Music Reviews: Rufus Wainwright, Madonna, & Usher

Troubadours like Rufus Wainwright get off on being grandiose, but what happens when you lose something you can’t get back? You scale it down, as he has after the recent death of his mother. On his sixth studio album, Wainwright comes equipped with his rich croon, the piano and lots of grief. It weeps and wallows, only once sounding anything like his usually flamboyant baroque-inspired self on “Give Me What I Want and Give it to Me Now!” Otherwise, he’s sulking—crying for sibling civility on the standout “Martha” and then leaving us with an emotional juggernaut, the lonely “Zebulon,” that shoots right through your heart.

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Madonna, Sticky & Sweet Tour

Even if our Gay Goddess ran out of reinventions and sold into mainstream trends with Hard Candy, the unremarkable album she supported on this 2008-09 tour, Madonna’s mojo still makes for one heck of a show. Over several hours—a couple on DVD; one on CD—the enduring diva gives us a shotgun seat on her disco ball. The album, thankfully including many of the genius do-overs of such heyday classics as “Vogue” and “La Isla Bonita,” is cool and almost too polished, but what hardcore fans really wanna see is Madonna get her jump-rope on, enter on a throne and masturbate with her guitar. Watching her do so during this Buenos Aires stint—being both playful and intense—is definitely a steal compared to the in-person cost, but no DVD could ever mimic the magic of seeing Madge live. With full-screen videos and scoping cameras, it captures that rush as best as you could hope for from someone of such Queen of Pop caliber. Seeing Madonna rip apart her guises, sing “Human Nature” alongside a videoed-in Britney Spears or make “Into the Groove” a pulsating playground were just a few highlights of this tour—one filled with frilly fun, flamboyant theatrics and the kind of energy that’s typical of someone half Madonna’s age. Go behind-the-scenes of it all with a 30-minute feature that actually feels like a backstage pass to one of music’s most iconic fixtures. How’s that for Sweet?

Grade: A-

Usher, Raymond v. Raymond

Usher’s one horny hottie. He basically does the dirty enough on his latest CD to make you forget about his other career—the music one, where he’s wooed followers with his smooth falsetto and crunk club grooves. Even though nothing ever goes as deep as the album’s title might suggest, the sampled “Making Love (Into the Night)” works its bump-and-grind magic and “Foolin’ Around” is a decent “Burn” redo. Rapper/bi-of-the-moment Nicki Minaj springs “Lil Freak” to life, but the disc is still remarkably flaccid for someone who always seems to have a hard-on.

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