Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Song #147 of 9999 - Poses by Rufus Wainwright

Song #147 of 9999

Title: Poses

Artist: Rufus Wainwright
Year: 2001
Album: Poses

Rufus Wainwright's artistic path has been interesting to watch unfold. His first album is just pop bliss: an ambitious mix of uptempo numbers ("April Fools") and dramatic pieces ("Barcelona") that has the youthful exuberance of a newcomer with nothing to lose and nothing to prove. It found its mark despite having no particular aim or target. 

With Poses, Wainwright really found his footing and revealed his identity unapologetically. Turns out he's more Franz Schubert than Brian Wilson and, where Rufus Wainwright had one foot in the cabaret, Poses seems to have its in the recital hall. There are pop songs (most notably "California") but the range of dynamics and high drama in the arrangements reveal Wainwright's interest in opera and art songs.

What I love about "Poses" is the dissonance in the piano throughout the verse, first subtle through the use of pedal tones and ostinati, then with flat-out clashing dissonance (the third line on the words "all these poses"). The other thing I find striking about the song is the way it keeps its control. Yes, there is a dramatic rise during the chorus but the pot never boils over. Wainwright knows exactly how far to go with his voice, preferring to heighten drama through the use of additional colors in the arrangement and flexible tempos than with vocal histrionics.

Although I haven't liked every record he's produced, there's no denying that Wainwright is a singular talent in the pop music world, creating unique and often stirringly beautiful songs. When you're in the mood for him, there is no substitute.

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