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Rufus Wainwright - Want One
Label: Dreamworks Records
Release: 2003

Oh What a World
I Don't Know What It Is
Vicious World
Movies of Myself
Pretty Things
Go or Go Ahead
14th Street
Harvester of Hearts
Beautiful Child
Dinner at Eight
Want One - Rufus Wainwright
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The problem with Want One isn't so much it's flaws as the strengths of it's predecessors. Rufus's self titled effort and Poses (the latter especially) were full of a cheeky, wry brilliance, cleverly articulated and expressed over a poperatic blend of piano ballads and more sprightly jams. Thus, the bar was set high, and Want One, while engaging in it's own right falls a bit short, at least based on my initial listens.
The musical style hasn't changed drastically. This is still a fundamentally Rufus Wainwright album. However, the focus seems to have shifted more towards the pop aspect of Rufus's sound. This works pretty well sometimes (Beautiful Child especially, IMO). There are a few little explorative tinges - the chaotic keyboard dominance of Vicious World or the synth on Movies of Myself, for example, that mostly add something to the record's sound. Yet still, there's a lack of anything as melodically powerful as, say Poses's title track and Barcelona, or as outrightly groovy as Shadows and Matinee Idol. Basically this time out is a much denser affair than before, which takes away from it's accessability, if not it's overall quality (that remains to be seen as time passes).

But if the album suffers anywhere, it's with the lyrics. They're not bad by a long shot. However, nor are they as good as we know Mr Wainwright is capable of. Previous lyrics were tightly crafted and fully loaded, creating a resonance with each line. The lyrics on Want One seem a little more shallow, I suppose. Pop cultural references are more direct (as opposted to being hinted at) and abundant than before. Song concepts are simpler and easier answers are offered about life and love. It's hard to provide specific examples, but a lyric like "My phone's on vibrate for you / but still I never feel from you / Pinocchio's now a boy who wants to turn back into a toy" lacks the punch of something like "I went from wanting to be someone / now I'm drunk and wearing flip flops on Fifth Avenue."

The lyrics are also a little harder to make out here. Maybe it's a production issue, maybe Rufus is just slurring more than usual, I'm not sure. I mean, let's face it, the man would sound good singing the menu at McDonalds, but there is a bit of a drop in clarity and therefore quality.

Apparently this album is the first of a duo that came out of the same sessions. I can't say for sure without hearing the other, but maybe he would've benefitted from distilling them down to one CD.

Reading over it, this review sounds alarmingly negative. I want to reiterate that Want One is by NO means a bad album. It deserves all of the 3.5 stars I'm giving it. It may not be Rufus at his best, but it's certianly a lot better than a significant portion of the stuff that's out there this year.

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