‘You Ain’t Big’, But Rufus Wainwright Is

Wainwright’s remarkable vocals shake up my soul… all over again.

BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 22: Rufus Wainwright performs live on stage during a concert at Passionskirche on June 22, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Andrea Friedrich/Redferns)

I may not be big, but Rufus Wainwright certainly is. And what’s more is, he’s back! 

Wainwright has recently released an absolutely stellar five-track EP ahead of his highly anticipated album, Unfollow The Rules, due for release on July 10th. Spotlighting one track in particular, Wainwright has also shared the video for ‘You Ain’t Big’, a song on the upcoming album. 


Both the track and the video are vintage in style, transforming us back in time. The video opens with a short clip in the style of an old film, with a man very briefly shedding light on how he conquered his anger. To accompany Wainwright’s lyrics, the video features bright, dated postcards of the US cities mentioned in the song. 


These colourful features are alternated by black and white shots of protestors across the video, which poses thought-provoking contrast for viewers. The video continues in this simplistic and wistful style until text on the screen reading ‘the end’ signals its conclusion, much like the finishing credits of a film with the music simultaneously fading out. 


In many cases, less is more, and this is absolutely the case for Wainwright’s video. Its minimalistic approach complements that of the song, which is reminiscent of sounds consistent with American country music of the 1940s and 50s. As always, Wainwright’s vocals are compelling and eloquent but hold a more gentle, nonchalant tone than previous tracks such as ‘Natasha’ and ‘The Art Teacher’



In a statement, Wainwright said of the song and video:

 “I originally wrote the song “You Ain’t Big” about the strange fact that in the music business worldwide until recently […] no matter how well you’ve done anywhere else, if you couldn’t make it in the heartland of the US you weren’t really considered a true star.”

Although Wainwright has mentioned that the song itself is apolitical, he acknowledges that it has undeniably taken on different meanings and interpretations in light of recent turbulent times. As well as its reference to the music industry, the track rings true for the current political climate and hints at inequality. This is a notion confirmed by the use of opposing black and white images in the video, which mirrors how different life was for black people and white people during the 1950s. The song will, I am sure, communicate a sense of integrity about the world we live in. 


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‘You Ain’t Big’ and it’s accompanying video leaves me in extreme anticipation for Unfollow the Rules. I must say, as a cautious rule-follower, I am intrigued by the title and potential upcoming themes on this album. I have no doubt that Rufus will continue to exceed all expectations. 


Rufus has also released a short documentary exploring his upcoming album, which gives a fascinating insight into creative processes and inspiration: 

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