45. Rufus Wainwright, Want One (Dreamworks, 2003)

Decades from now, people will look back on Wainwright's early output and marvel at how a major label could put out such opulent, strange, uncompromising music. In retrospect, his cabaret-heavy debut and scattered, searching follow-up were just preludes to this daring blend of pop, jazz, Broadway and confessional singer/songwriter modes. Working off larger-than-life backdrops from Moulin Rouge producer Marius DeVries, this is a sonically rich trip to "gay hell" and back, layered with references to Bolero and bad sitcoms, but also anger, lust, sorrow, and promise of rebirth. Magnificent tracks like "Oh What a World", "Beautiful Child" and "Go or Go Ahead" are admittedly over-the-top, but in his excesses, Wainwright reveals a wise, wounded soul that's emotionally charged and eloquently expressed--a significant voice for his generation.