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Rufus Wainwright 

Want One (Dreamworks)

Pop music's biggest opera fan -- and most notorious romantic -- Rufus Wainwright has nevertheless steered wide of naked emotional brutality on his previous two LPs. For all the sentiment of his undeniably personal songs, it was Wainwright's boyish enthusiasm for his panoply of musical ideas that carried the mood.

On Want One, the sprightliness is gone: Wainwright has new confidence in his sound, now employing it with the bombast one expects of an album about fighting personal demons. On songs such as the Jeff Buckley-esque "Beautiful Child" and "Go or Go Ahead," it sounds like Wainwright's singing for his mortal soul. Traces of the Rufus of old emerge, but even on these tracks, he's reaching for something deeper than he has before. Although Want One is somewhat less sonically cohesive than its predecessors, its ballast is its intensity, which never lets up. After two albums of referencing opera, Wainwright has finally allowed himself to make one emotionally raw enough to call to mind opera's tragic grandeur.

More by Maya Singer

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