Album Review: Rufus Wainwright - Out of the Game

by Mary Lucia

Any fan of Rufus Wainwright will tell you they love his wit and his way with telling a story set to music that resonates deeply and personally. They love that catch in his voice — an almost cry — and the fact that he's super-dreamy doesn't hurt. But I digress...

He's been called his generation's Cole Porter, and that seems about right. After all, I've never felt there to be a sense of time in his compositions. To be able to make timeless music that's still as strong on melody as his is a wonderful (and uniquely Rufus) accomplishment.

He, unlike many of his musical peers, is comfortable in many areas of music — opera, show tunes, torch songs and more — and he does them all with his unique stamp. There is always a huge pay-off to Wainwright's songs: you need to follow him on the four-minute journey, and you'll be so glad you did. It seems he's always written songs with his own set of rules in mind.

On Out of the Game, Wainwrights's seventh studio album, he enlisted help from producer Mark Ronson (famous for his work with Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen). The curious product of such strong-willed musicians coming together is always exciting, how much does Ronson rein in Rufus? I had read a comment Rufus made about the album being more accessible than any of his previous recordings, and perhaps even suggesting a crossover into the pop music world. If anyone deserves to be huge and reach a whole new audience it's Wainwright. That's right Rufie-philes — it's time to share him with the rest of the world!

Some of the themes of this new record seem to be a reflection of a man going through changes and doing it with his signature sense of vulnerability and grace. Indeed, Wainwright has had many life changes, including the death of his mother, British folk legend Kate McGarrigle. He's also getting accustomed to the domesticity of a relationship that's headed for marriage and having a daughter. All of these experiences play a role in his songs.

Not unlike his previous work, this record finds Wainwright collaborating with several guests, including his über-talented sister Martha, Sean Lennon and the much-lauded talents of The Dap Kings, who can make anyone's record swing.

The results is an album that strikes a balance with its songs. You can literally hear the compromise and collaboration that takes place between the singer/writer and the producer. On Out of The Game, no one loses.