Off the crystal meth and back in the studio, Rufus Wainwright puts forth his most sober and self-reflective album to date. On Want One, Wainwright marries his gift for intelligent piano-pop with string and horn sections, and a healthy dose of introspection, for an intimate look at life, love, and addiction.
The theatrical "Oh What a World" opens Want One with a touch of Broadway. "Wouldn't it be a lovely headline? 'Life is Beautiful' on the New York Times," Wainwright sings with his signature slur against the swell of the orchestra. At its peak the song gives an impression of an impromptu parade.
Not all of Want is quite so elaborate. The sad and lovely "Vicious World" is one of the album's most candid tracks. While noodling on a Fender Rhodes piano, Wainwright asks simply: "What have I done to myself?" He asks the question almost in passing, but repeats it immediately with a hint of gravity and loneliness.
On "Dinner at Eight," Wainwright successfully gives equal attention to vocals and arrangement as he muses on his relationship with his father against a backdrop of piano and light strings.
Never one to disappoint, Wainwright also shows off his knack for the cabaret love-song with "Harvester of Hearts." The other songs are more upbeat pop in the vein of his previous album, Poses.
Experimenting with orchestra and paired-down lyrics, Wainwright successfully tackles self-examination. He continues his search for love and happiness, but overall, Want One suggests a sense of contentment -- musical and otherwise.