My two favorite songs from Rufus’s latest.
“Out of the Game” has a fun, knowing vocal and a seventies-style, Steely Dan-ish feel highighted by an elastic guitar line. I hoped the whole album would sound like this, as had been advertised in advance, but it really doesn’t. In the song, an older man is having an affair with someone younger. He seems to be enjoying himself though knows the situation is temporary, the younger man will eventually move on. Perhaps that bothers him, but for the duration of this song he seems at peace with it. My favorite moment is the chorus, where the older man considers this younger generation in which he is for the moment a tourist and can’t contain an exuberant judgment: “Suckers!”
I love that Rufus thought to include that in a song, because it is one of the mitigating factors of getting older: not feeling the pressure to keep up with everything imposed from the outside, to know everything new, own everything new, to do and feel everything you’re being told (by society, by peers, by older people like the guy singing the song) are the right things to do and feel. There’s a consolation in this lessened ultimacy. I don’t need to make this “the best summer ever,” as a catalog I just received encourages. I mean, I hope it is, but if it turns out to be just another summer, that’s okay too. If I don’t want to do Twitter or watch “Game of Thrones,” I don’t have to. I can live with missing a certain amount of cultural moments.
(And what is being mitigated, I ask as my birthday approaches next week? Oh, physical breakdowns, waning powers, increasing marginalization, loss of ambition, loss of a sense of possiblity, the distractingly louder footfalls of the Grim Reaper…there’s a moment in Lena Dunham’s “Girls,” a cultural moment I did catch, where a doctor examining Hannah says something to the effect of, “You couldn’t pay me to be your age again.” For me, you kind of could. Though I’m grateful having made it to the age I am.)
“Sometimes You Need” is a mysterious little slip of a song, where Rufus sings “sometimes a movie star’s eyes/get you through the love and the lies.” Internet trolling tells us it’s about a friendship Rufus had after his mother’s death with Elizabeth Taylor’s grandson, who really did have a “movie star’s eyes.” I prefer a more universal interpretation, something along the lines of how when you’re in a fragile state of mind, art can help, and how our connection with movie stars is deep and complicated and in vulnerable moments surprisingly intimate. Woody Allen territory, definitely, and it reminds me of how I go to every Kevin Kline movie, even the bad ones like “Life As a House,” and of how back in the 80’s after a major rejection I lost myself in “In a Lonely Place” at the Somerville Theater. But it’s not just movie stars who operate in our lives like this, of course. I’m sure there are plenty of people who find in Rufus’s own obscurely personal, diary-like songs (“Sometimes you need to go to the observatory”–not as often as you might think, Rufus) connection and consolation.
So, consolation as a major theme in both these songs. Is that coming from Rufus or from me?