21 under 21

21 Under 21: See Who Made the 2021 List

Billboard's current cover star The Kid LAROI leads this year's 21 Under 21 list featuring a mix of young chart-toppers, TikTok stars-turned-artists and on-the-verge breakout acts, among many more making waves in the industry right now.

The Kid LAROI

Age 18
Label Columbia
Publisher Sony Music Publishing
Management Rebel Management
Total streams 1.80 billion

After steadily growing his fan base with streaming hits, Australian singer-rapper The Kid LAROI has the biggest song in the world: the Justin Bieber-assisted uptempo pop hit “Stay” has held the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100 and Global 200 for six and a record-setting nine weeks, respectively. It follows his previous top 10 Hot 100 smash “Without You,” which received a remix (and chart bump) from Miley Cyrus and led to a performance on Saturday Night Live in May. Now, with a new manager in Adam Leber, The Kid LAROI is prepping for his first major tour and official debut album — one that he hopes will grow his standalone narrative. "I feel like as I keep going, people will start to see me more for me," he says. "I think that’s already happening. Hopefully with this album, people will really start to separate me as my own person."

Read The Kid LAROI's current Billboard cover story here.

Billie Eilish

Age 19
Label Darkroom/Interscope
Publisher Universal Music/Kobalt Songs Music Publishing
Management Best Friends
Total streams 76.7 billion

Happier Than Ever, the highly anticipated second album from superstar Billie Eilish, debuted atop the Billboard 200 — and remained there for three weeks — with the second-largest debut sales week of the year. Meanwhile, album single “Your Power” scored Eilish her fifth top 10 hit on the Hot 100. She has extended her victory lap since, teaming with Disney+ for a special concert film, Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles; co-chairing the Met Gala in Oscar de la Renta, under the condition that the designer go fur-free; dropping two pairs of vegan Air Jordan sneakers, both of which sold out within seconds; and scoring the headlining gig at Glastonbury 2022, becoming the youngest solo artist to ever earn the slot.

Eilish: Ethan Miller/Getty Images. PinkPantheress: Courtesy of Elektra Music Group. 24kGoldn: Mat Hayward/Getty Images.
From left: Eilish, PinkPantheress and 24kGoldn.

24kGoldn

Age 20
Label RECORDS/Columbia
Publisher APG
Management Active Management/Electric Feel Management
Total streams 1.95 billion

Last year, 24kGoldn’s Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper, “Mood,” featuring iann dior, kicked off an impressive run. After enjoying eight weeks at the summit, the former University of Southern California student released his debut album, El Dorado, which featured Future and Swae Lee, and debuted in the top 25 of the Billboard 200. After dominating social media with “Mood” — the song is tagged to over 3 million TikTok videos — 24kGoldn hopes to find similar success on YouTube. In May, he entered a media partnership with Wheelhouse DNA, responsible for managing his YouTube channel (2.57 million subscribers) and exclusively creating content for the page.

Which one area of the industry are you excited to explore and learn more about?

I would definitely say touring in general. It’s such a huge part of our business and for the last year and a half, you know, it’s been practically non-existent. So I’m excited to learn what it feels like to have my own tour and all the behind-the-scenes on how that works and seeing how it scales up and grows. Before I know it, boom, there’s thirty thousand fans in an arena and we’re all singing the songs together.

What’s your favorite social media platform?

Twitter because it’s like the SoundCloud of social media. It’s just underground, most creative and most funny stuff comes from there.

PinkPantheress

Age 20
Label Elektra/Parlophone
Publisher Sony Music Publishing
Management Up Close Management
Total streams 293.3 million

The singer-producer gained a following on TikTok, where she has nearly 1 million followers, after posting snippets of original songs like her top 40 U.K. single “Pain” before independently releasing the full-length versions. After signing with Parlophone in April and Elektra in June, the Bath, England-based artist — who can now count Mura Masa as a collaborator — remains an enigma by choice. She looks up to Frank Ocean and Imogen Heap as “two admired artists who have still maintained their privacy and dignity over the years while simultaneously releasing some of the best music this generation has heard.”

Who has been most helpful in learning about the music business?

Time, trial and error. I spent a stupid amount of time trying to figure out the best ways to effectively get my songs heard in the right way and a way that felt most natural and organic. Once I found a way then it started to get a lot more fun.

What’s one area of the industry you’re excited to explore and learn more about?

Definitely the visual side, mostly videos. Growing up all I would watch was Kerrang! [TV] and it was the way I found most of my music. If it wasn’t for the videos I wouldn’t have been as interested in the artist.

Willow

Age 20
Label MSFTSMusic/Roc Nation
Publisher Buglife Music Publishing
Management Three Six Zero
Total streams 570.5 million

Willow’s natural progression from pop preteen to neo-soul experimentalist to now a pop-punk rocker proved fruitful when her latest and fourth solo album, Lately I Feel Everything — featuring collaborations with Travis Barker and Avril Lavigne, among others — earned the 20-year-old her first top 10 release on the Top Rock and Alternative Albums charts. She’s now on her headlining lifE tour, and will soon open a string of dates on Billie Eilish’s worldwide trek.

Munachi Osegbu
Willow photographed on June 11, 2021 in Los Angeles.

Thinking back, what surprised you most about the process of getting discovered and signed?

I think the most surprising part would have to be how hard it ended up being to actually follow through with the demands and the stress of it all. Being an artist and really wanting to put your heart and soul into it and wanting to do it well, it takes a lot of work. I just had to find my authentic self in the industry in order to feel like that amount of energy was worth it.

What’s the first thing you splurged on?

Probably going to Barnes & Noble and getting bags and bags of books.

Who has been most helpful in learning about the music business?

My 11 years in the industry have really taught me a lot about myself and taught me what I’m willing to do and what kind of person and what kind of message I want to put out into the world. I think the biggest teacher is experience and time.

What’s one area of the industry you’re excited to learn more about?

I want to start collabing with more artists and writing and producing for more artists. Even though I love performing and singing, I feel like a different part of me gets awakened when I can help someone else find their vision. I also just want to be more experimental and creative and kind of do a Jack White vibe, where I have a bunch of different bands and I might be a part of them or I help produce for them or I’m just the bassist or guitarist.

Years ago, you shaved your head to protest continuing with your first tour. What are some strategies you have developed to keep yourself healthy and at ease while on the road?

You have to allow yourself to rest. For a very long time on tour, I just wanted to be doing the most all the time. And you have to really listen to your body because sometimes your body will send you signs, and I’m learning how to take those cues more.

What do you want your fans to feel when they listen to your album or hear it live at one of your shows?

I hope that my songs can help people see the beauty of themselves even deeper. Everything should be inspiring someone to look into their life and into their beauty and ugliness equally — with an equal amount of love and an equal amount of acceptance.

Olivia Rodrigo

Age 18
Label Geffen
Publisher Sony Tunes/Liv Laf Luv
Management Camp Far West
Total streams 8.37 billion

One of the biggest breakout stars of any age this year, Rodrigo catapulted to stardom with her devastating first single, “drivers license,” in January, spending eight weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 with the runaway hit. Debut album Sour followed in May, drawing rave reviews, moving a then-2021 best 295,000 equivalent album units in its first week and including two more heartbreaking smash singles, “deja vu” and “good 4 u,” with the latter becoming her second No. 1. All the while, she filmed the second season of her Disney+ show, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series — and still found time to graduate from high school.

NLE Choppa

Age 18
Label Warner Records
Publisher Bryson Potts Publishing Designee
Management Choppa Management
Total streams 1.10 billion

Even in a pandemic, NLE Choppa (born Bryson Lashun Potts) was moving at full speed. The Memphis rapper raked in a number of star-studded collaborations last year with Lil Baby, Roddy Ricch and Latto; opened a vegan food truck; and became a first-time father to Clover, to whom he dedicated his heartfelt single “Letter to My Daughter.” (The video has over 14 million YouTube views.) He’s now eager to get into acting, saying, “I want to be in films and TV shows. I’ve had that personality since I was a kid.” JAY-Z is an inspiration: “He has had a long, successful career and has ventured into other businesses, but he still puts his family first.”

What’s the first thing you splurged on? 

A house. It's an investment.

What's your favorite social media platform?

Instagram was my first because it was the biggest at the time, but there's so many platforms now...I like TikTok, Twitch, Triller, all of 'em.

LILHUDDY

Age 19
Label Immersive/Sandlot/Geffen
Publisher n/a
Management Moxie Artists
Total streams 7.57 million

Over the past year, TikTok star Chase Hudson (who has 32.3 million followers on the app) has successfully morphed into LILHUDDY, a new-school, pop-punk singer-songwriter who works quickly (his first four singles arrived within a week) and effectively (he has already collaborated with Travis Barker and iann dior). Having released debut album Teenage Heartbreak in September, LILHUDDY is ready to take another leap with his touring debut, studying other artists’ performances now that live shows have returned. “I’ve been observing their movements and the ways that they engage the crowd,” he says. “It has all been super inspiring.”

What’s the first thing you splurged on?

The first thing I splurged on was a couple years ago when I first started making money. My dream was to get a backpack from Louis Vuitton that I had wanted for a long time; I had reached the goal that I set for myself, which was to hit a million followers, so I bought it when I accomplished that.

Whose career do you most admire and why?

I really admire The Weeknd and his persona that he has built for himself as an artist. He constantly switches it up and keeps it fresh. I also look up to Travis Scott in the way that he approaches his passion for music, his persona, and the involvement that he has with his fans.

The Linda Lindas

Age Bela (17), Lucia (14), Eloise (13), Mila (11)
Label Epitaph
Management Fly South Management
Total streams 6 million

The Linda Lindas first played together in January 2018 (before they were officially a band) when Dum Dum Girls founder Kristin Kontrol had them accompany her at the Los Angeles Girlschool festival. By April 2019, the Latinx and Asian American punk rockers had opened a one-off date for Bikini Kill. The group has since independently released its debut, self-titled EP; placed a synch in Amy Poehler’s February film Moxie; and in May — after going viral with its anti-intolerance hit “Racist, Sexist Boy” — sisters Lucia and Mila, cousin Eloise and friend Bela signed with Epitaph Records and made their late-night debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Who has been most helpful in learning about the music business? 

Bethany [Cosentino] from Best Coast has been coming to our shows since the beginning. She is our “momager” who helps us with all sorts of stuff, from pre-show vocal exercises and dealing with social media stress to ice cream and Color Me Mine outings.

What’s the first thing you splurged on? 

We went vintage clothes shopping, and you can see a lot of what we got in our videos and photo shoots. We also get a lot of boba.

Whose career do you most admire and why?

We admire bands that not only play cool songs but also sing about stuff that matters. Artists like Alice Bag, Kathleen Hanna, and Phranc are not only amazing performers but stand for something, and we can’t believe now they are our friends, too.

Eslabon Armado

Age Pedro Tovar Jr. (19), Brian Tovar (17), Ulises Vázquez (20)
Label DEL Records
Publisher DEL Publishing
Management DEL Records
Total streams 973 million

Mary Beth Koeth
Brian Tovar, left, and Pedro Tovar of Eslabón Armado photographed on Sept. 22, 2021 at Faena Forum in Miami.

Just six months after Eslabon Armado’s third album, Corta Venas, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Regional Mexican Albums chart in January, the teenage band from Patterson, Calif., landed another chart-topper on the tally with Tu Veneno Mortal, Vol. 2. The 12-track set was the act’s fourth No. 1 in less than 13 months. With new member Ulises Vázquez now in tow, the trio — which won top Latin album artist of the year, duo or group at the 2021 Billboard Latin Music Awards — doesn’t plan to slow down. “I have a new strategy for the remainder of the year: release music when people expect it least,” reveals group member Pedro Tovar. “I want to have that element of surprise like other mainstream artists have done.”

Who has been most helpful in learning about the music business?

Pedro Tovar: Our manager [and DEL Records founder] Ángel del Villar. He’s always telling us to learn about the business, which I really appreciate. For example, I want to learn more about how royalties work. It’s a process I don’t fully understand, and one day, I’d like to have my own label and sign artists, so Ángel has been really motivating us to understand the business side of what we do.

Whose career do you most admire and why?

Grupo Firme’s Eduin Caz. I’ve spoken to him before, and we text here and there. He’s hardworking, and that’s why Grupo Firme is huge right now. He has proven to many of us that our genre isn’t limiting anymore, especially in the touring area. I mean, they played seven back-to-back shows at the Staples Center. He has taught me to never underestimate myself.

How did it feel to have Eslabon Armado take off while still in high school?

We released Tu Veneno Mortal during the second semester of my senior year, and a month after releasing it, everything started happening for us. Everyone at school started telling us that our songs were blowing up on TikTok. And a week later, I would get stopped by other students because they wanted a picture with me. It was crazy.

What’s the first thing you splurged on?

[My brother, Brian Tovar, and I] bought our parents a house. That has been the most expensive thing we’ve ever bought.

Back in June, you mentioned feeling “fried” after writing four back-to-back albums. How have you managed that?

A few months ago, I was feeling burned out — and still there are days when I don’t feel inspired — but I’ve learned to just let go and step back. It’s all I can do because at the end of the day, I can’t force myself to write.

Lil Tjay

Age 20
Label
Columbia
Publisher Sony Music Publishing
Management Grade A Productions
Total streams 2.45 billion

After years of flirting with mainstream success as a guest on hits like Polo G’s “Pop Out” and Pop Smoke’s “Mood Swings” — both of which entered the Hot 100’s top 20 — Lil Tjay finally cracked the chart as a lead artist with this year’s “Calling My Phone” featuring 6LACK. Peaking at No. 3, the hit became the rapper’s first top five entry on the chart and introduced his second album, Destined 2 Win, which debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200. “I learn the most from seeing what I did right or wrong ... I learn from my own mistakes, but also from my success,” says Tjay. “[The industry] is always changing, and I’m a student of the game.”

Griff

Age 20
Label Warner Records
Publisher Universal Music Publishing Group
Management Deleon Blake/Grumpy Old Management
Total streams 185.5 million

Adele, Sam Smith and Ellie Goulding are some of the past recipients of the Rising Star award at the BRIT Awards, which U.K. pop artist Griff took home in May ahead of the release of her debut mixtape, One Foot in Front of the Other, in June. Yet, Taylor Swift is the superstar whose career Griff most admires: “It always comes down to the fact that she’s such an incredible songwriter,” says Griff, who received a shout-out from Swift on her Instagram story in June. Griff’s own songwriting relies on clean hooks and sensual imagery, best heard on “Black Hole,” which became her first U.K. top 20 hit earlier this year.

Who has been most helpful in learning about the music business?

Probably my manager Deleon Blake. We met when I was like 16, still in school, and suddenly all these labels and publishers were wanting to meet me and I had no clue what the hell was going on. I remember sitting in my first publishing meeting and they kept talking about synchs and I had no idea if they were talking about what you wash your hands in, so I feel really blessed to have had him guide me through those early crucial decisions. But also I think you just learn on the go, too, and learn from working with people, seeing where things didn’t work, and you figure out who’s best to trust.

What’s the first thing you splurged on?

I'm so Asian I can't spend money for the life of me. I got myself some second hand Gucci loafers after I signed my deal but they were a fraction of the real price, so I don't know if that counts.

jxdn

Age 20
Label DTA Records
Publisher Warner Chappell
Management 724 Management
Total streams 307.5 million

Since jxdn signed with Travis Barker’s DTA Records last year, his 9.3 million TikTok followers have morphed into loyal music fans and helped the Chattanooga, Tenn., native (born Jaden Hossler) land multiple top 10 entries on Billboard’s Hot Rock and Alternative Songs charts. Following the July release of his debut album, Tell Me About Tomorrow — produced by Barker and featuring Machine Gun Kelly and iann dior — jxdn kicked off his first global trek, performed at Lollapalooza and is now opening up on MGK’s Tickets to My Downfall tour. “I’ve never seen someone so focused on the little details,” says jxdn of MGK. “He is involved in every single aspect of his career and I really admire that.”

What’s one area of the industry you’re excited to explore and learn more about?

Music videos and video content. Shooting my music videos has always been one of my favorite parts of my career. I really enjoy being part of the whole process — from deciding on the treatment to seeing it all the way through in the edit process. Now that I am touring, it’s been so much fun to work with my videographer Hunter as we turn around content every night. It’s super interesting to figure out what it is the fans want to see.

What’s the first thing you splurged on?

My car — Audi S7.

What's your favorite social media platform? 

Instagram. I love being able to endlessly scroll through photos and see what new content people are sharing. My fans are also so supportive on there.

Callista Clark

Age 18
Label Big Machine Records
Publisher Big Machine Music
Management SB Projects
Total streams 10.5 million

At 13, Georgia native Callista Clark had a viral hit with her rendition of a Creedence Clearwater Revival classic, leading to a management deal with Scooter Braun’s SB Projects in 2019 and a recording contract with Big Machine. After Clark spent years writing and performing covers, her debut single, “It’s ’Cause I Am” — off her February EP, Real to Me — reached No. 25 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. Outside of music, is eager to meet and collaborate with fashion designers. “Maybe one day I’ll even design my own outfit to wear on a red carpet,” she says.

Who has been most helpful in learning about the music business?

Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun have both been there for me from the very beginning and have believed in me as an artist since I was 13. My publisher, Mike Molinar, has always been a great person for me to go to if I have questions about the way something in the music industry works, and he’s given me fantastic advice about songwriting. Laura Veltz is one of my favorite co-writers and one of the best human beings I’ve ever met.  She may not even realize how much she has taught me about myself as a person, such as my self-confidence and helping me see that my stories in my songs are significant enough to write about and share with people.

What's your favorite social media platform and why?

My favorite social media platform right now is TikTok. It is such a fun app, and it directly relates to the music industry with such a huge impact on the charts and artists’ streaming numbers.

Whose career do you most admire and why? 

Dolly Parton. She is the queen of country music. She writes whatever she is feeling, plays different instruments, is so funny and she has such a charming personality. She also sings like nobody’s business, and the longevity of her career is amazing.

Nessa Barrett

Age 19
Label Warner Records
Publisher Self-published
Management BLCKSHEP + 724 Management
Total streams 260 million

Nessa Barrett made a quick jump from TikTok stardom to the Billboard charts thanks to darkly alluring breakout alt-pop hits like “la di die” — featuring boyfriend jxdn and co-written and co-produced by his label boss, Travis Barker — and “i hope ur miserable until ur dead,” the latter landing on the Hot 100 in August. Her debut EP, Pretty Poison, was released on World Suicide Prevention Day in September, which she said was purposeful, “to show that there’s faith behind everything, and that everyone is able to be happy whenever it’s right for them.”

What's your favorite social media platform?

Instagram because I'm an artistic and creative person and really have fun curating my feed.

Whose career do you most admire and why?

Billie Eillish because she's an amazing young female artist that created a genre for herself.

Baby Keem

Age 20
Label pgLang/Columbia
Publisher Keem Music
Management pgLang
Total streams 326.4 million

Baby Keem has grown up fast. In a matter of five years, the musical multihyphenate went from a teenage beatmaker to a trendsetting MC. In the last month alone, the Las Vegas native achieved his first top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with his single “family ties” featuring his cousin Kendrick Lamar and released his debut album, The Melodic Blue, which peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200. The album focused primarily on the rising rapper’s most vulnerable qualities: “If you believe that you’re the only one going through what you’re going through, you’re lying to yourself,” says Keem. “It’s therapy when you have someone to relate to. For me, that someone is my fans.”

Michael Tyrone Delaney
Baby Keem photographed on September 23, 2021 at Winston House in Los Angeles.

Growing up, what did you want to be?

An astronaut or some sort of scientist. That was my thing. I’m very curious. I would break things and try to put them back together. And I think I found something that lets me do all of it. I just honed in on being curious, and music allows me to try new things and also venture out to other things. But, who knows? Maybe I’ll be an engineer one day.

What do you remember most about the process of getting signed?

I remember feeling blessed to have an opportunity to work with partners that help aid my visions. There was also a feeling of unrest, because the job wasn’t and still isn’t finished. I know there is still a lot of work to be done — I haven’t even scratched the surface. I intend to be around for a long, long time.

How did therapy help you open up in your music?

A lot of people are embarrassed by their families and what happened to them and their traumas. That was one of the reasons I even went to [therapy]. I’m telling this random person this, so I’m like, “Why can’t I just tell the world?” It gave me the confidence to really start expressing myself more in my music.

What’s one area of the industry you’re excited to explore and learn more about?

Technology. There is a whole world out there that I’m excited to explore further — the work of advancing humanity into its next era.

What’s your favorite social media platform?

If I had to pick one, I’d pick something unorthodox like Discord. I like it because it plays a part in engineering, a small piece of what’s to come in the future of communications.

Whose career do you most admire?

Rihanna, because she does what she pleases.

What’s the most “adult” decision you’ve made since turning 18?

Making the decision to live in the moment and enjoy these times with the people I have around me. Often it’s easy to get caught in the future or dwell on the past.

Joshua Bassett

Age 20
Label Warner Records
Publisher Black Diamond Artist Publishing/Warner Chappell
Management Foundations Music
Total streams 143.8 million

Thanks to the Disney+ show High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Joshua Bassett became an instant Gen Z staple. With the series renewed for a third season and a chart hit under his belt (“Lie Lie Lie,” a rumored response to co-star Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license,” reached No. 25 on Billboard’s Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart), Bassett is “dying to get on the road and tour.” In the meantime, he’s leaning on his A&R executive at Warner, Nate Albert, to teach him more about the industry while teasing new solo music for his 2.8 million TikTok followers: “The collaborative nature and content-focused algorithm is the peak of social media.”

What’s the first thing you splurged on?

A brand new Honda Civic. I debated between that and a Tesla, and ultimately a Civic really just gets the job done — plus I don’t have to panic over a scratch or two.

Whose career do you most admire?

Ed Sheeran’s ability to play 90,000 seats with a loop pedal and guitar is very inspiring. I also appreciate that he travels frequently and doesn’t care too much about the glitz and glamour of it all.

Moore Kismet

Age 16
Label Thrive Music/Virgin Music
Publisher n/a
Management Prodigy Artists
Total streams 3.3 million

With singles and EPs dating back to 2018, in April Moore Kismet released their biggest collaboration to date with a remix of Tate McRae’s “Slower.” (The pair then co-wrote Kismet’s forthcoming single “Parallel Heartbreak.”) By later October, the producer (born Omar Davis) will become the youngest artist to play the Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas, and in September Kismet made their debut at Red Rocks in Colorado, opening for Alison Wonderland, who, alongside Skrillex, they count as idols. “Their respective journeys inspire me to be more open with my music and make my presence known,” says Kismet. “I love them both so much for that.”

What’s one area of the industry you’re excited to explore and learn more about?

I’m excited to learn more about working with demos from other songwriters. I’m still getting into working with toplines and other songwriters in-studio, and would love to find out about the inner workings.

What's your favorite social media platform and why?

Instagram, for sure. Their UI is the easiest to use for me [in terms of] posting and messaging people. However, all social media platforms have incredibly weird algorithms that make it hard for creatives to succeed and thrive. Creatives should not have to continue to outsmart systems that should be helping us grow.

Grace VanderWaal

Age 17
Label Columbia
Publisher Sony/ATV Songs obo Maidmetal Limited/Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Management LBI Entertainment
Total streams 100.8 million

Grace VanderWaal shocked fans at the end of 2020 by trading her blond bob for a bright pink buzz cut, and the new music that arrived in early 2021 showed her 4.1 million Instagram and 933,600 TikTok followers that her evolution was not skin-deep. Starting in March, the 17-year-old released back-to-back alternative-pop singles that showcased a throatier vocal, bigger rock guitars and new collaborators, like producer Mike Elizondo (twenty one pilots, Fiona Apple, Turnstile). The ukulele-playing singer-songwriter added acting to her résumé in 2020 with a lead role in the Disney+ film Stargirl, and although VanderWaal has yet to announce her next album, listeners will hear new original music when the film’s sequel drops in 2022.

Who has been most helpful in learning about the music business?

I think the music industry is a weird thing that no one can really prepare you for. People can try to explain everything they can and warn you based of their experiences or teach you, but I think it’s something that can’t be explained or taught. I think it’s something that just needs to be experienced and navigated through alone and just learning from your failures also your successes.

What’s one area of the industry you’re excited to explore and learn more about?

I love to learn more music production. I’ve always been drawn to production of music, I don’t know a lot about it. I think there’s something really magical about being able to make a thought real and give people an actual glimpse of what you hear in your mind. I just think that’s real life magic.

Whose career do you most admire?

I love Lady Gaga and her career. It’s so fascinating to look through and I think she always inspires others before anything. She’s a real performer, really creative and so fearless. I admire her career so much and think she’s awesome.

Luis Vazquez

Age 15
Label JAK Entertainment
Publisher JAK Entertainment
Management JAK Entertainment
Total streams 1 million

Luis Vazquez kicked off his music career at just 5 years old, having joined the musical group Los Bravitos de la Plena, founded by his musician father in Puerto Rico. By 2019, Vazquez was discovered by artist manager Andy Martinez, who signed him to his label, JAK Entertainment, with a 360 deal. Earlier this year, the now 15-year-old singer, whose biggest inspiration is Victor Manuelle, released “Tu Fan,” an urban-infused salsa track that highlights his crisp, dulcet vocals. “Tu Fan” scored Vazquez his first No. 1 on Billboard’s Tropical Airplay chart, making him the youngest soloist to arrive at the summit since the chart began in October 1994.

What’s one area of the industry you’re excited to explore and learn more about?

There are many areas of the industry I would like to explore, but the one that is the most interesting for me is the live industry and everything that has to do with concerts and touring. I hope to God I will be able to experience that at some point in my career.

What's your favorite social media platform and why?

Instagram because it’s the one I mostly know how to use.

Tate McRae

Age 18
Label RCA
Publisher Sony Music Publishing
Management Hard 8 Working Group
Total streams 1.4 billion

Since breaking out in 2020 with “You Broke Me First,” an emotive hit that cracked the Hot 100’s top 20, Tate McRae has been enjoying success in the fast lane. The Canadian artist — who moved to Los Angeles and splurged on her first apartment after graduating high school — has scored collaborations with Khalid and Troye Sivan, performed at Lollapalooza and Governors Ball, and will soon hit the road opening for Shawn Mendes on his Wonder: The World tour. “My situation is so weird, because everything happened for me during a pandemic,” says McRae. “I haven’t been performing as much as usual artists. I’ve never experienced tour bus life. I’m just kind of going into everything blindfolded because I have no idea what to expect, and that’s the fun part about it.”

Sami Drasin
Tate McRae photographed on December 19, 2020 in Calgary, Alberta.

What surprised you the most after getting discovered and signed?

That nothing happens quickly or easily. It takes so much work, time and effort before you can even put out your first song. There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes that artists stress over for hours upon hours that no one will ever see. You write a million songs and end up releasing two. The process is so much more demanding than people realize.

Whose career do you admire most?

Zendaya. She has been an idol for me since I was super young. And it’s funny because usually your inspirations and idols change as you grow up, but the older I get the more respect I have for her. I watch her interviews, movies and projects all the time and I feel like she’s so invested in her art. The biggest thing that inspires me as an 18-year-old is how she presents herself. She’s one of the most educated, classy and admirable individuals.

What’s the biggest misconception about being a teen in this industry?

That we are so clueless and we’re going to say yes to everything. I feel like people think they can convince me way easier than they actually can. I’m super stubborn and also very opinionated at my age, and I feel like I can read through people so easily when they try to spitball me random information that clearly isn’t going to win me over, but they really think it’s going to. Our generation is way smarter than people think — people underestimate that.

What’s the most adult decision you’ve made since turning 18 this summer?

When I moved into my apartment and started writing my album, which I’m in the process of now, I realized everything is in my hands, and that’s terrifying. I was like, “I’m out of high school, I’m out of my family’s house, and I have no one around me to ask for a second opinion.” It was the first time where I was like, “Wow, I’m doing this on my own.”

CONTRIBUTORS: Katie Bain, Griselda Flores, Josh Glicksman, Lyndsey Havens, Carl Lamarre, Jason Lipshutz, Joe Lynch, Heran Mamo, Taylor Mims, Jessica Nicholson, Jessica Roiz, Neena Rouhani, Andrew Unterberger, Christine Werthman

METHODOLOGY: A committee of Billboard editors and reporters weighed a variety of factors in determining the 2021 21 Under 21 list, including, but not limited to, impact on consumer behavior, measured by metrics such as album and track sales, streaming volume (listed here as each artist’s career global total to date), social media impressions and radio/TV audiences reached; career trajectory; and overall impact in the industry, specifically during the past 12 months. Where required, record-label market share was consulted using MRC Data market share for album plus track-equivalent and stream-equivalent album consumption units. Unless otherwise noted, MRC Data is the source for sales/streaming data.