Song of the Day #5,226: ‘Gay Messiah’ – Rufus Wainwright

Continuing my look at 2004, first by counting down my own top ten albums of that year.

#4 – Rufus Wainwright – Want Two

Rufus Wainwright’s fourth album was the second part of a project introduced a year earlier with, appropriately, Want One. The first part is an all-timer for me, not just my favorite Wainwright album but possibly cracking my top ten albums by anybody.

Want Two can’t help but pale a bit in comparison, but only a bit. It’s a lush, yearning collection that takes even more chances than its predecessor.

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Song of the Day #5,126: ‘Peach Trees’ – Rufus Wainwright

Here’s a track from Rufus Wainwright’s 2004 album Want Two that, like so many of his best songs, overflows with romantic longing. ‘Peach Trees’ finds Wainwright on a lonely stroll through New York City, wishing to see a lover who is either absent or non-existent.

Looking back, I’m tempted to say the Want project — which consisted of two albums released a year apart — was the last great work Wainwright released. I need to revisit the three pop albums he put out over the next 16 years to remind myself how they stack up.

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Song of the Day #4,811: ‘Waiting for a Dream’ – Rufus Wainwright

Hearing today’s random selection drift out of my headphones immediately put me back in 2004, when Rufus Wainwright’s Want Two was released. I remember lying on the floor of the same room where I’m writing this post now, lyric sheet in hand, taking in the newest release by one of my favorite artists.

Want Two was Wainwright’s fourth album, and the second part of the Want suite. Want One had quickly become one of my favorite albums and cemented Wainwright’s position in my personal pantheon. This album delivered on the promise of its predecessor while exploring new musical territory.

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Song of the Day #1,148: ‘Little Sister’ – Rufus Wainwright

Best Songwriters – #6 – Rufus Wainwright

I went back and forth several times between including Rufus Wainwright in my top five songwriters and leaving him at #6. Ultimately I went with this placement for reasons I’ll get into next week, but it was a hard decision. Part of me agrees with Elton John’s assessment of Wainwright as “the greatest songwriter on the planet.”

Hyperbole aside, it’s hard to deny the writing chops of a man whose pop music is influenced by Chopin and Puccini as well as The Beatles and his folk singing father, Loudon Wainwright III. Rufus Wainwright brings a theatrical sensibility to his music that simply isn’t approached by anybody else working today. He is a fascinating blend of classic and modern styles and attitudes.

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Song of the Day #303: ‘Gay Messiah (Live)’ – Rufus Wainwright

rufus2Want Two contains a lot of ambitious and emotional music: album opener ‘Agnus Dei’ is a string-drenched, hyper-passionate Catholic hymn performed in Latin; closer ‘Old Whore’s Diet’ is a 9-minute epic alternating between a capella crooning and Mediterranean dance beats; ‘Little Sister’ is a baroque treat that, stripped of its vocals, would sound like it was written in the early 18th century.

But the song I love the most of all is the simplest tune on the album — the acoustic stroll of ‘Gay Messiah.’

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