Rufus Wainwright’s goals for his sophomore album, Poses – due in stores June 5 – are not modest. “This time, I basically had the idea in my mind that I’m going to write a huge pop album that’s going to sell millions of copies and going to be all hit songs,” declares the 27-year-old son of singer-songwriters Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle. “I’m totally selling out.”
Actually, he’s kidding only a little bit. “My main objective was to sort of scale it down a little and make it more accessible,” explains Wainwright, whose 1998 debut won critical raves, including Best New Artist honors from Rolling Stone magazine. “But once I got in the studio and we started doing it, I’d gotten weirder and more demented as opposed to more accessible. I think the actual songwriting got a little stranger.”
Produced, like its predecessor, by Pierre Marchand, Poses is idiosyncratic but with strong melodic values that hark back to classic songwriters such as Cole Porter, Bertoldt Brecht, and even the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. Lyrically, however, Wainwright says the album – which features contributions from his sister Martha and good friend Teddy Thompson on guitar – tracks a particularly hedonistic six-month period he spent living at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City.
“A lot of [the songs] stem from the song ‘Poses,'” Wainwright explains. “In that song I tried to create this character – I’m not sure if it’s me or someone else – just the young man in the city who goes in smelling like roses and comes out smelling like trash, just because I’d seen it happen a few times. I realized out of that song, all the other songs would follow.
“Like I said, whether I was the young man or not, I don’t know. I was certainly hedonistic, but my life’s been that way for a long time. This time, though, I had an actual apartment where I could entertain these ideas, so it was pretty crazy when I started writing for this album.”