want two – rufus wainwright

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					Want Two – Rufus Wainwright

Picking up where Want One left off, Rufus Wainwright's Want Two is a deeply
introspective, sometimes kinky, and often personally critical set of mini-operettas that
ruminate on his various relationships, drug abuse, and image in the media. Metaphorically
liturgical and often classical in sound, Want Two touches on such inner-related themes as
love, loneliness, sin, and sacrifice. It's more focused than Want One and as such packs
more of a wallop both musically and emotionally. On the cover of Want One, Wainwright
appeared as a chivalrous knight in armor, bringing to mind the conquering crusader — Sir
Gawain the gay knight? Conversely, on Want Two he appears as a dark-haired maiden —
the suicidal Ophelia? The imagery not only speaks to the campy and loaded cliché of the
male-and-female, yin-and-yang drive of the gay male persona, but more importantly how
one's personal desires are often sacrificed because of public successes. Never one to shy
away from personal issues, Wainwright deals explicitly with how his sexuality has affected
his life and career, not merely as a gay man but as a burgeoning gay icon with a complex
desire to both embrace and ignore all that entails. This is no more apparent than on the
album centerpiece, the iconoclastic "Gay Messiah," in which Wainwright both mocks gay
pop culture and laments his ability to live up to his fan base's desire for a artistic hero in
the culture wars. He sings, "He will be reborn/From 1970s porn/Wearing tube socks with
style/And such an innocent smile," and later, "No it will not be me/Rufus the Baptist I be."
Similarly, on the opening track, "Agnus Dei," he croons, "Agnus dei/Qui tollis peccata
mundi/Dona nobis pacem." Translated it means, "Lamb of God/Who takest away the sins
of the world/Grant us peace." It's Wainwright's most direct plea for both personal and
public absolution and helps leave the impression of an artist attempting to find emotional
buoyancy in the often perilous waters of both the music business and the dating scene.
Musically, Wainwright has never seemed more in command of his muse. References to
Nilsson, Brian Wilson, and Randy Newman are a matter of course, but Wainwright's growth
as a pop craftsman with his own unique lyrical voice — both conceptually and literally —
makes such comparisons unnecessary. To these ends, lush string orchestras, cheery choirs,
and piping horn sections decorate the impeccably scored album and perfectly
complement Wainwright's swooning vocals. Taken as a whole, Want One and Want Two
work well together as a sprawling and ambitious double album that is camp, serious, and
utterly compelling.

By Matt Collar

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