At a time where governments are telling us to follow the rules, vocalist, songwriter, composer and mischievous artist, Rufus Wainwright is encouraging all to Unfollow the Rules with his ninth studio album.
Unfollow the Rules finds Wainwright at the crossroads of his past and future. He has banished the demons of his youth and created an album that is demonstrative of a sophisticated maturity developed over two decades of artistry. It is considered a bookend to his debut album, Rufus Wainwright (1998), and a balanced, holistic representation of past and future, youth and age.
The album is segmented into three four-song Acts with each Act exploring the bounds of reality from comedy to tragedy. Act one opens with Trouble in Paradise and heralds the return of Wainwright’s silky smooth vocals which when paired with a choir of voices elevate the song to a grander magnitude. Damsel in Distress is full of funk and swag, while Unfollow the Rules is a six-minute forty-five-second slow burner that utilises every intensifying second to capture your undivided attention with its rich, luscious, grandiose sound.
In contrast, You Ain’t Big, is a less intense, quirky short burst of delightfulness that encapsulates the full dramatic arc of the first Act.
Act two opens with Romantical Man and encapsulates the resonant instrumental sound prevalent throughout the album. The delightfully carefree love song Peaceful Afternoon follows and is guaranteed to make you smile, and your heart swell as Wainwright sings, ‘And I pray that your face is the last I see/ On a peaceful afternoon’. Only the People that Love and This One’s for the Ladies (That Lunge) complement each other with their deliberate and measured tempo and dream-like ambience.
Act three contains the delightfully surprising one-minute fifty-three-second interlude My Little You. It is simplicity at its finest with just Wainwright and a piano collaborating in synchronised harmony. Wainwright expresses concurrent vocal vulnerability and confidence in My Little You that is illustrative of his artistic maturity. The sultry Early Morning Madness is a standout. With its tempo variations, subtle nod to The Doors and Wainwright’s deeply evocative vocals sashaying effortlessly through multiple registers, it is a captivating balance of tenderness and histrionics.
Hatred continues with dramaturgical flair and is reminiscent of an 80s rock opera that will have you bellowing ‘Devils and Angels/ I’m going to get myself away’ at the top of your lungs. Alone Time completes the dramatic arc for not only Act three by the entire album and does so on a contemplative and personal note.
With Unfollow the Rules Wainwright has created a congruous product representative of how he has matured as a musician. There is no instrumental surplus, just an amalgamation of fundamentals and a sublime voice that is a profound communicator of sentiments. Together they have fashioned a mellifluous and lux sound. Each song is uniquely individual, but when played together, they take you through a chameleonic odyssey of existence. Unfollow the Rules is Wainwright’s coming of (mature) age breakthrough album that establishes his status as one of the world’s incomparable singer/ songwriters.
Album Review By Anita Kertes