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Rufus Wainwright

Want One
Dreamworks

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I've been trying to figure out what it means to be a pop artist these days. It seems like nearly every performer currently on the pop charts is a prefabricated design created by the music industry to sell records and promote a certain lifestyle. These flash-in-the-pan performers are tantamount to a fast-food meal. They satisfy the initial hunger but ultimately offer little or no nutritional value.

If this is the case, within the current confines of the pop genre formula, Rufus Wainwright is not a pop artist. His insightful, often old-fashioned, approach to creating a perfect pop song connotes a level of talent greatly underrepresented among the present crop of prepackaged performers. Unabashed about his love of the opera, theater, and mid-century crooners, Wainwright offers a breath of fresh air amid a sorry state of bare midriffs and barely-there talent.

With his third release, Want One, Wainwright embarks on his most ambitious project to date. The album is laden with grandiose orchestral accompaniments backing his cabaret-styled vocals and augmenting the flair that has become Wainwright's trademark. Want One represents an impressive span of the emotional spectrum. Songs such as "Vicious World" shimmer beautifully as Wainwright laments in reflective nakedness, while "Dinner at Eight" tells the story of the tumultuous relationship between Wainwright and his father, singer Loudon Wainwright III.

Not many artists have the capacity to juxtapose the dramatic with the poignant. Even fewer artists have the talent to restore my faith in what pop music should be. Wainwright has managed to do both.

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