Rufus Wainwright – “Who Are You New York?” (Stereogum Premiere)
Rufus Wainwright’s never been shy about his intention to be a big star. The prodigiously talented and prolific piano man was well on his way after his hailed self-titled debut LP and my personal favorite, Poses, on which he chronicled his loves, addictions (“Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk”), and relationship with the streets of NYC (quite literally, “drunk and wearing flip flops on 5th Avenue”) amidst songs that reconciled his classically oriented compositional sense with more conventional pop song formats. The Want One and Two records saw him indulge more esoteric influences, teasing Ravel’s “Boléro” here, billowing to full-blown orchestral pomp there. That marked a turning point, after which his musical costumes became even more severe: there was what he called the “gayest night ever” at Carnegie Hall as he recreated Judy Garland’s iconic concert album (and released one his own, called Rufus Does Judy At Carnegie Hall, no hetero), the star-studded holiday revues, and his appropriately titled opera Prima Donna. After all that, it’s fair to view the forthcoming 12-track collection All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu as a reset of sorts, billed as a deeply emotional and personal record, featuring nothing but Rufus’s voice and piano. A total reset, then, and fair enough: There’s much to regroup from, both in terms of his far flung artistic indulgences and the unfortunate loss of his mother Kate McGarrigle. We previewed one of All Days’ tracks, “Zebulon,” via a live performance session — “Who Are You New York?” comes as its first official studio listen. It’s his most explicit ode to the city yet, launching his album with the first of what are likely many questions he’s asking himself, and of the city, these days. Have a listen:
All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu is out 4/20 via Decca.