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Music / Rufus Wainwright

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"I think that any gay person in the world would be seduced, at one point, by a certain kind of camp. For certain people it's kind of a saving grace."

Rufus McGarrigle Wainwright (born July 22, 1973) is a Singer-Songwriter known for his lush, theatrical Baroque Pop.

Wainwright came from a musical family; his parents (Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III) were folk singers, while his sister (Martha Wainwright) and half-sister (Lucy Wainwright Roche) are also musicians. He is openly gay, which is reflected in his music. His voice is very hard to describe. See for yourself.


  • Rufus Wainwright (1998)
  • Poses (2001)
  • Want One (2003)
  • Want Two (2004)
  • Release the Stars (2007)
  • Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall (2007)
  • Milwaukee at Last!!! (2009)
  • All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu (2010)
  • Out of the Game (2012)
  • Prima Donna (2015)
  • Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets (2016)
  • Unfollow the Rules (2020)

Provides the following tropes:

  • All Gays are Promiscuous: Discussed. Before settling down with his long-term boyfriend, Rufus certainly embraced this image.
    "I wasn't a huge gay marriage supporter before I met Jorn because I love the whole old-school promiscuous Oscar Wilde freak show of what 'being gay' once was. But since meeting Jorn that all changed."
  • Between My Legs: Has a song with this very title.
  • Big "OMG!": "Between My Legs" starts with a woman screaming "Oh my God!" presumably because she saw something lewd.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Often performs with younger sister / musician Martha Wainwright. "Little Sister" refers to their musical Sibling Rivalry as children. "Martha" discusses growing up / growing out of this.
    Neither of us is really that much older than each other anymore. [...] There's not much time for us to really be that angry at each other anymore.
  • The Cameo: Sister Martha Wainwright, Melissa Auf Der Mar, and Gwen Stefani (as the waitress) all show up in the video for "April Fools."
  • Camp Gay: He even recreated Judy Garland's April 23, 1961 concert (which is Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall) and performed a couple of numbers in Judy drag.
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: His cover of Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows" changes...well, suddenly it sounds like its set amidst a casino underworld that's about to crumble and is having one last revel in its own shallowness and debauchery. Worth a listen
    • This version also contains a hilarious story about when Rufus actually met Leonard Cohen. I'm not going to explain it, just watch it.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: In the video for "Going to a Town" Rufus's character assumes this pose.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Rebel Prince". He still manages to fool people in concert.
  • Gratuitous French: "Rebel Prince" has the first verse repeated in French halfway through the song, and Rufus lived in Montreal for much of his youth.
    • He's also written an entire opera in French with "Prima Donna".
  • Gay Best Friend: He is this to Lorca Cohen, and they had a daughter via IVF. She was also the best man at his wedding.
  • Heavy Mithril: "Between My Legs," written as a "fantasy about being able to save your object of desire when the apocalypse comes, and bring him to some sort of hidden paradise."
  • Hot Consort: The title character of "The Consort".
  • Incredibly Long Note: "Vibrate" has one that lasts for 19 seconds in at least one live performance.
  • In the Blood: His musical talent, since he's the son of two very talented musicians and his sister Martha Wainwright is successful in her own career.
  • "I Want" Song: "Want", from Want One, obviously, and a recurring theme in his works. And according to Rufus, Release The Stars is an I Want Album.
  • Kaleidoscope Eyes: Enter his name into any image search and try to pin his eye color down. Go ahead, try it.
  • Keet: He's a bit more mellow than most, but watch any interview he's in and watch how much he moves during it. It gets to the point that people unfamiliar with him think he's drunk.
  • Leaving You to Find Myself: "Leaving For Paris No. 2", which was originally written as part of the backstory of Satine in Moulin Rouge!.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: He even has a whole album of them (All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu).
  • One-Woman Song
  • Precocious Crush: "The Art Teacher" is told from the point of view of a woman who fell in love with the titular teacher.
  • Rebel Prince: The subject of his song of the same name, who he wants to come and spirit him away.
  • Referenced by: William Shakespeare: "Memphis Skyline" has the line
    Then came hallelujah sounding like Ophelia, for me in my room living, turn back and you will stay, under the Memphis Skyline
    • This is especially poignant because Jeff Buckley, who the song is dedicated to, drowned in the Wolf River.
    • He also set three of Shakespeare's sonnets (10, 20, and 43) to music on his album All Days are Nights: Songs for Lulu — and followed through with the album Take All My Loves, which consists of various settings and treatments of nine of the sonnets.
    • The song "Damned Ladies" features the line, "Desdemona, do not go to sleep."
  • Shout-Out: Lots.
    • The video for "April Fools" has Rufus try to save the opera heroines Cho-Cho-San ("Madame Butterfly"), Carmen ("Carmen"), Mimi ("La Bohème"), Tosca ("Tosca") and Gilda ("Rigoletto") from their tragic deaths. He fails, but they get better.
      • He also mentions these characters by name in the song "Damned Ladies."
    • "California" mentions "my new grandma Bea Arthur" as well.
    • "Dinner at Eight" has the line "I'm gonna take you down with one little stone" referencing The Bible and David and Goliath in particular.
    • "Gay Messiah" has multiple references to gay culture and biblical stories.
    • "Grey Gardens" to the documentary of the same name Grey Gardens, and also to Thomas Mann's Death in Venice with "Tadzio, Tadzio."
    • "I Don't Know What It Is" references "is there anyone else who thinks Three's Company" with "knock on the door, take a step that is new."
    • "Memphis Skyline" is about Jeff Buckley.
    • "Oh What a World" is titled after the dying screams of the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz, and the song's Boléro Effect is a direct musical reference to, well, "Bolero".
    • "Vibrate" mentions Britney Spears.
    • The famous Phantom of the Opera theme is used in "Between My Legs."
    • "Fuggi regal fantasima," the Gratuitous Foreign Language in "Barcelona," is from Verdi's opera of Macbeth.
    • He name-drops "Miss Portman" in "Rashida."
  • Signature Song: "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk". "Gay Messiah" is probably another of his best known songs.
    • "Hallelujah" was this for a while, but after hearing Justin Timberlake cover it at the Hope For Haiti event Rufus announced that he'd be shelving it for a bit.
  • The Something Song: “Greek Song,” "The Money Song"
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Definitely a feature of some of his songs.
    "Fuck this awful art party" from The One You Love on Want Two.
  • Take That!: "California" is three-and-a-half minutes of this directed at said state. And yet some people still manage to miss the point and think he's praising the state.
    • Also, "Going to a Town" is him saying how disappointed he is in the United States under the Bush administration.
      "The meaning is very plain, mainly that I'm having problems with the United States at the moment, as we all are. We all love America, I think everybody does in a certain way. But we have to admit that there's just been too many mistakes made in the recent past over too many issues, and we've just got to deal with that fact."
    • "Tulsa" is a good-humored Take That! to Brandon Flowers, lead singer of The Killers. Flowers loved the song.
  • There Is Only One Bed: The video for "April Fools" opens with Rufus waking up in a bed with the opera heroines. It's definitely not intended to be sexual.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Suggested by the lyrics of "The Consort", where they plan to "wreak havoc on the throne" and do terrible things to their enemies.
  • Vocal Evolution: 21-year-old Rufus' voice, as heard on his demo tape, is much higher and more nasally than how he sounded even on his debut album released only three years later. In his own words, "like a little old man."
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: "Do I Disappoint You" has undertones of this theme, although the song is ultimately about firing back and defending your own frailties.