Gabby Barrett, Chloe x Halle, Lil Tecca
21 under 21

21 Under 21: See Who Made the 2020 List

From viral TikTok hits to chart-topping success, these 21 artists have had continued success — and in some cases, broke out in a big way this year.

24kGoldn, 19
Total Streams: 702.7 million
Label: RECORDS/Columbia

Sami Drasin
24kGoldn photographed on Sept. 25, 2020 in Los Angeles.

Dubbed by RECORDS CEO Barry Weiss as “Post Malone meets Will Smith,” 24kGoldn has quickly become a familiar voice on pop radio after notching his first Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 in October with “Mood,” featuring iann dior. Besides his emo-leaning smash, Goldn’s win-now mentality and bubbly demeanor have made him a favorite on Twitter and TikTok, boasting 3 million followers on the latter. “If people like your Twitter, they like you because of who you are and what you got to say,” he says, “not because you’re flexing expensive cars or watches.” The rising artist is now focused on his upcoming debut album, El Dorado, and says his biggest goal for 2021 is to be “better than I was last year.”

Why is it important to explore multiple genres?

I think that’s just the way the world is moving, you know? We don’t have radio stations that are controlling the way music is made anymore. Back in the day, if you wanted to blow up, you had to make music that would fit in a certain box so they knew what to do with it. Music now is more democratic than ever. I can make a country jazz trap song and blow it up on TikTok tomorrow, and they’ll have to put it on the rap stations, they’ll put it on the country stations, and they’ll put it on the jazz stations. It can go in so many different places. So to be the biggest artist in the world, which is what I want to be, you can’t focus on genre. You have to focus on making the best music in the world.

beabadoobee, 20
Total Streams: 435.5 million
Label: Dirty Hit

Nicole Nodland
Beabadoobee photographed on October 19, 2020 in London.

In 2017, Bea Laus got kicked out of her all-girls Catholic school in London over a combination of “grades and behavior,” she says. “They knew I smoked in the toilets a lot, and I guess that was bad.”

She had attended the school since she was 12 and often felt alienated during her time there: “I didn’t have the same hobbies as all the other Asian kids,” she recalls, “and I was ‘too Asian’ to be in the popular group.” The now-20-year-old was born in the Philippines and moved to the United Kingdom with her parents when she was a toddler. While her father always focused on her academics, her mother advocated for music education, encouraging Laus to play the violin starting at age 5 and introducing her to Alanis Morissette and Nirvana, which jump-started a love for 1990s alt-rock.

Getting expelled from school left Laus, then 17, feeling lost. She turned to writing as a therapeutic release and took comfort in the music of Alex G, Elliott Smith and The Moldy Peaches. Her dad bought her a secondhand classical guitar, which she learned how to play by watching YouTube tutorials. The first original track she wrote for guitar was the gentle acoustic love song “Coffee” that she uploaded to streaming services in 2017 and became her breakout single under the name beabadoobee. (The moniker came from the made-up account name for her Finsta, a secondary Instagram account, because at the time she thought, “No one’s going to care.”)

Read the full profile on beabadoobee here.

Billie Eilish, 18
Total Streams: 12.1 billion
Label: Darkroom/Interscope

ILLUSTRATION BY Selman Hoşgör; Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
Billie Eilish

After scoring 2019’s biggest debut album with When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? and a historic sweep of the Grammy Awards’ Big Four categories in January — the first artist to do so since Christopher Cross 39 years earlier — Billie Eilish has become one of the biggest artists on the planet. And while the pandemic stunted her arena world tour just three dates in, she has still managed to make the most of 2020, with a pair of singles (the sweeping James Bond theme “No Time To Die” and the meditative “My Future”) debuting in the Hot 100’s top 20 and an inventive global livestream that fused reality with virtual environments.

Benee, 20
Total Streams: 318.1 million
Label: Republic

New Zealand native Benee (born Stella Rose Bennett) broke out this year with her TikTok-fueled alt-pop hit “Supalonely,” featuring Gus Dapperton, as its quirky and colorful music video garnered over 159 million YouTube views and pushed it onto the Hot 100. Benee, who “never imagined” appearing on late-night shows in the United States, delivered virtual performances on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and others; more recently, she played to 24,000 people at two sold-out hometown performances. She also launched her own label, Olive (through Universal Music New Zealand), and will release her debut album on Nov. 13.

What artist's career do you most admire and why?

Grace Jones. I think the fact that she’s in her 70s and still performing is super inspiring for a young female artist. I love the performance aspect of her music, too. I also love Bjork, because she’s always experimenting and pushing boundaries.

Carlie Hanson, 20
Total Streams: 97.1 million
Label: Warner

ILLUSTRATION BY Selman Hoşgör; Alice Baxley
Carlie Hanson

Before Hanson signed to Warner Records in 2019, she had already opened on tour for Troye Sivan and Yungblud — the latter of whom, she says, isn’t afraid to speak his mind, “which is what every young person should feel like.” And before the alt-pop singer had even released her debut EP, she earned a co-sign from Taylor Swift, who had hand-picked Hanson’s “Back in My Arms” for her Apple Music playlist. In October, Hanson released her second EP, DestroyDestroyDestroyDestroy, which included collaborations with Lil West (“Fires”) and rising star iann dior (“ego”).

What's the most powerful thing about being a young artist in the music industry?

It feels like there are no boundaries or limitations right now. We have so much freedom to do as we please, whether it's the genre we create or what we want to say through our music. We’re so open with ourselves and our audiences, and I am so happy to be part of this fearless generation and to be making music during such an exciting time.

Chloe x Halle, 22, 20
Total Streams: 344.7 million
Label: Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia

The Beyoncé-championed sister duo delivered on its promising beginnings this year with acclaimed second album Ungodly Hour, which debuted at No. 2 on the Top R&B Albums chart, while lead single “Do It” became the pair’s Hot 100 debut and also reached No. 4 on the Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop chart. And when the siblings aren’t busy transforming their at-home tennis court into a stage (as they did for their BET Awards virtual performance and others), they’re advocating for the Black Lives Matter movement and voting: “Our parents instilled in us that the power is in our hands.”

Since your career took off, what's the biggest business lesson you've learned?

One of the biggest business lessons we’ve learned is to not be afraid to take claim and ownership over the world that you do. Growing up on the values [our parents instilled in us]  challenged us to write, produce and not allow anyone else to tell our story but us.

Gabby Barrett, 20
Total Streams: 487 million
Label: Warner Music Nashville

Vindictive breakup hit “I Hope” became Barrett’s first No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart in April. Six months later, it received a second wind thanks to a new version featuring Charlie Puth that reached the summit on Adult Pop Songs and also entered the Hot 100’s top 10. (It currently sits at No. 6.) Puth had reached out to Barrett on Instagram, her preferred social media platform, about duetting on the track that she now says “completely changed my trajectory. It just happened to be the fourth song I had ever written in Nashville and has opened so many doors for me.”

What artist's career do you most admire and why?

I most admire Dolly Parton in country music and Michael Jackson in pop. Dolly is an icon in our genre — she has continued making relevant, creative, and thoughtful music for decades while also giving back to others. Michael Jackson is my favorite male artist of all time, and musically I think he left a permanent footprint on American culture and pop music. His performances were always original and game-changing, and the songs he brought into the world will stand the test of time.

jxdn, 19
Total Streams: 96.1 million
Label: DTA Records

Ssam Kim
jxdn photographed July 27 in Los Angeles.

Since earning a massive audience on TikTok, Jaden Hossler has translated his 8.7 million followers on the app into a fan base that eagerly streams his singles. The rising alt-rocker, who releases music as jxdn, signed to Travis Barker’s DTA Records in May; soon after, singles “Angels & Demons” and “So What” both entered the Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart’s top 10. Says jxdn: “A year ago, I was just a consumer, so I feel like I have a good pulse on what people want to hear.”

Since your career took off, what’s the biggest business lesson you have learned?

It sounds cliché, but I’ve learned that you can’t trust everyone. It’s so important to keep your circle close. That’s definitely something I’ve learned from working with Travis — DTA literally stands for “Don’t trust anyone,” and in this business it’s so true.

The Kid LAROI, 17
Total Streams: 457.2 million
Label: GRADE A Productions/Columbia

The Kid LAROI had doubts that his debut mixtape, F*CK LOVE, would even chart on the Billboard 200, so when the July release entered at No. 8, he was “jumping around the house all fucking day.” Since being discovered through Australian station triple j’s competition series, the alternative hip-hop artist born Charlton Howard was included on late rapper Juice WRLD’s posthumous Hot 100 top 10 hit “Hate the Other Side.” Looking ahead, The Kid LAROI points to Drake’s impact on Canada to indicate what he hopes to do for Australia’s music scene.

Since your career took off, what’s the biggest business lesson that you’ve learned?

Not sure if this is just business, but life in general: Be careful with your money and be smart with your money, because it doesn’t last forever. You have to find ways to keep your money coming in. Another big lesson I’ve learned is to listen more, rather than talk more.

Koffee, 20
Total Streams: 189.2 million
Label: Promised Land/RCA

Three weeks before turning 20, the multitalented artist born Mikayla Simpson made history at the 2020 Grammys: She not only became the first female artist to win best reggae album in the award’s 35-year history, but also the category’s youngest winner of all time. She plans to use her success “to set an example for those who are younger than me — to inspire others to reach their full potential.” In the meantime, she’s still forging new accomplishments of her own, like a pair of hit collaborations with U.K. star J Hus (“Repeat”) and reggae legend Buju Banton (the “Pressure” remix).

What's the most powerful thing about being a young artist in the music industry?

This is a big opportunity for me, a big platform that I can use to set an example for those that are younger than me. To keep things positive and inspire others to reach their full potential — it’s a huge responsibility, and I want to do a lot of good with it.

ILLUSTRATION BY Selman Hoşgör; NCT Dream: SM Entertainment. Koffee: Amy Sussman/Getty Images. Cyrus: Steve Granitz/WireImage.
From left: NCT Dream, Koffee and Cyrus.

Lil Mosey, 18
Total Streams: 2.6 billion
Label: Mogul Vision/Interscope Records

Washington state native Lil Mosey says that he’ll “always remember” his first top 10 single on the Hot 100, as his springy track “Blueberry Faygo” slowly rose up the chart thanks to TikTok clips and reached No. 8 earlier this year. The MC has been prolific since, but wants to eventually transcend music: “I look at Post Malone and Travis Scott because they’ve hit that arena level of their careers,” he says, “but they’re also doing more than just music — like, Travis is doing McDonald’s deals; Post created his own wine company. Those are the kind of things I’m working toward.

Since your career took off, what's the biggest business lesson you've learned?

I’ve learned that music for me is the platform to so many other opportunities that will come my way. I’ve learned to take advantage of every opportunity and take nothing for granted. I’m 18 and I’m doing things people could only dream of. I’m grateful to be here.

Lil Tecca, 18
Total Streams: 2.5 billion
Label: Galactic/Republic

Last year, Queens rapper Lil Tecca exploded with his summertime scorcher “Ran$om,” which hit No. 4 on the Hot 100 and received a remix from the late Juice WRLD. Tecca’s hot streak continued when he released We Love You Tecca in August 2019. The mixtape showcased his penchant for melodic rap hooks and reached No. 4 on the Billboard 200, setting the stage for his debut album this year, Virgo World, which entered the chart at No. 10 in October. As for what’s in store for 2021, the rapper hopes to “continue elevating and enjoying life.”

In 2021, my biggest goal is: ________

Continue elevating and enjoying life. Be the best version of myself while continuing to inspire and change the world as much as I can.

ILLUSTRATION BY Selman Hoşgör; Barrett: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images. Chloe x Halle: Amy Sussman/Getty Images. Tecca: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images.
From left: Barrett, Halle and Chloe Bailey, and Lil Tecca.

Lil Tjay, 19
Total Streams: 2.3 billion
Label: Columbia

With two top 20 Hot 100 features to his name — Polo G’s 2019 track “Pop Out” and Pop Smoke’s 2020 posthumous hit “Mood Swings” — Lil Tjay has quickly become a goto collaborator. The Bronx native’s harrowing street tales and icy love ballads make up much of his debut album, last year’s True 2 Myself, which entered the Billboard 200’s top five. “We set the tone,” he says. “What’s hot, who’s next up and what the drip is.” He plans to do just that with his upcoming second album next year, declaring: “I’m going to have more plaques — and a No. 1 album.”

What artist's career do you most admire and why?

Michael Jackson, he did everything. Music, movies, TV — he did it all. He was an icon and I know I’m going to be that real soon.

Lunay, 20
Total Streams: 524.5 million
Label: Star Island

After posting videos of himself freestyling on Facebook in 2017, Puerto Rican native Lunay got a call from producers Chris Jedi and Gaby Music. Two years later, Lunay was collaborating with reggaetón superstars Daddy Yankee and Bad Bunny on “Soltera (Remix),” his first top 10 on the Hot Latin Songs chart, peaking at No. 3 and raking in 343.2 million U.S. streams, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data. Signed to indie label Star Island, the rising artist, who has since scored collaborations with Ozuna and Anuel AA, credits his success to two things: “humility and hard work.”

What artist's career do you most admire and why?

Daddy Yankee, undoubtedly. For his humility, work and discipline over so many years. He has many values that I share — and he’s from my island!

Manuel Turizo, 20
Total Streams: 328.1 million
Label: La Industria/Sony Music Latin

In 2017, at 16, Turizo scored a viral hit with debut single “Una Lady Como Tú.” Since, he has topped the Mexico Airplay chart with “Quiéreme Mientras Se Pueda” and the Latin Airplay list with his Sebastián Yatra-Rauw Alejandro collaboration “TBT.” The Colombian artist says his second album, Dopamina, will “dominate” 2021. “I hope that by the time I’m 60, people will still be consuming my music and going to my concerts,” he says. “It’s not about being at the top. It’s about acquiring an audience [that will be] by your side throughout your career.”

Since your career took off, what's the biggest business lesson you've learned?

Don’t run! We always want to run when we enter the industry. We think that it’s about who finishes the race first and this isn’t about that. This is about the one who resists the most and I think that’s the most valuable thing I was taught.

Mason Ramsey, 13
Total Streams: 133.1 million
Label: Big Loud/Atlantic

It has been nearly three years since Mason Ramsey went viral yodeling Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues” inside a Walmart. But the Golconda, Ill., native remains humble (“At the end of the day, I put my boots on just like everybody else,” he says with a laugh) — and in the spotlight. He hopped on a remix of 2019’s record-breaking hit “Old Town Road,” which he performed at this year’s Grammys, and though he hasn’t released any new music yet in 2020, his summer campaign for Burger King that focused on reducing global methane emissions has earned nearly 75,000 views on Twitter.

In 2021, my biggest goal is: ________

To just get out there and perform. I just want to get back to seeing my fans and gaining more experience. I wouldn’t mind collaborating with another big artist again, or getting back into writing with the best in Nashville — especially with my friend Craig Wiseman.

Moore Kismet, 15
Total Streams: 769,000
Label: Thrive Music

Last November, Kismet was a finalist among Beat Battle Contestants at the 2019 Goldie Awards, presented by A-Trak. Since then, the independent, nonbinary Los Angeles bass producer has released their Revenge of the Unicorns EP on Never Day Die. “The most powerful thing about being a young artist is knowing I have more than enough time to chase after any dream,” says Kismet — and according to friends and family, the work ethic. “I’ve been told a number of times that they’ve never seen anyone their age or older hustle quite like I have.”

In 2021, my biggest goal is: _________

Honestly, to be nominated for a Grammy for Best Dance/Electronic Album and/or Best New Artist. The direction that I’m taking my sound musically is something that would be a huge culture shock to mainstream music, especially in terms of radio airplay. But it’s what resonates with me best and it’s what allows me to be more comfortable with continuing to write music steadily.

Natanael Cano, 19
Total Streams: 905.3 million
Label: Rancho Humilde

Six months into 2020, Mexican artist Cano — who only launched his career in 2019 — became the third-most-consumed Latin artist in the United States, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data’s midyear report, ranking just behind Bad Bunny and Ozuna. Since partnering with Bad Bunny on “Soy El Diablo (Remix)” in October 2019, Cano has released four projects, including Trap Tumbado in June, cementing his place as a leading force in trap corridos. And as his career continues to grow in the United States, by 2021, he says, “I’d love to reach every corner of Mexico.”

Since your career took off, what's the biggest business lesson you've learned?

I haven’t really focused on the business side of the industry, I’ve only focused on growing my career. I’ve met bad people in the industry but that hasn’t stopped me.

NCT Dream, 18-20
Total Streams: 142 million
Label: SM Entertainment

NCT Dream (a subunit of the K-pop group NCT) experienced a first this year: Original member Mark returned, ending the band’s long-held rule that members would leave at the Korean age of 20. Prior to his return, NCT Dream led the Emerging Artists chart thanks to its EP Reload; since Mark rejoined, all seven members appeared on NCT’s second full-length, NCT Resonance Pt. 1, which hit No. 6 on the Billboard 200 (and topped the World Albums chart) and was made with the group’s NCTzens in mind. Says Haechan: “Since it has been a hard time for many, I hope our songs provide a sense of hope and strength.”

What's the most powerful thing about being a young artist in the music industry?

Haechan: I’m really grateful that I found what I liked to do at a young age, and that’s what brought me this far. Of course, there were things I needed to give up in order to pursue my dreams, but I’ve also gained that much more during the process. And I want to achieve even more moving forward.

NLE Choppa, 18
Total Streams: 2.9 billion
Label: No Love Entertainment (NLE)/Warner

After bursting onto the scene in 2019 with his top 40 hit “Shotta Flow,” NLE Choppa has represented Memphis hip-hop this year by releasing collaborations with Lil Baby, Roddy Ricch and Mulatto during self-isolation. “I guess the pandemic really slowed everything down, but it helped me find myself,” says the rapper, who released his major-label debut, Top Shotta, in August, which entered the top 10 on the Billboard 200.

What's the most powerful thing about being a young artist in the music industry?

The most powerful thing about being a young artist in the industry is that it’s never a bad time to start growing. I feel like being young, people get to watch you blossom. You know, just looking at where you started at to the point of where you are now.

Noah Cyrus, 20
Total Streams: 940.7 million
Label: RECORDS/Columbia

On this year’s The End of Everything EP, Cyrus was eager to explore her softer side, saying, “I definitely set the standard for myself lyrically moving forward.” The 2019 single “July” received a remix featuring Leon Bridges, which in May climbed to No. 4 on the Triple A Songs chart; more recently, Cyrus rereleased “I Got So High That I Saw Jesus” as a duet with older sister Miley after the pair performed it on Miley’s Backyard Sessions virtual tour. The video has nearly 4 million YouTube views.

Since your career took off, what's the biggest business lesson you've learned?

As an artist (especially as a young female artist), you probably get more no’s than yes’s, and it’s really important to stick to my gut and push for what I think is right and fair. It’s definitely a challenge at 20 years old, carrying a business on your shoulders, but surrounding myself with people with pure intentions has been a huge support in that equation.

Contributors: Katie Bain, Griselda Flores, Gab Ginsberg, Josh Glicksman, Lyndsey Havens, Carl Lamarre, Jason Lipshutz, Melinda Newman, Jessica Roiz, Andrew Unterberger

Methodology: A committee of Billboard editors and reporters weighed a variety of factors in determining the 2020 21 Under 21 list, including, but not limited to, impact on consumer behavior, as measured by such metrics as album and track sales, streaming volume, social media impressions, and radio and TV audiences reached; career trajectory; reputation among peers; and overall impact in the industry, specifically during the past 12 months. Where required, record-label market share was consulted using Nielsen Music/MRC Data market share for album plus track-equivalent and stream-equivalent album consumption units. Unless otherwise noted, Billboard Boxscore and Nielsen Music/MRC Data are the sources for tour grosses and sales/streaming data, respectively.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2020, issue of Billboard.