Jones and Wainwright when it comes to interesting music. I think you’d agree with that on an objective level looking at their songs side by side.

    This is a laid-back acoustic version of a song that’s pretty complex, sound-wise, on the album. I find that most of Jones’ stuff sounds this mellow whether it’s live or recorded.

  5. Dana says:

    well, I guess I would have to hear the studio version, but the acoustic version is rather dull. And I am not sure I would agree with your “objective” assessment of these artists. I think Taylor is one of the better songwriters out there, and I think his work is interesting.

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