In part that’s because it’s the most recent song of the batch, but it’s also due to the tremendous impact it had on me right out of the gate.
Rufus Wainwright took it a step further, actually recreating Judy Garland’s legendary Carnegie Hall concert song for song in his own appearance at the venue.
Today’s recording is not from that concert but from a bootleg of a more traditional concert.
Contrary to the title of his latest album, Out of the Game, Rufus Wainwright got very much back into the game this year with his first pop release since 2007.
His last album was 2010’s All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu, a collection of somber ballads for piano and vocals that was very much informed by the sickness of his mother, who died just before its release.
Wainwright uses quite a bit of acoustic guitar, not to mention orchestral music and horns, in his music but at heart he is a tickler of the ivories. Look no further than his sixth studio album, All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu, which featured nothing but his piano and vocals.
Like John Mayer, Rufus Wainwright released a “comeback” album this year inspired by pop songwriters of the 1970s. In Wainwright’s case, the influences are more Elton John and David Bowie than Neil Young and Joni Mitchell — more glam-rock than folk-rock.
And Wainwright isn’t coming back from a creative slump but a personal one: the death of his mother in 2010, shortly after the release of his sixth studio album, All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu. That record was written while she was hospitalized, with several songs referencing her impending demise, and it’s a stark, sometimes difficult listen.
Best Songwriters – #6 – Rufus Wainwright
I went back and forth several times between including Rufus Wainwright in my top five songwriters and leaving him at #6. Ultimately I went with this placement for reasons I’ll get into next week, but it was a hard decision. Part of me agrees with Elton John’s assessment of Wainwright as “the greatest songwriter on the planet.”
Hyperbole aside, it’s hard to deny the writing chops of a man whose pop music is influenced by Chopin and Puccini as well as The Beatles and his folk singing father, Loudon Wainwright III. Rufus Wainwright brings a theatrical sensibility to his music that simply isn’t approached by anybody else working today. He is a fascinating blend of classic and modern styles and attitudes.
I already owned Wainwright’s debut album, and loved it, but it was the release of his sophomore effort, Poses, that solidified him as one of my favorite artists. It’s that second album that separates the one-record wonders from the true contenders.
I bought Poses while on vacation in San Francisco (with my wife!) and listened to it for the first time on headphones in the hotel room. Wainwright had taken his sound in a new direction, somewhere exciting and cosmopolitan. It was more sleek than ornate, but just as passionate.