Weekend Listening: Want One by Rufus Wainwright
Listen while you read (volume may be loud):
Album: Want One by Rufus Wainwright
Released: September 23, 2003 by DreamWorks records
Recommended if you like: poetry set to music; sing-out-loud songs with brain-bendingly gorgeous lyrics and also some contemplative ones and some sad ones that will give you feels thrown into the mix
Notable Tracks: “I Don’t Know What It Is” and “Oh What A World” (singles); “Go or Go Ahead”, “Want”, “14th Street” (personal favorites)
I wanted to save Rufus for Pride Month, since he’s not only openly gay but he’s also known for actively criticizing America’s still, though increasingly less, backwards attitude toward LGBT equality (like in the song “Going To A Town“). I wavered on which album I would feature–none of his albums are completely perfect for me, but I landed on Want One because it’s my personal favorite.
The album opens on an ethereal note, with meditative humming reminiscent of religious music opening into a song that builds slowly, adding layer upon layer of joy and sound and harmony that you can’t help but sing along with at the top of your voice. The second track, “I Don’t Know What It Is”, picks up beautifully where the first track leaves off, keeping your spirits high and your mind engaged. From there, the mood is up and down, though the tracks flow smoothly from contemplative pieces to soul-searching ballads to playful songs about unrequited love and modern technology. There are moments that will make you nearly cry (since I realized the lyric “Woke up this morning and something was burning / realized that everything really does happen in Manhattan” is about September 11, my throat swells up almost every time–it’s not maudlin, yet it expresses so much emotion) and some that will make you think.
The lyrics have a deeply introspective nature that I appreciate. The song “Go or Go Ahead” has some of my most-identified-with lyrics of all time:
Thank you for this bitter knowledge
Guardian angels who left me stranded
It was worth it, feeling abandoned
Makes one hardened but what has happened to love?
And then there’s the song at the end, about Rufus and his father. The songs about his dad always kill me, since I also have what you might mildly call “daddy issues”:
Why is it so
That I’ve always been the one who must go?
That I’ve always been the one told to flee?
When it fact you were the one
Long ago, actually
In the drifting white snow
Who left me
(For more daddy issues songs by Rufus, see also “One Man Guy“, which is not on this album and is actually a cover of a song his dad wrote. SO FITTING.)
And the thing about the songs on this album is that they’re all gorgeous. It’s not just a dude and a guitar, it’s pianos, it’s whole damn orchestras, it’s layers of voices and sounds and crescendos, everything richly and luxuriously textured. The songs draw feelings out of you like a craftsman drawing a hair-thin wire out of molten silver. They push and pull and create their own tides within you. It’s beautiful and listenable.
If you want to listen, in fact, here’s how: