The singer's new album is a great testament to love in all its forms.
Rufus Wainwright's new album, Out of the Game, arrives May 1, a velvet-wrapped gift for the weary, ill at ease, and lovesick. The acclaimed and versatile singer, whose nearly two-decade career includes soaring pop, opera, and covers of beloved standards, collaborated with celebrated producer Mark Ronson on this album of wry, forthright love songs. Wainwright, thirty-eight, has been out since his teens, and wears his sexuality as comfortably as his bespoke suits. Whether he sings about his fiance, Jörn Weisbrodt, or their baby daughter, his adoration for them is boundless as it is matter-of-fact. Out of the Game is the grand result of what occurs when we approach love as our true selves.
This is best exemplified by the song "Montauk," which finds Wainwright singing to his daughter's eventual adult incarnation. When he sings, "One day you will come to Montauk/ And see your dad wearing a kimono/ And see your other dad pruning roses/ Hope you won't turn around and go," it's with the confidence of an artist and a man who knows who he is. Wainwright has always spoken out against homophobia, so it's not as if he's unaware that intolerant people could misread the entire song as a testament to the heterosexual nuclear family. (One can hear them wailing, "If she had a mom and a dad she'd want to stay.") But they'd be missing the song's beauty and humor, and the point of, well, everything.
On "Welcome to the Ball," Wainwright is positively jaunty as he sings to Weisbrodt, "So baby, welcome to the ball/ Don't worry all about nothin' at all/ I don't know how you've made it in, but since you have arrived, let it begin." The song is full of the delight you feel when the person you love returns that love, and renders the world new and shimmery. Of this, too, Wainwright has spoken openly: he wasn't a huge proponent of same-sex marriage before he and Weisbrodt fell in love, not because he didn't believe in it philosophically and practically, but because he enjoyed, in his words, a more "Oscar Wilde" approach to homosexuality, reveling in being different from conventional norms. By his own admission, his love for Weisbrodt changed this outlook, and that's why they're engaged.
Only someone true to himself can change his mind on such a charged issue without worrying how his choices will be perceived. Indeed, that's Out of the Game's greatest lesson: gay, straight, bi, transgendered, or some combination thereof, we make the best and truest statement merely by being comfortable with ourselves.
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Litsa Dremousis' work appears in The Believer, Esquire, Huffington Post, Jezebel, McSweeney's, MSN Music, The A.V. Club, on NPR, and in sundry other venues. She is completing her first novel. On Twitter: @LitsaDremousis. She archives her previously published work at http://theslipperyfish.blogspot.com/.