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Rufus Wainwright's new song takes aim at Donald Trump

Robert Rowat

From the second century A.D. setting of his new opera Hadrian, Rufus Wainwright travels even further back in antiquity to the fourth century B.C. and the era of Dionysius II for this new song, “Sword of Damocles.”

The song's video, directed by Andrew Ondrejcak, opens with a foreword addressed to U.S. President Donald Trump, whom Wainwright likens to Damocles, the fabled abuser of power. Granted his wish to be king for a day, Damocles soon realizes that every regal privilege comes with a risk, represented in the legend (and the song's video) by a sword suspended by a thread above his head.

There’s an epic sweep to Wainwright's song: the spare piano chords of the opening verse get amplified with percussion and strings, then horns, backup vocals, trumpets and a dramatic modulation. It’s impossible not to get caught up in its Pied Piper-style crescendo, with Wainwright’s arresting singing (both full-voiced and falsetto) leading the way.

“Cut the thread, why don’t you, please?,” he asks, looking straight at the camera, before the video fades to black, leaving the viewer to contemplate the single word “vote.” U.S. midterm elections take place Nov. 6.

Watch the video for "Sword of Damocles" below:


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