Nearly a year after my introduction to Rufus Wainwright, the eagerly awaited “Want Two” finally made its way to my CD player. The latest of his four albums, “Want Two,” dropped in almost as a surprise to me. Rufus’ music is in its own genre, created by his unique voice, quaint lyrics and obsession with orchestration. There is no comparison to Wainwright.
With the onset of the “Want” series, his lyrical and vocal talents have matured. “Want Two” proves that Rufus Wainwright has begun to find a place for himself – a gay man trying to understand the cruelties of this vicious world.
Rufus reassures his listeners that he has evolved from the very beginning of “Want Two,” with “Agnus Dei” – an overture of strings and Latin lyrics. Dark, bold and painful to listen to at times, “Agnus Dei,” which is Latin for “Lamb of God,” allows Rufus’ vocals to flow, and sets the tone for the listener, one not of rock, but a sense of classical mysticism. It is his way of telling the world he’s back with full force.
Within a few seconds of being captivated by his opening, spiritual hymn, we’re thrown into a more upbeat “The One You Love.” Sounding more like the Rufus we left in “Want One,” this song throws lyrics like, “The mind has so many pictures / Why can’t I sleep with my eyes open?” Possibly being the only song in this album that comes off as pop-like, Rufus manages to give his loyal fans a taste of what they want.
Through simple guitar chords and deep, thoughtful lyrics, we’re told the story of Rufus’ life – melancholic lost love. “Peach Trees” continues to seep into the listeners’ mind, penetrating within and massaging your emotions. Rufus does an excellent job formulating his thoughts into soulful lyrical music, allowing listeners to empathize.
The topic of family is brought up with “Little Sister.” With a truly impressive string array, Rufus brings classical music for the modern day to life giving his sister advice about being a musician in a male-dominated world.
My personal favorite tune on the album, “The Art Teacher,” is a live recording with Rufus and his lover – the piano. The nature of his lyrics and live vocals give the sense as though he is singing right to the listener. “Teacher” tells the story of a girl who falls in love with her art teacher.
She grows into an adult, marries, but never finds another love like the one she had with her art teacher. The piano is the best element to the song. Its harmonic perfection with the yearning lyrics allows the tune to express a message of both desire and heartbreak.
Next, the controversial “Gay Messiah” does not refer to a gay Christ, but is Wainwright’s way to show his discontent with society. “He will fall from the star / Studio 54 / And appear on the sand / Of Fire Island’s shore.” With these lyrics, Rufus is singing to the religious right, those who are for the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. He tells them that he is “Rufus the Baptist,” almost prophesizing the coming of a time where gays will no longer be discriminated in society. This is Rufus at his pure genius – unapologetic and raw.
“Waiting for a Dream” takes recent political events into account. “There’s a fire in the priory / And an ogre in the oval office.” Wainwright is able to express his displeasure with federal figures. Ending with the “Old Whore’s Diet” gives the listener exactly what they have been looking for – pure Rufus. The unexpected sounds of the viola makes the song well rounded, giving off a juxtaposition of musical fundamentals that would normally not be combined. The song ends with a simple guitar chord, and Rufus’ voice promising to bring more. There is no doubt the gay messiah has come.
Buitrago can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.