Rufus Wainwright is a busy guy. In the past three years, he’s gotten engaged, welcomed his daughter into the world, arranged and performed musical adaptations of Shakespeare’s sonnets and written an award-winning opera. As if all of this weren’t enough, he also managed to record Out of the Game
, his new album out next Tuesday.
Despite what the album’s title may suggest, Rufus is undoubtedly at the top of his game. Out of the Game
represents a few changes in Wainwright’s style. Instead of the lush operatic fare that is his trademark, this album offers listeners the most pop-oriented work Wainwright has produced to date.
New to his production team is Mark Ronson, an English producer whose previous credits include Amy Winehouse’s lauded Back to Black and Adele’s debut, 19.
No matter what changes have occurred with Out of the Game
, though, it’s important to remember that even if this is unabashedly pop music, it is pure Rufus pop music, which means its dramatic arrangements owe more of a musical debt to Elton John and Elvis Costello tracks than to today’s sometimes regrettable chart-toppers.
The album’s opening track, the titular “Out of the Game,” is undeniably one of its best, with its irresistible, spirited chorus and slyly self-deprecating lyrics. Wainwright claims that this song was inspired by his fascination with “what kids today do to themselves for attention.” It’s hard to resist smiling as Wainwright defiantly cries, “Look at you, suckers, does your mama know what you’re doing?” One’s affection for the song can only increase after watching its adorably odd gem of a music video, which features a deadpan Helena Bonham Carter as an uptight librarian and Wainwright himself in drag.
Wainwright’s voice soars like it always has, but in Out of the Game
, it does so over danceable horn sections and crooning female backup singers instead of over complex orchestral melodies. The singer’s remarkable talent and unique musical perspective permeate the entire album, complemented by Ronson’s soul-infused contributions. Their collaboration is especially fruitful on tracks like “Rashida” and “Barbara,” which ooze with nostalgia for the soft rock of the 1970s.
The pop music Wainwright has crafted on Out of the Game
may not be for all listeners, but for those who have come to love the singer’s trademark blend of delicious campiness and sweet sincerity, this album is another interesting product of his prolific, undeniably artistic career.
— Contact Logan Lockner.