Although many well-known musicians tend to release their best works in their mid-to-late 20s, it’s hard to ignore those who achieved success and fame before they were legally allowed to drink a beer. Here’s a list of great albums released before the artist was even 21 years old.
Assuming you were born before 2010, odds are you are very familiar with who Britney Spears is, in particular, her debut album …One More Time. Released in 1999 when she was only 16, it is the album that made Britney Spears a household name. To this day, it remains Britney Spear’s most successful albums selling over 14 million copies in the U.S. It is also one of the best-selling albums of all time including the best-selling album by a teenage solo artist. Even if you didn’t listen to her personally, odds are you know the lyrics to most of the songs on this album.
Known for his deep lyricism and tortured soul, Conor Oberst has been recognized as one of the greatest songwriters of our time. Along with his solo albums, he has played in numerous bands including Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos, Commander Venus, The Faint, Park Ave., Mystic Valley Band, and Monsters of Folk. He began playing guitar and songwriting at an incredibly young age and came out with his debut album Water when he was only 13 years old. Even at such a young age, this album still managed to demonstrate Oberst’s great skill and depth.
Although this is his second studio album, it stands out because Stevie Wonder actually sings, unlike his debut album The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie which he mostly played instrumentals and helped compose. Tribute to Uncle Ray was released under the Motown Label Tamla in 1962 when Wonder was only 12 years old. The album was not successful in terms of creating hit singles since young Stevie had not quite developed his own sound yet. However, the majority of the album was composed by famous musician Ray Charles who was also blind and African American, bringing the two together.
Young Canadian singer songwriter Justin Bieber exploded in popularity shortly after becoming a YouTube sensation in 2008. In 2009, he released his first extended play titled My World after signing with RBMG. Then, in 2010, he released his first full-length studio album My World 2.0 at the age of 16. A combination of pop, R&B, and hip hop, the album went on to become certified triple platinum in the U.S. Also, debuting at number one in the Billboard 200, it made Bieber the youngest solo male artist to top the charts since Stevie Wonder in 1963.
Declan McKenna is an English musician, singer, and songwriter who recently came into the music scene after winning the Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition in 2015. Since then, he has been working on a variety of EP’s demonstrating deep maturity with the majority of his songs focusing on social and political issues around the world. After slowly leaking songs periodically, he just recently released his first studio album What do You Think About the Car? on July 21, 2017, at the mere age of 19. It’s safe to say this is the first of many Declan McKenna albums to come considering his growing popularity worldwide.
Good Girl Gone Bad is superstar singer, songwriter, and now actress Rihanna’s third full-length studio album. However, what is so significant about this album if you can’t tell by the title, is that it was a reinvention of herself both sexually and musically. This album contains some of Rihanna’s most classic songs such as “Umbrella,” “Don’t Stop the Music,” and “Shut Up and Drive” to name a few. Originally, she was regarded as a teen pop star, making appearances at the Nickelodeon Teen Choice Awards as a role model for younger girls, but that all changed with the release of this album in 2007 when she was only 19 years old.
Hailing from England, King Krule (Archy Ivan Marshall) is an experimental musician and songwriter that most people have a hard putting their finger on. He began making music in 2010 under the stage name Zoo Kid and not too long after settled on the name of King Krule. After recording of series of EP’s under the persona of King Krule, on his 19th birthday, he released his debut album 6 Feet Beneath the Moon. With Marshall’s extremely heavy English accent topped with his blend of jazz, post-punk and hip-hop, the album became well recognized in the music community and his reputation grew overnight.
XXYYXX (Marcel Everett) is a young electronic producer from Orlando, Florida. He began recording and producing music in 2009, and has steadily been working his way to the top. With influences such as Shlohmo and Disclosure, it is understandable that his music is on the more calm side of the electronic music scene. In 2012, at the age of 17, he put out his his self-titled album XXYYXX. With his refreshing and creative beats, the album XXYYXX put Everett on the map; by 2013 he was frequently playing music festivals.
New Zealand native Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor, or Lorde as we know her, blindsided the world in 2013 with her explosive debut single “Royals.” She took the world by storm and was named the number-one single on the Billboard 100, making her the youngest solo artist to do so since 1986. Shortly after, at the age of 17, she released her full debut album Pure Heroin which was nominated for the best Pop Vocal Album in the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. Along with the original single Royals,” the two other singles, “Tennis Courts” and “Team,” both made the charts in a variety of different countries as the album propelled Lorde into fame.
Back in 2001, the classic boy band NSYNC released their second full-length album No Strings Attached. This albumcontained timeless songs like “Bye Bye Bye” and “It’s Gonna Be Me” and even broke the record for most album sales in the first week selling 2.4 million copies. Justin Timberlake was only 19 at the time as the album set the bar for pop music and helped build young Justin Timberlake’s reputation as one of the greatest male pop icons of the early 2000s.
Although the King of Pop had already made a name for himself at a young age as a member of the Jackson 5 and a series of cover albums, in 1979 Michael Jackson released Off the Wall at the age of 20. Though it was his fifth studio album, it was was his first with Epic Records. The album had 5 singles, 3 of them with full-length music videos and the backing of numerous famous collaborators. This album is also notable not only for his age, but because Jackson wrote 3 of the songs himself, one of them being “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” which won a Grammy.
Making a name for himself in his early teens as a memeber of the Odd Future rap group, Earl Sweatshirt (Thebe Neruda Kgositsile) has proven himself to be a force in the rap scene. In his debut mix tape Earl, he’s young, offensive and vulgar, yet three years later at the still-young age of 19, he released his first full-length debut album Doris. Listening to Doris, it’s clear that Earl has undergone some serious maturing as this album is much more, dark, thoughtful, and gritty, foreshadowing the future of Earl’s rap career.
Released in 2008, Fearless was Taylor Swift’s second studio album following her debut Taylor Swift. At the age of 18, Taylor wrote a total of eight of the thirteen songs independently, in which she collaborated with other artists on the rest. The first single of the album “Love Story” quickly became one of the best-selling singles of all time internationally, and for a brief moment was the best-selling country song as well. The album went on to debut as No. 1 in the United States and was the best-selling album of 2009.
After a recent stint in prison, 20-year-old rapper Kodak Black dropped his first debut studio album Painting Pictures on March 31, 2017. Released by Dollaz N Dealz Entertainment, Sniper Gang, and Atlantic Records, the album had two major hit singles. “There He Go” is a celebratory song about getting out of prison and “Tunnel Vison” is clearly about his opinions regarding the police and their view of his lifestyle. “Tunnel Vision” even reached number six on the US Billboard Hot 100 and can be heard blasting at frat parties all over the nation.
At the age of 20, Elvis Presley released his original self-titled album Elvis Presley in 1956. It landed the No.1 spot on the Billboard Top Pop Charts and stayed there for 10 weeks, the first rock and roll album to ever even make it to the top of the charts. As testament to its success both then and now, in 2003, it was named number 56 on the Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and was named one of the 101 Albums to Listen to Before You Die.
Coming out of the woodwork, 19-year-old Khalid Robinson is a singer and songwriter from El Paso, Texas who is making quite the name for himself. Most known for his hit single “Location,” in March 2017 he released his debut album, American Teen. Since its release, Khalid’s popularity has only increased exponentially. His smooth R&B style with with lyrics geared towards young adults couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Earlier this year, his “Location” tour sold out of all 21 cities and his songs have been featured in the television show Grey’s Anatomy.
Regarding the album’s supposedly innocent title, it’s safe to say that Lil Yachty’s teenage emotions are a bit different from the average 19 year old. With that being said, released on May 26, 2017, Teenage Emotions was well accepted and charted number five on the US Billboard 200. Within the 21-song album, there are a range of producers as well as contributors such a Diplo, YG, Migos and more. The album has three singles which are “Peek a Boo,” Harley,” and “Bring it Back.” The success of his album is also a great example of the direction hip-hop/rap is going as some describe Lil Yachty as a visionary.
Released in 2000, Aaron Carter’s second studio album Aaron’s Party (Come and Get It) proved to be the most successful album of his entire musical career. At the age of 12, his album was certified 3 x platinum and sold over 3 million copies in the U.S. With singles like “I Want Candy,” “Aarons Party,” and “That’s How I Beat Shaq,” he managed to make a name for himself and had the young girls swooning over him… even when he was wearing a dog collar.
Alex G (Alexander Giannascoli) was once a hobby indie musician, writing and recording his own songs in his bedroom and putting them on his BandCamp profile. He continued this DIY system of making his own music and began to develop a following. When he was 20 years old in 2014, his album DSU or Dream State University was discovered and indie lovers went crazy over it. It was featured as one of the best albums of 2014 by Noisey, Consequence of Sound, The Washington Post, Vogue, CMH, and Time Out. Shortly after, he went on a tour in both Europe and North America and his other albums were made commercially available.
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not was released in 2006, and was the English indie rock band The Arctic Monkeys first debut album. With the lead singer Alex Turner only being 20 at the time, the album had great success and is still popular today. It was the fastest selling debut in British history and sold 360,000 copies within the first week. Its first single “I Bet You Look Good On the Dance Floor” was an instant success and is still played frequently more than a decade later. The album itself was ranked number 371 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 greatest Albums of All Time and the band continues to put out new material today.