“Damsel in Distress” is accompanied by an animated clip that features a woman in bellbottoms sauntering through landscapes with the song’s lyrics displayed in the clouds. “Yes, I remember smiles/Yes, I remember wiles,” he sings over reverb reminiscent of Radiohead’s The Bends. “Behind the Square of Sloan/Under the English moon within the Chelsea sky.”
According to Wainwright, the track was written as an homage to Mitchell, particularly the structure. “My husband and I now live in Laurel Canyon,” he said in a statement. “I wasn’t that familiar with Joni’s music but Jörn [Weisbrodt] became obsessed and took me on a journey into her music. We ended up hanging out with her and I get now why she’s one of the greats. So it’s part Laurel Canyon, part a song about a personal relationship that I’m trying to come to terms with, but mostly my Mitchell virginity being broken.”
Produced by Mitchell Froom, Unfollow the Rules is Wainwright’s ninth LP, and his first pop album since 2012’s Out of the Game. “Damsel in Distress” follows the lead single “Trouble in Paradise.” The singer-songwriter took on an Anna Wintour-inspired drag persona for the video.
“What I would like this album to symbolize is a coming together of all the aspects of my life which have made me a seasoned artist,” he said. “My aim is to emulate the greats of yore whose second acts produced their finest work — Leonard Cohen when he made The Future, when Sinatra became Sinatra in his forties, when Paul Simon put out Graceland. Pop music isn’t always about your waistline. Many songwriters improve with age. I’m flying the flag for staying alive!”
Wainwright will release an Audible project this year, titled Roadtrip Elegies: Montreal to New York. He’ll embark on a world tour in the spring, kicking off in North Charleston, South Carolina, on April 19th. He’ll head to Europe until May 1st, where he’ll perform at New York’s City Winery for two nights. The trek will wrap up on November 6th in Paris.