Toronto
2 min

History’s first great gay album

Rufus Wainwright is finally in love

FAIRYTALE ENDING. Beautiful male love rendered exquisitely. Credit: Xtra files

Like its sister Want One, Rufus Wainwright’s new album Want Two is full of slow jams of the early 20th-century, unbelievably romantic, opera-queen variety. His heart is free and he wants to be loved.



This may well go down in the history books as the first great gay album. No out gay artist has ever reflected the emotional complexity, the longing and the admiration of beautiful male love so exquisitely. With grand sweeping string and horn arrangements backing up Wainwright’s melodramatic delivery (that can spin from bitchy to pining in a second), Want Two has an intoxicating laidback spirit. It may seem not so special at first but read that lyric sheet and the album will hit you in the gut. It definitely casts its spell with the words. The words make the music soar.



The album starts, of course, in Latin with the perfectly pretentious “Agnus Dei.” You can just feel your Oxford boy fantasies come to life. Questioning and rejoicing occurs on “The One You Love” as the rousing layered vocal harmonies give strength to Wainwright’s words. “Let’s fuck this awful art party/ Want you to make love to me/ And only me/ In the dark.” The enchantingly moody “Peach Trees” swirls with lonely thoughts and a sneaky vibraphone as Wainwright observes, “Is true love a trip to Chinatown/ Or being held in one’s opium gaze.”



On the live recording of “The Art Teacher” Wainwright plays his piano as he tells us the story of when he was a young “girl” and had a crush on his art teacher. “He asked us what our favourite work of art was/ But never could I tell him it was him.”



The best track for me has to be “Gay Messiah” with its simple guitar strumming and melodic choral background. This is what Wainwright does best – take traditional music and mix it with amusing lyrics. We don’t usually hear these words with such pretty melodies. “He will then be reborn/ From 1970s porn/ Wearing tube socks with style/ And such an innocent smile.” Or how about, “Rufus the Baptist I be/ No I won’t be the one/ Baptized in cum”?



Producer Marius de Vries (Moulin Rouge, Want One) is at the helm with most of the same musicians and singers from Want One (including sister Martha Wainwright, Levon Helm and Charlie Sexton); both albums were basically recorded at the same time. Added to the mix is Van Dyke Parks (orchestral arrangements), singers Leona Naess and Antony (Antony And The Johnsons) and actress Gina Gershon appears playing the Jew’s harp. The album really is a stunner and takes Wainwright’s artistry to a whole new level. Finally, he’s in love.



* Rufus Wainwright performs at the Mod Club (722 College St) on Wed, Dec 8 (8pm doors). Tix are $29.50; call (416) 870-8000.



WANT TWO.

Rufus Wainwright.

Gefffen. $17.99.