First Appeared at The Music Box, November 2003, Volume 10, #11
Written by John Metzger
Since his debut in 1998, Rufus Wainwright has been writing the type of songs that hang ever so heavily in the air; songs that ooze with forlorn emotion and drip with the tears of sadness. Though he was immediately heralded as a great new talent and slapped with the "best new artist" label by countless critics, he’s never fully lived up to his potential despite his lofty, almost impossible ambitions.
It’s not that Wainwright’s latest album Want One is all that different from either of his other outings, it just comes together a tad better, with wide-reaching, melancholic orchestral arrangements that are elegant, majestic, stunning, and beautiful. With his typically eccentric blend of musical styles — a pinch of jazz here, a touch of classical there, and oh, let’s not forget a splash of both The Beatles and The Beach Boys for flavor — he nearly pulls off a 14-song pop-opera about his desire for a monogamous relationship and how it has continuously eluded him. Indeed, this desperate need grants the collection its title, or at least a part of it. It’s something he desires, something he wants. The other half of the album’s namesake comes from the fact that Want One was originally conceived as a two-disc set, and word is that its second act (Want Two) is already prepped and ready to go.
In the end, it may or may not have been a wise choice to bisect Want, releasing its parts individually. Only time will tell. For now, fans are left simply to ponder the tunes featured on its first installment, and for all its grandiose machinations, the song cycle can’t help but feel as if there is something missing. Indeed, with each passing tune, the album becomes more and more mired within a slow, dreamy waltz. The songs struggle to find transcendence, and although they occasionally reach it, too often they blur together with one track sounding exactly like the next. Still, this isn’t entirely a bad thing: Wainwright’s weary, inebriated vocals bend and twist above the arrangements, lending an intoxicating feeling to the overall ambience of Want One — as if Travis’ Fran Healy and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke had conspired to pen a Broadway musical. Perhaps when reunited with its partner, Want One will sound richer, fuller, more complete. Until then, it will be left to continue on its lonely journey — sifting, seeking, searching for its soul mate, much like Wainwright. ½
Want One is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box