Top Ten Songs by Rufus Wainwright

1. Dinner At Eight
from Want One
Rufus Wainwright is at his best here as both a songwriter and as a performer. This heartfelt ballad sees Wainwright shying away from his often grandiose and fantastical subjects and tone to focus on a few distinct, realistic, and deeply moving images. The songwriting is tight and flawless, and his touchingly honest vocals and piano drive the arrangement home.

2. Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk
from Poses
One of the most popular songs in the Rufus Wainwright canon, this single is poppy, catchy, and a great introduction to this artist’s work. Here, the piano stays playful and decadent as Rufus Wainwright sings of his fairly harmless guilty pleasures, and ever so delicately touches on the more worrisome ones that may lurk deeper down.

3. One Man Guy
from Poses
Here, Rufus Wainwright turns in the only cover on any of his albums, performing a rendition of a song made famous by his father, folksinger Loudon Wainwright. The elder Wainwright made this tune a paean to a kind of macho, strong but silent loneliness, but it becomes something else entirely in the hands of Wainwright the younger. Rufus Wainwright brings his trademark sly humor to the track, and it slips fluidly between being a cowboy ballad, a statement of monogamy, and an ironic comment on his own troubled relationship with his father.

4. Barcelona
from Rufus Wainwright
For a ballad to stand out on Rufus Wainwright’s ballad-packed debut album is a true feat, and “Barcelona” is a stand-out ballad. This sweepingly romantic track paints a bittersweet moment vividly, creating images and stirring emotions that are not easily dispelled.

5. Vicious World
from Want One
In “Vicious World,” Rufus Wainwright manages to eloquently balance both the sweeping romanticism that permeates much of his work, and the cutting, down to earth twists of humor that seem to be on their flip side. The result of bringing these two forces together is the creation of a charmingly accessible track that also boasts plenty of depth.

6. Poses
from Poses
With the title track on his sophomore album, Rufus Wainwright pokes gentle, world-weary fun at the superficiality he feels surrounded by. Yet, the complexity and intelligence of Wainwright’s sensibility make this more than just a clean critique or satire. Instead, Rufus Wainwright injects the track with a genuine sadness. Perhaps it is nostalgia at outgrowing the trappings of youth that he so lovingly names, but the occasional minor piano notes seem to hint that perhaps it is something a bit darker.

7. Harvester Of Hearts
from Want One
Rufus Wainwright revels in his substantial songwriting chops with this sweet ballad, which stylistically alludes to the well-made songs of the 30s and 40s. A classic love song done well, this tender, upbeat tune shows that Rufus Wainwright can sell a track’s emotional content even when there’s no drama or flash in the vicinity.

8. Foolish Love
from Rufus Wainwright
“Foolish Love” was the song that Rufus Wainwright chose to open his debut record with, and it is a strong piece well up to the task. The sweeping piano and vocals immediately command the listener’s attention, and the lush yet delicate, multi-faceted arrangement of this track shows off the synergy between Rufus Wainwright and the album’s producer, Jon Brion, who is a star in his own regard.

9. Crumb By Crumb
from Want Two
Rufus Wainwright puts many of his most successful signature techniques to good use in this tune from the more ambitious half of his grandiose double album. Crumb By Crumb offers subtle lyrical twisting, a classic pop song structure with a soaring chorus, and an infectious jazz sensibility that is distinctly urban, and distinctly Rufus Wainwright. Wainwright is clearly having a great time here, and the listener will too.

10. Across The Universe
from the soundtrack to the movie I Am Sam
In “Across The Universe,” Rufus Wainwright gives this John Lennon classic a distinctive re-imagining. The bare-bones arrangement of voice and acoustic guitar blossoms over the course of the song, creating a genuine sense of hope.

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