When the first song ended, I began to clap and suffered sharp rebuke at the hands of a middle-aged woman one row behind and two seats to my left.


Clapping is what you do when a song ends.  I wasn’t the only one who screwed up.  How was I supposed to know?  Orchestra Hall–or its audience, rather–sat in silence for the next 45 minutes.

I felt like I was meeting an old boyfriend for coffee. I was nervous.  I was already under-dressed in shorts, a tank top, and flip flops.  Why couldn’t I have at least worn heels?  I should have worn the floral print dress.  It’s Orchestra Hall, for godssakes.

“Yeah, it’s Orchestra Hall,” my husband had reasoned soundly one hour prior as I tugged at the hem of my shorts in the mirror, “but you’re not going to see the orchestra.”

True enough.

Then I got there, and I wasn’t sure what I was seeing.

The crowd was bizarre–50% middle-aged suburban couples, 25% 20-something urban hipsters, 24% khaki and average-dress young professional types, and 1% appearing to be…well, punk, to be perfectly honest.

Whatever was going on, it was nothing I had ever seen before.  Even when I’d seen him before.

In 1997, I dragged a patient friend to a show at the Fine Line Music Cafe in downtown Minneapolis to see an as-of-yet essentially unknown and lick-your-lips gorgeous alterna-pop artist who (in addition to being worthy of all those hyphens) struck me as a good candidate for addition to my stable of troubadour obsessions.  I had heard exactly five of his songs, but I was smitten.  Absolutely in love.

We bought our tickets at the door.

He sat at his Casio (or whatever it was.  Probably not a Casio.  I just make these things up) in jeans and a button-up shirt and told us stories and pointed at people in the audience and carried on conversations with them.  “You get that lime into your beer okay?  Good.  I think you squirted me, dude.”  I stood six feet from him.  No crush of people, no big deal.  Just another new artist in the parade of new artists and club shows that dominated my experience of the 90s.  But he wasn’t just another new artist.

There, in the dark at Orchestra Hall, I kept thinking about it.  I was just sixteen rows from the stage–a handful of purposeful strides.  I wanted to run up to the stage and tell him I bought tickets at the door to see him once, but these, THESE, we were only able to get because a very generous friend of mine had a very generous co-worker.  “It’s incredible,” I would have said, “I’m here; you’re here…isn’t this fucking cool?”

You don’t go running up to the stage in Orchestra Hall.  Especially not in the middle of the (apparently) no-clapping portion of the show when your entertainment is dressed in a high, feather-collared black coat with a 15-foot train like some kind of super-fabulous grim reaper or goth Liberace and no one is speaking, moving, or even breathing.  He didn’t look at us.  He didn’t talk to us.

And though I’m sure he would have agreed that it was cool–his ascendancy from pop maybe-it-boy to arguably the most exciting and talented singer-songwriter-composer-arranger of the 21st century to date (in Elton John’s opinion, anyway)–Orchestra Hall is not nearly as cool as sold-out stadium shows all over Europe or composing a full-length Francophone opera and watching it open in England.  Not as cool as overcoming methamphetamine addiction.  Not as cool as 90% of the things he’d done and seen in the thirteen years since we’d last been in the same room.  He would have been confused by my excitement.  I may have been escorted out.  Besides, I was dressed like a bum.

He fit in just as well at Orchestra Hall as he did at the Fine Line, though he had apparently tired of the dingy main room of First Avenue, Minneapolis’ most storied and well-known music venue, where he has played a number of times and whose gritty urban ambiance he lamented openly later in the show after a wardrobe and demeanor change.  “I have to admit, it’s nice to play somewhere that doesn’t have foosball tables.  And Prince never did show up.  Hey.  Was Arsenio Hall in Purple Rain?”

His opening set was a presentation of his newest album, All Days Are Nights:  Songs for Lulu. Though it is not the opera I spoke of earlier, the album was presented in the truest, most Italian sense of the word:  As a song cycle.  A complete work.  The songs were not the performance, the sum total of them was the performance.  This, apparently, is why there was no clapping allowed.

Decidedly un-poppy, the album defies classification even under “popera,” a category that invokes images of il Divo and 50-something sex-starved cougars descending upon book clubs bearing cucumber sandwiches.  I think it’s a shit classification for Rufus Wainwright.  He is his own planet.

“Songs for Lulu” is Wainwright’s sixth studio album and the first released since the death of his mother, folk singer Kate McGarrigle.  It holds day and night, light and dark, and dreams and nightmares as its thematic centerpieces.  Wainwright acknowledges that it is his darkest and most melancholy album to date.  It contains three adaptations of Shakespearean sonnets; the first half of the title is drawn from one of these sonnets, and Wainwright has implied that “Lulu” is comparable to Shakespeare’s “Dark Lady.”

Of the sonnets, he has said:  “I had never really immersed myself in them and I came out the end with the traditional view that they could be the greatest pieces of literature ever written.” [click]

He’s intertextual enough to make even well-traveled literati sweat and, as such, adds a whole new sexy level of possibility to the term “music snob.”

Piano-focused and full of dirges and feints that spike into overwhelming dramatic outbursts, the new album puts his skills as a pianist on display.  And his voice, an object of intense contention, I’ve found, has had some work.  His range has expanded, mostly on the low end.  His vocal control and capacity for incredible volume have matured considerably.  It takes pipes to hold your own against furious hammering on the lower octaves of a Steinway; I don’t care who your sound guy is.

His voice.  People either love it or hate it.  Depending on who you ask, people will describe it as annoying and nasal or crisp and singular; the only truly safe thing to say is that, for better or worse, it is penetrating beyond most all comparisons.


As an aside, the best way to listen to Rufus Wainwright–and specifically his first, self-titled album–is in the bathtub with a bottle of wine.

I remember once, some bad day, when my husband (then boyfriend) and I shared a shitty apartment in Stillwater, Minnesota, I had worked myself into a tizzy about some thing or another.  It doesn’t matter what.  Could have been anything.  Nerves in general.  Neurotic overload.  One of my quarterly minor breakdowns.  I was on the verge of tears.  He put me in the tub, dragged the speakers to the door of the bathroom, set an open bottle of wine on the floor and set the CD player to work.  “Foolish Love,” “April Fools,”  “Millbrook,” “Barcelona.”  And he just left me there for two hours, starting the CD over when it quit.

I bonded with Rufus irrevocably that day.  His music became a fixture in my life.


Rufus’ second set allowed clapping, and people took full advantage.  Dressed in an orange pantsuit and white dress shoes a la cousin Eddie of National Lampoon fame, he played favorites.  “Beauty Mark,” “Matinee Idol,” “Grey Gardens,” The Art Teacher,” “Hallelujah,” “Going to a Town,” and “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk.”

The highlight of the evening for me was “Memphis Skyline,” introduced as such (I’m paraphrasing here, with no ability to remember verbatim but no desire to misrepresent him, either):  “I wrote the next song for Jeff Buckley, who I didn’t like at all at first because I was furiously bitter and jealous of him, until I met him one night and I saw how delicate he was and so kind and full of love, but also how sort of dark and doomed he was, which sadly played out when he died about a month later.  I realized then, with everyone else–or maybe a little later than everyone else–what a treasure the world had lost.”

Rufus’ dynamic nature is a mixed blessing.  His diverse, rapidly-changing interests and influences–operatic, folk, and baroque underpinnings combined with his cheeky, even bawdy, pop sensibilities–are what make him an innovator.  With lyrical content that makes regular references to literature, classical and European history, opera, and theater, it is not incorrect to describe him as an intellectual songwriter.  But frank, self-deprecating, wryly humorous and even crass explorations of love, loss, and (gasp!) sex, are not hard to come by, either.

These complexities make it difficult, if not impossible, to categorize him and, according to the powers that be, render him largely unfit for mainstream radio.

Rufus’ blends of old and new, order and chaos, and culture and unseemliness–coupled with cynical humor set against a bleak backdrop–make it reasonable to say that he, in concept and treatment of his craft, bears some resemblance to T.S. Eliot.

I’ve thought about this for a long time.  That the two men appeal to me, somehow, for similar reasons.  I’ve struggled with finding a way to express that thought without sounding ridiculous.  I have given up.

How can one compare a flamboyant singer/songwriter–whose often theatrical shows include feathered coats, bathrobes, lederhosen, and togas–to the stoic, saturnine, dry professionalism of a man like T.S. Eliot without sounding ridiculous?  It can’t be done.

But I went there.

It happened.

We’ll just have to live with it.


For thirteen years, I’ve resented Rufus’ scarcity around the Twin Cities.  I’ve pined and pined to see him live again.  To see first hand the standing product of the transformations I’ve watched him go through, primarily on youtube.  To see what thirteen years of faithful evangelizing and a decade of bathtub communing had bought me.  To see that I had faith in someone who proved worthwhile and impressive and deserving of the praise, admiration, and veneration I’d heaped on him for over a decade.  And he gave me something surprising that was, on the other hand, perfectly rational in his endless recombination of all the best that music and his musical talents have to offer–something that intrigued me, something that defied a quick once-over, and something that will, undoubtedly, grow on me as every single one of his experiments have done over the last decade.  He delivered something exceptional, which is exactly what I have always hoped for and come to expect from him.

The boy is all grown up.



You can learn more about Rufus Wainwright, his new album, and his current tour at http://www.rufuswainwright.com/




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BECKY PALAPALA is the author of many unpublished poems, diatribes, and terse letters, which she holds captive in a homely tote bag in her bedroom. The poems that escaped can be found in online publication at Strix Varia, Paper Darts, and in other nooks and crannies of the internet. In 2008-2009, she served as a poetry editor for Ivory Tower. After an iliadic battle with higher education, Becky graduated with a B.A. in English Literature in the spring of 2010. She currently lives with her husband, daughter, and dog on the outskirts of the Twin Cities, where she pines for her rivertown home and attempts to befriend the rabbit that lives in her yard.

125 responses to “Intertextual Healing: There’s a Bard in My Popera”

  1. I’ve seen Rufus Wainwright live at a very small festival. I’d gone to see Neil Young, but Rufus was on just after lunch time, still a few hours before Neil was supposed to take to the stage.

    I’m by no mean a fan of his, but one of the most beautiful moments of my short life came about halfway through his set. It had been pissing with rain all day, and everyone was soaked.

    As he starts doing ‘Hallelujah’ the rain stops, the clouds part and the sun comes out.

    He was charming between songs too.

    Bobby Gillespie told us all to fuck off.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      He IS charming between songs, which I had just finished telling my friend before the lights dropped and we spent 45 minutes sitting in utter silence.

      Was kind of funny. But he was back to his normal self for the 2nd set.

      And, I’ve found, a lot of people aren’t Rufus fans. Which is sort of why I chose to write this. With all due respect to you, Daly, Almond, and the other professional and habitual music writers on the site, no one else was going to write him up.

      I think he’s confusing, for one thing. Mostly for reasons mentioned in the piece. He may be an acquired taste.

      • I don’t really write about music. I don’t find it very interesting to write about, and I don’t think I could write anything that people would find interesting. Probably because I like the sort of music which has been written about a good million or more times already.

        Rufus Wainwright is one of many muscians who I neither actively like or diskike. I really enjoyed seeing him at the festival, but not so much that I’d go out and buy an album.

        I enjoyed this though. It’s more interesting reading about less well known bands/artists. A welcome break from all the recent supergroups and 80s metal. (That’s not meant as an attack on anyone, love those pieces. Just nice to read about something different)…

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I guess I just think of you as one of the more musically-inclined–as in inclined to talk about music–writers here. Now that I think about it, that has mostly consisted of comments, not posts, but nevertheless.

          What’s so strange about Rufus is that he really is pretty well-known–within certain circles. Especially within critical circles, where he’s a bit of a darling. And, of course, in the GLBT community.

          When it comes to the general population, though, he’s just a really tough sell. Poor guy. (Which I say somewhat tongue-in-cheek, since even those small demographics have made him wildly successful.)

        • I get what you mean. I do get involved in the comments of other music posts. Usually after stating how much I don’t really care about music. I enjoy arguing with other people about music, but writing about it on it’s own… too boring.

          Rufus is really quite well known over here. I’ve seen him on TV quite a lot, or at least that was true of a few years ago. He’s not very mainstream, and not really my sort of thing but I can aprociate musical talent when I see/hear it.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          It’s kind of a shame. He’s a dual citizen of Canada and the US. North America has a spectacular opportunity to lay claim to something culturally sophisticated and internationally appreciated, but it just doesn’t.

          He’s much more popular in Europe than on the American continent, with the exception of, maybe, NYC and Montreal.

  2. Drew says:

    Fantastic concert-review-as-memoir. Or is it a memoir disguised as a concert review? Either way it works and works well. More album/concert/book reviews from you now please. Your cadence is quite lyrical, fitting for the subject matter no?
    Rufus has been on my shortlist of artists to see before I croak. Can’t for the life of me understand why I haven’t yet. I didn’t get catch up with him till the “Want” albums and have been a disciple ever since. Would it be too much to ask for him to star as himself in a Broadway musical he writes? He actually wouldn’t have to write any new material, he’s got enough in his current catalog for about 4 shows. Perfect show opener would be “I Don’t Know What it Is” in my opinion. Starts perfectly diminutive and then builds to a point of hold-on-to-your-knickers excitement by the end. With a melody Rogers and Hammerstein would kill for. And leagues better than anything that hack Andrew Lloyd Webber has ever done.
    Show-stopper would be? And the how about the final number?

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Hmmm…”Do I Disappoint You” is a good candidate for show-stopper. I’ve never heard anything that chaotic and yet somehow held together, perfectly barely, in my life.

      Certainly one of his very loudest songs. All but impossible to ignore. Not sure what the plot might be to any such musical. I’d go see it, though.

      Lyrical! I’ll take that. Owed in part, I’m sure to my enthusiasm for and tender feelings toward the subject matter. Wasn’t easy to keep a lid on that. To keep from typing “OMFG RUFUS 4 EVAR!!!!”

      Rufus. 4. Evar.

  3. Gloria says:

    Well, hell. I didn’t know most of that backstory about RW. He does sound like a tremendously accomplished musician. But his voice, man… Perhaps I’ll give him one more try– in the bathtub with a bottle of wine. 🙂

    The story about your husband putting you in the bath is beautiful, Becky. It kind of brought a couple of tears up. So sweet. What a good boy.

    This amazing love letter (wherein you invoke TSE, for fuck’s sake!) makes me want to give Rufus another listen. Thanks.

    • Gloria says:

      He’s so pretty. Man…

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I will not relent!! Everyone must listen until they love him.

      He is tremendously accomplished (he has wins and nominations for all kinds of awards coming out his ears), and from what I hear, he has a work ethic that would embarrass most farmers.

      But, you know, one of the reasons I like him is because he’s so unique, and that poses problems when it comes to selling him.

      I totally get it.

    • New Orleans Lady says:

      Ha! That part about Palani stuck out to me, too. I even commented about it.

      Great minds think alike.

  4. Greg Olear says:

    I told you this before, but a friend of mine from high school kissed him:


  5. I used to own a Loudon album that I bought after seeing a clip of him on Saturday Night Live, I believe. I think it was called “T-Shirt.” It was okay. It disappeared somehow. Or, maybe I traded it for an Agnostic Front seven inch. I’ve never managed to graduate to Rufus, but I’ve always thought I should check him out, if only because Loudon’s song “Rufus Is A Tit Man” makes him sound like someone worth investigating. So, now I have two reasons.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      By all means, do. If nothing else, he’s a refreshing break from the norm. While a lot of acts are struggling to find something new to do with rock, he’s on a different tack altogether.

      Frankly, he’s both personally and professionally endearing. And whether or not his particular brand is your cup of tea in the end, you never have to worry about him doing anything musically incompetent. That much I can promise you.

  6. Joe Daly says:

    Really well done! Rufus is so far from what I normally listen to, that I sometimes find it odd that I enjoy his music so much. But he really proves out my point- when someone does something well, you tend to take note. Plus the way he expresses himself rings with a lot of authenticity. Well, as much authenticity as an artist who has spent virtually his entire life in public could do.

    Like Sean, I was a Loudon man first. My buddy turned me on to Loudon many years ago, and I always enjoyed “Rufus Is a Tit Man,” just like I enjoyed his duet with his daughter on his “Grown Man” album (which is nearly perfect, IMO).

    My friend had the chance to collaborate with Rufus and spoke so highly of him that I had to investigate myself, and was glad I did. Thanks for reminding me how fun it can be to get away from the crunchy guitars for awhile and enjoy something so different.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Thanks so much, Joe. Means a lot coming from you.

      There is only so much that one genre of music (crunchy guitars, for example) can do, and Rufus fills a creative void that I think a lot of people don’t even realize exists until they give him an honest listen.

  7. Slade Ham says:

    I’ve tried with Rufus, but I honestly don’t think my lifestyle is conducive to acquiring a taste for him. I don’t do a lot of bathtubs and wine glasses. I might have to download an album and give it another shot on an airplane in some good headphones though.

    I am always intrigued though with musicians’ banter between songs. It’s always borderline stand up and I enjoy seeing it when it works. Good for him. Some guys have nothing to say and insist upon saying it between every song.

    And some just want to beat you over the head with their politics.

    I like it when they’re just cool fucking people.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I never said you needed a glass.

      I have to say, Rufus is certainly no weirder or less Slade-y than world music. I mean. I have to think you have it in you.

      But, like I’ve said a million times, some people just don’t like him. Nothing to be done about that. I think you have to have a bit of a list towards the dramatic to really be thrilled about him.

      Then again, he has plenty of unlikely fans, too. Like Joe Daly, for example.

      • dwoz says:

        That’s a great mental image…Becky neck-deep in the obscuring hot fragrant milky-opaque soapy bathwater, chugging the sangria straight from the box.

        The anguish lines on her forehead slowly softening like the amber candlelight that’s sidelighting her profile, as Rufus slips and extended-dominant slithers through his verses to declare in regally plagal cadence, “halleluja”.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Well, okay, but I never said there were candles. I think I was sitting in the total dark.

          And don’t be silly. “Hallelujah” isn’t even on that album.

        • dwoz says:

          can’t win for losing.

          So I will instead imagine the SOUND of Becky neck-deep in the obscuring hot fragrant milky-opaque soapy bathwater, chugging the sangria straight from the box in the pitch blackness, the only illumination being the flickering eternal flame of inspiration dancing within the ebb and flow of the verses sung by Rufus.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Hey man. What you do in the privacy of your own head is your business.

        • dwoz says:

          Am I out of line here? Was it Chardonnay?

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Probably merlot. It was a long time ago.

        • dwoz says:

          at any rate, I do think that it’s a disappointment that his type of slightly-more-erudite songwriting isn’t particularly rewarded in this pop culture. It isn’t just him either…subtle, nuanced themes and introspectively emotive production sensibilities just don’t make the radar like they deserve.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I do think it’s disappointing, in a way, but the opposite isn’t necessarily more palatable.

          I don’t want to live in a world without G-n-R or the Sex Pistols. I love them, too.

        • dwoz says:

          Absolutely. Complicated does not equal good. Except sometimes.

        • Gloria says:

          There’s room for everyone in the Marketplace of Ideas. In theory. Ironically, a lot of people get denied because they’re not marketable. Or not as marketable.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I wonder to what extent his sexuality actually affects his marketability.

          I mean, I’m sure there are people explicitly homophobic enough to say, “He’s gay; I’m not listening to him,” but on a more subtle level, do you think straight people have more difficulty relating to a gay artist? Or vice versa, for that matter?

          I’m occasionally interrupted, listening to one of his love songs, by the thought that he is singing about a man. It has nothing to do with any negative opinion of gay men; it does something, perceptually, to my ability to think the song is for me or to identify or place myself IN the song.

          I mean, do you think that creates some kind of barrier in identifying with an artist? As much as I love Rufus, I’m sort of acutely aware of how much my admiration for him is largely intellectual–and, I mean, he’s gorgeous. Obviously. It is fair to say I have a crush on him. But it’s not the same as my crush on Jeff Buckley, who was straight.

        • dwoz says:

          If that was the case, then Queen would have wallowed in obscurity. “Everybody” loves Elton John.

          I think artists that go way out of their way to say “hey, look at me being gay! I’m a gay musician!” in their music get pigeon-holed very quickly. I remember back in the ’80s working a few shows with a woman folk singer who’s whole thing was the fact that she was a lesbian. Her entire marketing and publicity theme was around her lesbianism, rather than her music. So naturally the whole vast non-LGBT universe ignored her. Shame too, because she was a very good songwriter, and really a very sweet person too.

          What I think it comes down to is that most all themes are universals, not “owned” by one sexual persuasion or another. This sounds dangerously close to contradicting something I said over in LRC’s thread, talking about relationships in the personal rather than the general, but really I mean that the personal emotions resonate in a general way, irrespective of the physical equipment. Unless you force the issue.

        • dwoz says:

          To clarify, when I said “she was a very sweet person too” I mean that she personally did not reflect the “let’s just kill all the men and be done with it” tone of her marketing and her audience.

        • Becky says:

          most all themes are universals, not “owned” by one sexual persuasion or another.

          Absolutely correct.

          So it’s a good thing that’ not what I’m talking about.

          Let me try a different approach.

          Rufus is the artist and I’m the beholder. Rufus and I have a fair amount in common, as far as I can tell. Literature, love of musicals, interest in classical history, similar all-around aesthetics, and an attraction to men.

          I don’t have any trouble putting myself in his position–the songwriter’s/singer’s position. I’m there. I was born there.

          The complication emerges here:

          I am a straight woman. He is a gay man. An attractive [gay] man. So, as straight women tend to do when their minds wander while listening to attractive men sing about love, there is an impulse, for me, to put myself not on the giving but rather receiving end of those songs.

          Here is where the complication emerges. I can’t be there. I’m a girl and Rufus is gay.

          Though I am well aware of what it is to be loved and to have someone say lovely things to me and I can put that comparative framework in place, it’s an extra step. It’s a step I don’t have to take when I listen to Jeff Buckley.

          Then again, I suppose, theoretically speaking, I should have the same problem with Buckley, just reversed–having difficulty putting myself on the sending end of the song. And, now that I think about it, maybe I do.

          So maybe with Rufus, it’s not an added barrier but rather an unfamiliar one. A reversal.

          It’s less about gay/straight and more about the way a listener experiences and interacts with the music. Beyond their differences as musicians, to some degree, I experience Rufus’ music differently than Buckley’s because I know Rufus is gay.

        • Becky says:

          Allow me to qualify that last sentence. I experience it differently, that is, in terms of where I’m able to insert myself as a participant in the song.

          I shouldn’t blame Rufus’ gayness. Maybe it’s my fault for being straight. But at any rate, there’s a dynamic there that is tweaked because of our respective sexualities.

        • dwoz says:

          Let me put it another way as well:

          If you didn’t know ANYTHING about the dude, and someone put his CD in front of you, does anything about the music itself prevent you from transporting into the conversation with the artist?

          Because I agree with you, the hardest thing to do and the most necessary thing to do with songwriting is to either make your listener feel that you’re speaking to her, personally, or that the listener can climb into your voice and identify with the message. If you manage by some alchemy to make that conversation happen, you’re sitting on a great performance of a great song.

          Thus, I, a somewhat mannish male type thing, can listen to P.J. Harvey or Imogen Heap and feel a resonance, even though I certainly can’t totally suspend my disbelief in my lack of a uterus.

          If anything, it strikes me as over-analysis, which is a REALLY strange thing to hear ME say.

          But then again, my background and tendency is to approach listening as a practitioner of music, rather than as a consumer of music…so I tend to get stopped at the gate by the crafty details before I wander into the swamp of sociocultural zeitgeist.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          It’s interesting you should ask.

          I may have been one of the last people on the planet to realize Rufus Wainwright was gay.

          So I can say that I’ve experienced him and appreciated both with and without that knowledge, which may also be why I’m so acutely aware of the shift that occurred when that information was introduced.

          I may have been slightly traumatized, as a matter of fact; I wasn’t kidding when I said that in 1997 I was in love with him.

          I had no idea he was gay. I wanted to have his babies. Well, I would probably still have his babies, but mostly I wanted to do the baby-making deed. That goal is somewhat out of reach now.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Though I should point out that your New Critical approach to music–the stand-alone music–as valuable as it may be in a theoretical context and for sake of argument, is just not how people experience music. At least not with any artist that they listen to at all regularly.

          They want to know more about the people who intrigue them, entertain them. And even if they don’t seek it out, information tends to surface.

        • dwoz says:

          The first song I ever wrote, that was a proper real song fully done with chords and melody and words and everything, was about falling in love with a woman (girl) who I didn’t know was gay. It was based on a real experience. So I feel you here.

          The artist is actually a persona though, not a person. You don’t know the person, just the persona. So in a very real way, it’s all fantasy, all of it. All that’s left is the suspension of disbelief. It is actually possible that the sexual identification (that Rufus allows us to imagine we know) is more part of the persona than the person?

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I can’t imagine you’re suggesting he’s pretending to be gay, but I’m not sure what you ARE suggesting.

          I suppose that the boyfriend, the effeminate tendencies, the penchant for opera and musical theater, flamboyant costumes, and repeated discussions about, in fact, being gay could all be a front, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and say no.

          While I’m sure there are any number of things he doesn’t share with the press, I don’t think he’s a closeted heterosexual. No.

        • dwoz says:

          I quite agree…any kind of analysis is always an artificial construct that has to crash under it’s own weight sooner or later. Maybe it is just rhetoric and not truth. It’s just a way of turning the mirror this way and that, as you examine yourself: different viewing angles. If you find something to be truth in many different views, then it might be true. If different views show you different truths, they may not really be truths.

          When I personally am playing on stage, although I’m an inveterate analyzer, the analysis all drops away. I don’t think “gee, did I lock with the drummer on that anticipation moving into the bvi minor 7 chord in 2nd inversion? No…I look out and see if asses are getting out of seats and moving around. You really can’t analyze “visceral.” It just is.

          But again, I defer on questions of culture, because as I said, I feel like I don’t really understand that…I feel uncomfortable assuming that my experience in any way represents a norm.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          So, again, it’s a good thing that’s not what I’m saying, either.

          I said, basically, “I have this experience. I wonder if other people have it, too? I wonder to what extent, if they do, that affects Rufus’ marketability?”

          I started with a question grounded in my experience, which is the only place any of us has to start.

        • dwoz says:

          I can’t imagine you’re suggesting he’s pretending to be gay, but I’m not sure what you ARE suggesting.

          I’m merely saying that to a certain extent, any facet of a work of art and the artist that produced it may represent an intended portrayal instead of an actual reality. In discussing Rufus’ gayness, there may be very little air gap between the two, but it’s an aspect of everything to some extent.

          This brings to mind J. D. Salinger. Lived up near me. I’ve actually seen him once, though I didn’t find out till later it was him and I had no interaction with him. But by all accounts, people who were MOVED by Catcher in the Rye would try to meet him and he would cut them off at the knees, be a real asshole about it. A shocking discordance between the persona they perceived and the one in reality.

        • dwoz says:

          I said, basically, “I have this experience. I wonder if other people have it, too? I wonder to what extent, if they do, that affects Rufus’ marketability?”

          I guess the only thing I can say is, I don’t, personally. I tend to draw the song into myself though, instead of putting myself into the song. I would imagine that folks that do the latter might have the issue you’re describing?

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Okay, this doesn’t make any sense to me, either.

          If people were approaching Salinger with the wrong-headed expectation that he would be anything but an asshole, they thought so because they hadn’t read any of his press, not because they had.

          (Or they had, but they thought for some fucked-up reason that they were special.)

          His intent to be isolated and left alone was pretty well articulated, and I certainly would not consider Holden Caulfied a warm character.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I tend to draw the song into myself though, instead of putting myself into the song.


          You’ll have to articulate this difference to me.

          What happens when you draw in a song? What does that mean, exactly?

        • dwoz says:

          definitely, but scads of people identified very viscerally with Holden, and harbored the obviously hare-brained notion that the “spiritual father” of Caulfield would identify with them too.

          …and hilarity and good times were had by all of them! His reputation was born out of all those tragically misguided attempts at interaction. Certainly in later days, there was enough buzz out there to stop the casuals. But there still were the occasional ones, as you mention, that thought they were special.

        • dwoz says:

          You’ll have to articulate this difference to me.

          What happens when you draw in a song? What does that mean, exactly?

          This is going to be hard to describe, but what I mean is that I somehow place the song inside my own id or ego or whatever terminology serves here, instead of accepting the artist’s ego. It’s like I strip the artist out and hear it in my own voice. That, instead of accepting the artist passively.

          I don’t know if that description really captures it. Again, it comes, I think, from my own personal tendency to stay in the relatively safe ground of musical craft. I have to work at it to “lose myself” emotionally.

          Again, I don’t expect that my experience is typical.

        • dwoz says:

          one thing I like about him, is how his name alliterates. It’s not a perfect alliteration, but it’s a triple one.

          that’s gotta count for something.

          I wonder about your original question, which you’ve reiterated just above. Do you think that in the arts and entertainment era of Gaga and such, that Gay identity is (still) a marketability problem? My sense of it is that we’re moving past that. But this is the northeast USA, where it isn’t such a terribly hot-button social issue…

        • Becky says:

          I’m not sure. That was why I was asking. And MN is a blue state, among the more socially progressive in the Midwest, so I’m not sure it’s hot-button issue here, either.

  8. What a beautiful homage to Rufus. In revealing him, you reveal so much about yourself as well, Becky. And as far as Rufus’ voice is concerned, I think it’s amazing. So very unique. Soulful. His songs and spirit definitely cut through a lot of the bullshit floating through the airwaves these days.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Amen to that. Thanks, Rich.

      It’s been some kind of love affair with Rufus. I find myself almost proud of him, having followed him so long and from afar.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      And, for the record, since I haven’t declared it yet, I, too, fall on the “love it” side of the fence with regard to his voice.

      When people say he’s not a great singer, I always pull a face. It’s one of the first things that attracted me to him. I think it’s lovely.

      • New Orleans Lady says:

        Some of my favorite singers don’t have great voices.
        Everything is about feeling for me.
        If I can feel them through their music, the voice is secondary.

  9. Art Edwards says:

    Adore Rufus, and adored your piece.

    Have you taken the Regina Spektor plunge?


    • Becky Palapala says:

      I have not. I feel like an ass saying it, but or the most part, I don’t believe in female singer-songwriters. I don’t usually seek them out.

      That’s not a political stance or anything–not even really a conscious stance; I just tend not to like them very much. I don’t know why.

      • Art Edwards says:

        Ha! I tend to be breaking the other direction for some reason–I like female popsters more than I used to–and Regina and Rufus share so many traits.

        Of course, the customer is always right.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I don’t have much to be right about at this point…I’m not sure I can say that I’ve ever even heard anything of hers, which is pretty remarkable given the circles I run in.

          I’m just being obstinate at this point.

      • Gloria says:

        Becky – I love Regina Spektor. Love, love, love. I recognize, though, that my testimonial my not be the one to sway you. 😉 I have to say though, she’s fun and underrated and not nearly as strange as the other lady singers I love that you’re not fond of (like Tori Amos and Bjork.)

        • Gloria says:

          I give up. I can’t fucking spell. And my grammar is crap. Love me anyway…

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Well, there may be potential for a deal here. I will explore Regina Spektor if you take another run at Rufus.

        • Gloria says:

          Deal! Where should I start?

          I would recommend you start with “Begin to Hope.”

        • Becky Palapala says:


          I’m inclined to recommend you start where I did, with his self-titled album. It worked for me, after all. (This was the bathtub album.)

          But “Release the Stars” is potentially my favorite of all his albums, as difficult as it is to pick one.

          Both are excellent for straight-through listening.

        • dwoz says:

          I am a fan of female singer-songwriters, for the most part.

          I would enthusiastically suggest checking out Jonatha Brooke.

        • Dana says:

          Jonatha has an awesome voice. I’d forgotten completely about her since the only decent radio station in the area went weird format, and I became addicted to NPR.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      And, shit.

      I have no manners.

      Thank you, Art, for adoring this. Affirmations from you, Sean, and Daly (and my friend Drew up there, who none of you know but who is a huge music geek) are a major relief.

  10. Richard Cox says:

    I’m glad you had such a good time, that the event lived up to and also outside your expectations. I love reading about the unexpected and transcendental experiences people have with art, because hardly anything in the world (besides lurrve) can make someone feel that way.

    I have a couple of stories like this and I always hesitate to write about them because I’m not quite sure how to capture how I felt, and because, as you said above, I would not relent until everyone loves that art the way I do.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I guess it all depends on how you feel about being relentless. I’m not too ashamed of it in general, but especially with Rufus, I feel absolutely justified in my insistence.

      There are other acts who I get fanatical about, but I’d never feel confident making full-stop assertions about their artistic merit.

      Whether or not Rufus is necessarily appealing to every individual is a matter of taste, but I have no reservations about saying he’s good. He’s really good. Among the best living by just about any measure.

      That’s a matter of fact as a matter of craft. I’ll stand next to that statement without shame. So, I’ll take my chances with being relentless about it. I feel like it’s a defensible position. With other artists, it wouldn’t be.

      • Richard Cox says:

        I know with some musical artists I have come to respect and enjoy them over time, like with each listen I realize a little more how awesome it is. That’s the way I feel about, say, OK Computer. But there’s an album by Godspeed You! Black Emperor that the first time I ever listened to it I was blown out of my shoes, because I had certain extremely high expectations, and the album was both more different and more awesome than I expected.

        I don’t know where to place that album or artist in terms of best living, but I know where they stand with me, and ultimately that’s what I care about the most. I assume it’s the same with most people.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Well, for me, it comes down to a number of things, and a lot of it subjective, of course.

          But part of it has to do with the fact that RW’s technical understanding of music makes it so that he can write just about anything.

          Like, say, a pop song and a full-length opera, and probably a reasonable facsimile of just about anything else on the airwaves.

          Conversely, I can’t think of any of those artists who could write a Rufus Wainwright song.

          So for me, it has to do, in part, with a foundational understanding of the way music works. What some people might call a traditional or scholarly musical knowledge. A grounding in craft, is what I’d call it if he were a poet.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          “Those artists” as in those dominating the airwaves, not necessarily those you mention.

        • Richard Cox says:

          The genius aspect of it can’t be ignored. I feel the same way about talented people in fields I understand well enough to recognize said genius. Removing Tiger Woods’ personal mistakes, it’s why I revere his golf game so much. Why I enjoy reading Jonathan Franzen. Say what you will about Franzen’s cultural elitism or perceived indignation for readers, the man can draw characters and freakin’ write.

          The thing with music is despite how much I love it, and how many different types of music move me, I understand so little about music theory that I can’t see the differences you probably can. Which is why I don’t engage any very many debates about musical tastes and preferences. I don’t have the vocabulary or insight for for it.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          And of course the other part of knowing the rules is having the nuts to move forward with breaking them. Well. To innovate rather than pervert, which is what actually makes him special among the hordes of traditionally competent musicians out there.

          And, honestly, I’m not all that well-versed in music theory either. I can sight-read music. I’ve played a few instruments. I have a basic structural knowledge of classical music.

          But a lot of what I’ve learned, to be totally honest, I’ve learned because Rufus made me curious about his influences. So I started seeking out information about more traditional forms, musical theatre, opera, etc. (Not to mention looking up his copious literary references, which have made me a better-read person, too.)

          So, you know. He’s a teacher, too, apparently.

          And apparently there is no end to the praise I am willing to heap on him. Maybe I should just have his name tattooed on my forehead.

        • dwoz says:

          “music knowledge” and music theory really are craft. There’s no mystery to it. It’s just assembling a vocabulary around the empirical tendencies.

          It all comes down to this: do you know when and where you want to create tension, and then release it? Ok then, do you have some kind of tool in your kit that will do that?

  11. Dana says:

    I have never seen Rufus, but I really adore him. Although I understand people trippin on the nasal qualities of his voice, it just really works for me. “Hallelujah” is one of my favorite songs, and I adore his version, but “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk” is like aural comfort food for me.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Aural comfort food.

      What an excellent description.

      For a lot of his music, actually.

      But that song is spectacular. I catch shit for posting it too often on facebook all the time.

      I’m a little bit heiress, a little bit Irish…

  12. Dana says:

    P.S. Becky, I keep getting surprised by you. (By some of your tastes, not your talent which has always been evident.) I think you did a wonderful job!

  13. New Orleans Lady says:

    If it weren’t for you, I’d have no idea who this guy is nor would I care. I’ll admit, you have opened my eyes. I’m not a huge fan or anything but when I’m in my James Blunt, Norah Jones, Michael Buble kind-of mood, I enjoy Mr. Wainwright along with them. A mellow, rainy day kind-of mood. A day like today.

    I haven’t heard all of his music and I can guarantee that part of the reason I even gave him a second listen was because the first song I ever heard him sing was “Hallelujah”. Just about anyone can sing that song with conviction and I’m putty in their hands. Seriously. So, I respect your love for him.

    I’m also going to say that Palani has gone up a few notches on my list of “people to meet because they are that fucking awesome” because of the whole bathtub, wine, music thing. Good guy.

    I also have someone like this for me. His name is Lukas Rossi. He has an amazing voice and such a presence about him that I fell in love. Check him out for yourself…


    • Becky Palapala says:

      Ta dah! The links held it up. Here it is. 🙂

      And I’m so glad you gave Rufus a try. I don’t expect that everyone will love him as much as I do, but I do like when people give him a chance, give a few props.

      Perfect. I’ll take it.

      Going to watch videos now.

  14. New Orleans Lady says:


    Ok, so I wrote this really long and well thought out comment and now it’s gone! I was sitting here thinking, DAMMIT BECKY! SAY SOMETHING!

    then I just noticed it’s not there. ugh. shit has to get done. If I get the chance, I will try to put down my thoughts again.

  15. Cynthia Hawkins says:

    Okay, I think iTunes snippets are not the best way to judge the man because I’ve dismissed him before on the weight of those alone. I’ll find a way to give him more of a thorough listen after reading this. Well done!

  16. Zara Potts says:

    This is a lovely piece, Becky.

    You articulate your love for Rufus in such a way that makes it impossible not to want to listen to him. These are the very best sorts of reviews – that say as much about the person writing as the person being written about.

    And what I love most about it is that you have written about it with passion and adoration. Rather, than an intellectual autopsy about ‘why’ the music is good, you explain the only real reason that matters – it’s good because you LOVE it. it’s good because it makes you feel this way.

    Going to go and jack my stereo up to full volume now in honour of your love for Rufus.

    Oh, and also – Palani. What. A. Sweetheart.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Eek! I tried really hard not to let my inner fangirl seep out too much.

      I hope I didn’t do that (the comment section being another issue entirely).

      Neither could I pretend that I have an entirely objective take on him, though. I’d been trying to get back in the same room with the guy for over a decade, after all.

      So turn that shit up, Z!

      • Zara Potts says:

        Oh No! I didn’t think you sounded like fangirl at all.. sorry if I gave that impression! What I was meaning is that it’s refreshing to hear someone talk about music in a purely emotional way rather than intellectualising it until all the feeling is gone.
        I loved this and don’t worry – you sound super cool and not fan-girl-like at all!

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Goddammit. Manners lapse again.

      Thank you for the lovely compliment(s).

  17. Matt says:


    I’ll go ahead and scratch my name on the “Does Not Like Rufus Wainwright” list.

    I saw him as an opening act in 2001, and thought he was genuinely terrible. His singing voice annoyed me, I found his songs dull, and he told rambling “joke” anecdotes about considering one of the Golden Girls his spiritual grandmother and tripping on acid while wandering through graveyards. I guess this was more or less at the height of his drug addiction, and maybe he was having an off night, but there was nothing about his performance that inspired me to have any further interest in his work.

    I have, however, made the occasional attempt to give him another go, and it always ends the same way: boredom. He just doesn’t engage me. I think that particular space he’s claimed in your head–where the versatile, literate troubadors live–is firmly occupied by Tom Waits and Nick Cave in mine.

    But, as concession to how moving a paen this essay is, I will swing by the library on my way home and pick up the copies of his albums so as to give him a third chance. But I gotta warn you: if he doesn’t do it this time around, he probably ain’t gonna.

    (Now, Martha Wainwright, on the other hand….)

    • Becky says:

      Ha. She was his opening act.

      I have to admit, when I’d looked her up before, I was unimpressed. On the positive end I thought she was “different,” and other the other end, just plain weird.


      After having seen her live I can genuinely say that she has an incredibly versatile and powerful voice (girl is l-o-u-d LOUD). She is an incredible (if sometimes curious) singer.

      She is also quite funny, has a wonderful kind of ease with the audience, and gives good banter (just like her brother *ahem*).

      I don’t know that I’d run out and buy one of her albums, but my opinion of her has improved considerably.

      Anyway, I’m not saying anyone has to like Rufus. I’m saying he’s talented and unique and people should give him a chance. If he’s not your cup of tea, that’s just how it goes.

    • dwoz says:


      meet me at the corner of Heart Attack and Vine, and we’ll go from there.

  18. Irene Zion says:


    If I knew anything about music, I could probably say something good here.
    But I don’t.
    I’m sorry.
    (But I left a comment.)

  19. Ben Loory says:

    my bathtub was designed for the midgets who were running around the country building houses 100 years ago, and i hate the taste of wine, so i guess i’m kinda doomed to never appreciate this guy. whoever the hell he is. however i do like the curve of his belly in that photo. it reminds me of demi moore in that famous pregnant magazine cover, mixed with nick cave and patty smith. (the whole photo, that is, not just the belly.) i do like rufus thomas, though… i feel that somewhat makes up for this apparent disconnect between us. hi becky.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Well, you don’t HAVE to drink wine, Ben. That’s not the point. It’s illustrative of an ambiance. And you could maybe lie on the floor with a comfy pillow. Or maybe in a hammock.

      It’s just as well, though. I don’t think you’d like him. He’s not very metal.

      Unless you count brass.

      There are trumpets. And he’s kind of brassy, it seems like, just as a human being. Do you count brass?

      Hi Ben ben ben ben…

  20. Mindy Macready says:

    Yeah,”April Fools” is how I discovered this Prince.

    I was on a typical YouTube musical treasure hunt looking for the Burt Bacharach song “April Fools” sung by Dianne Warwick for the movie “The April Fools”. Could not find her at the time but this guy kept popping up with the same title…well I thought he is doing the cover. Wrong! but something just as good and his sister was singing with him , an extra bonus.

    Next thing you know I have added him about 4 or 5 times to my YouTube favorites.

    Throw bricks at me but it seems he has grown ..boyish young prince to something more serious and I think it has to do in part to his mother dieing, who may have been the constant mothers eye and now he can be who he is meant to be.

    the nasal sound does bother me at times but he drops that at times.. to be that torchlight piano player with a clear belt.

    great review, if only he could read it, I think you would be on some kind of BF list and get invited to parties in Monaco and New York.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      boyish young prince to something more serious and I think it has to do in part to his mother dieing, who may have been the constant mothers eye and now he can be who he is meant to be.

      I think he’s definitely grown up as a result. Whether or not she was causing him to rest on her for a definition of himself, I can’t say, but he’s definitely become something more sophisticated than he was.

      Yeah. I secretly keep hoping to see “rufuswainwright.com links to Becky Palapala” in the top news list. I won’t be holding my breath.

      It’s probably just as well. Faced with his actual presence, I’d probably make an ass of myself. Show up in my pajamas or something.

  21. Greg Olear says:

    Wait…so you liked the show, right?


    I love that Palani put you in the tub and played the album over and over. Your man, he knows his stuff.

    As for RW, I’m a fan, albeit in doses. Love his cover of “Across the Universe.” Love the version of “School Days” with his parents, sister, and aunt. His voice is like a tuxedo…not suited for everyday use, but perfect to trout out at the proper occasion. And yes, he’s a good-lookin’ dude.

    Great stuff, Becky.

    • Becky says:

      Well, the show left me slightly confused. Or his first set did. I might have been a little awestruck. Or dumbstruck. It was not like anything I’d seen before, for sure. I think I liked it. I’m pretty sure I did. But I definitely like Rufus. Definitely like him. Definitely. Wapner.

      Yeah. Palani is pretty good. Especially when I’m not. If he were a hockey player, I’d say he was clutch.

      Not suited for every day use??? Man, then I must be going through life in a ballgown. And here I thought I was underdressed.

      I do like the tuxedo simile though. I think that’s how he is for a lot of people.

  22. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    I can’t believe he played our song and I wasn’t there to hold hands with you. Your hubbs is so lucky.

    • Becky says:

      I know! He started that intro and I wanted to whip out my phone and take some shitty video for you, but the hipster I was sitting next to seemed like the uppity sort, and an iPhone screen can light up half an auditorium.

      In other news, I looked up the lyrics to that song, never having been able to fully catch them all, and they’re excellent. Just good writing.

  23. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    Only the “our song” part was supposed to be in italics. I just got so excited about Rufus and you and you and Rufus together again, finally!, I couldn’t contain my italics.

  24. Simon Smithson says:

    I have never heard of Rufus Wainwright before.

    Never ever.

    As far as I know, I have never heard any of his music.

    But this was such a lovely weave of personal history and critical eye that I think I’m going to have to listen to his stuff just to see who could inspire such a piece.

    So while I can’t talk to you about him, I can say at least you’ve inspired me to find out more about him.

    • Becky says:

      Oh, Simon. Rufus is lovely.

      I think you might be the sort to get it. Maybe. I think you might like him.

      But even if you give him a chance and decide he’s not for you, I’d be happy that people are at least giving him a chance at all.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      And, AND he’s a cancer, like you.

      You’re zodiacal brothers. You have to at least try him on.

  25. Sarah says:

    My exposure to Rufus has been pretty limited. And what I have heard have been singular songs. I’ve yet to experience a full, uninterrupted album. From what I can gather or perhaps erroneously assume, much of his music is meant to be experienced on a full album level. Am I right? I mean, I’m pretty sure that if I had my ipod on shuffle and one of his songs came on I’d probably skip over it, as it seems as though it might dramatically shift my music mood.

    Like many others, the first I heard of him was Hallelujah and that was thanks to Shrek. I’m on your side in that I think the sound of his voice is beautiful. He also did a wonderful job covering Across the Universe on the I Am Sam soundtrack. Oh, and I heard a nice live cover he did with Sean Lennon of This Boy. So yes, I think he has a beautiful voice I just haven’t yet been sold on his body of work, his songwriting, etc.

    I guess what I was trying to get to above is that getting to know and appreciate his work seems like an investment: of time, of emotion, of intellectual exercise. I just haven’t put in that time yet. Music for me at this point in life has to pass the cleaning test. If I set my music collection to shuffle then set about to clean on say a Saturday morning – kitchen, bathrooms, dusting, the works – I need music that’s going to keep up with me, keep me motivated. Sarah a few years ago and Sarah a few years from now might get into Rufus, but I don’t think I can make that investment right now.

    As far as you being apprehensive writing a music/concert review, I think it’s obvious to anyone who reads your writing that you can write the shit out of anything you feel passionate about. This is most certainly the case here. Great job.

    • Becky says:

      Thanks, Sarah.

      I don’t know that Rufus has to be an investment, but I can say for sure that he’s not really cleaning music. Or not 100% cleaning music. You’d probably have to excise some of his mellower stuff for the mix.

      Which, then again, would probably take some time, so maybe it is an investment.

  26. Tawni says:

    Sorry so late to comment… this is my first day in fourteen straight I’ve had a break from the small, crazy humanoid who ensures that I cannot concentrate on anything I read, or remain on the computer for more than a quick five-minute-long bursts. Thank god for grandparents.

    I love the mental image of Palani setting you up in the tub with wine and soothing tunes. What a sweet fella you married. We call that a keeper ’round these here parts, y’all.

    I am going to have to give Rufus another shot. My husband loooooooooves him and has already tried to enlist me in the ranks of fan, but it hasn’t yet happened. Too many people I respect have told me I should love him, however, so I will keep trying. Plus, Rufus is like, one of the coolest names ever.

    I’m glad you got to see your favorite music-guy all live and grown-up. What a thrill for our Becky. (: xoxo.

    • Gloria says:

      Yay! Tawni gets a break! Wooo!!

      I have nothing new to add to the conversation.

      That is all.


    • Becky says:

      And of course I wasn’t home to take advantage of your free time and chat you up.

      Le sigh.

      Yes. If you won’t listen to your husband, listen to me. Look into my eyes. You are getting sleepy…very sleepy…Rufus is the best. Rufus is your friend. You want to swim in pool filled with his CDs. You want to do interpretive dance in your living room to his new album. You want an orange pantsuit so you can be just like him…

  27. Erika Rae says:

    How I love the phrase “intertextual healing”. I am going to say it all day long. Intertextual healing. Intertextual healing.

    I have never wanted to love an artist more than Rufus because of your piece. I have played all of his songs on YouTube that I could find now. And while I have not fallen head over heels, there is definitely something incredibly compelling about him. It is absolutely that intertextual thing. But his voice…it may be an acquired taste. I will keep at it. Perhaps this will require a 2-hour long bath. I remain open-minded.

    And yeah, Hallelujah is one of my favorites songs (Thank you, Shrek). It’s on a feed loop in my brain now.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      At some point–for me at least–his voice quit being weird (though I did like that it was weird) and was just Rufus’ voice. And he owns it, man. For sure. He’ll belt the shit out of a song. “Release the Stars” is a good example.


      Lederhosen!! Why? We don’t know! I also find it completely adorable that he’s obviously uncomfortable with no instrument in front of him. He doesn’t know what to do with his body.

      I think for a lot of people, he’s a niche musician. Like, most people can’t listen to him any time all the time.

      But good for sitting still relaxing-type behaviors. And also classy-time. Like if you’re feeling classy, swanky, and/or fabulous, he’s good for that.

      • Erika Rae says:

        Checking back in 8 hours later. Hallelujah: in my head. All. Frickin’. Day.

        And I love his style. I love his emotion; the *type* of music he plays. I love the words of his songs. I even like his voice most of the time. It’s just that, sometimes, it strikes me as nasal and bugs me. That’s it. It’s the only thing holding me back from 100% adoration. On the other hand, it’s very rock n’ roll. So, um, I suppose I need to learn to just deal with it.

        • Becky says:

          Good enough! I’ll take that as a win.

          I really appreciate your diligence, Erika.

          If you ever wonder if you’ve made the right choice, just look at pictures of him from about 10 years ago and know he is the most-attractive-when-he-was-younger, opera-composing-indie-pop-singer-ex-meth-addict-who-has-also-recorded-an-album-of-Judy-Garland-covers that anyone has ever recommended to you.

          No one can take those hyphens away from him.

          No one.

  28. JM Blaine says:

    Was Arsenio the dude
    behind Bobby Z
    when Appolonia
    was playing Sex Shooter?

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I have a confession to make.

      Or maybe more of a proud announcement.

      Take your pick.

      I have never, in my life, seen Purple Rain.

  29. Mindy Macready says:

    Becky this is kinda off the Wainwright wagon…but I think you can sell! as in sales lady ..sales agent…whatever but if you were to find that product or a cause and believe in it like you do then you could sell , I mean sell! A Honda…a million dollar listing…save the oceans. The type of selling you would feel good about at the end of the day.

    You really have been specific and impassioned about the prince and you get results.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I was in sales once.

      I did okay, but it made me feel dirty.

      Too much like lying.

      I was always way too acutely conscious of the fact that I was delivering a pitch.

      I can’t stand a pitch.

      I know a lot of people make good money doing it, and I know that there are causes and products that are worth a pitch. But my honest reaction to people saying “no” to anything worthwhile I might offer them is, “Fine, Stupid. Your loss.”

      That doesn’t move much product. Which is fine for Rufus, but not so much when it’s a livelihood.

      So then I have to lie and do the whole act, feeling like a dancing monkey, thinking, “These people are idiots” and having to smile at them the whole time.

      • Mindy Macready says:

        Yes, what you said is true Becky , especially people who say no and then you have to counter then it becomes circular and you know how it is going to end up you have been there a hundred times related to this type of person a hundred times.

        I am glad you are a fan of his, I think we all have that one we feel like ..wow! discovery mine.
        I know it was cool when looking for Burt Bacharach I find Rufus Wainwright and you know I think Rufus could cover Bacharach quite well.

        I am going through this love for Tamara de Lempicka the artist…then bam! this bump Madonna loves her…well okay get over it, or some art critic tells me she was just a stylist..ouch! but I think I would still promote her or tell the many reasons why I love her work.

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