Wainwright tries pop's mainstream with new album

Tue May 1, 2012 1:59pm EDT
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - After writing an opera, recreating Judy Garland's classic Carnegie Hall show and performing one concert tour dressed, in his words, as a crazed feathered ghost, Rufus Wainwright is edging toward pop's mainstream.

The experimental singer-songwriter has teamed with popular British DJ and music producer Mark Ronson, who helped create Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black," for what is being touted as Wainwright's most commercial album yet, "Out of the Game," released in the United States on Tuesday.

"I definitely have the intention of creating something slightly more commercially viable than opera for this next album," Wainwright told Reuters, poking fun at his production, "Prima Donna," as well as his piano album "Songs for Lulu" - the record he performed on tour in a 17-foot-long feathered cape.

And before those CDs came his first live album based on his interpretation of Garland's famous, 1961 Carnegie Hall concert.

Wainwright's mix of styles has been applauded by many critics and earned him a Grammy nomination. Yet, despite having fans worldwide and being labeled as one of his generation's top songwriters, some of his albums haven't sold very well.

"I was pretty on the margins of what is usually accepted by the mainstream, and I felt, 'Let's try the mainstream. We tried this other stuff, so let's try this,'" he said.

So far, his collaboration with Ronson, whom the eclectic singer called "the consummate producer," has worked. "Out of the Game" debuted at No. 5 in Britain after its release a week ago.

But longtime fans of Wainwright, whose father is singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III and who grew up with his folk singer mother, Kate McGarrigle, in Montreal, need not despair that this new album will be unrecognizable, the singer said.   Continued...

Musician Rufus Wainwright poses for a portrait in New York April 13, 2012.REUTERS/Victoria Will