21 Under 21: See Who Made the 2022 List
Billboard's annual celebration of some of the most exciting and successful young artists in the music industry includes Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish and more.
This year’s list features a mix of familiar faces in the mainstream, viral artists eager to prove their staying power and a handful of stars-to-be across genres.
Publisher: Sony Music Publishing
Management: Lighthouse Management & Media
Total Streams: 4.4 billion
“Drivers license” was just the beginning for Olivia Rodrigo, who has turned the No. 1 launch of the anthemic ballad in January 2021 into one of pop’s biggest breakthroughs of the decade so far. Upon its release last May, the High School Musical: The Musical: The Series star’s debut album, Sour, topped the Billboard 200, while pop-punk follow-up single “good 4 u” became Rodrigo’s second No. 1 smash. After taking home the Grammy Award for best new artist and embarking on her first headlining tour, she’s already looking ahead to her next musical era. “It’s really exciting to think about the next world that’s coming up for me,” Rodrigo told Billboard earlier this year. “I just love writing songs. I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself. [I want to] just explore and have fun right now.”
Label: Republic Records
Publisher: Warner Chappell
Management: Soka Talent Group
Total Streams: 337 million
Already this year, East Coast newcomer BoyWithUke has had four songs enter the Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart, with the biting “IDGAF” also landing on the Billboard Hot 100 and his viral hit “Toxic” reaching No. 7 on Alternative Airplay. Most recently, the masked singer released his debut album, Serotonin Dreams, following a label deal with Republic Records in late 2021. Self-produced on his iPad using GarageBand — he told Billboard in February that being taught the basics of the software in high school was “the most important thing I learned” — he’s still stunned by it all. “I used the thing to play [mobile game] Subway Surfers in middle school,” he says, “and now I’m using it to be BoyWithUke.”
Ages: Brian Tovar, 18; Pedro Tovar, 19; Ulises Gonzalez, 20; Damian Fidel Pacheco, 20
Label: DEL Records
Publisher: DEL Publishing
Management: Nelida Oceguera
Total Streams: 1.7 billion
After releasing four consecutive chart-topping albums over the past two years — all of which hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Regional Mexican Albums chart — Eslabon Armado took a longer-than-usual break before releasing its latest album, Nostalgia, on May 5. (During that time, the group added new members Gonzalez and Pacheco.) “Releasing back-to-back albums was good for our career, but we decided to take a break writing new music so that we could come back stronger,” the Mexican-American sierreño group says. “Our biggest challenge as young artists is staying relevant and creating music that connects with our fans.”
Label: Galactic Records/Republic Records
Publisher: Universal Music Publishing Group
Management: Giuseppe Zappala
Total Streams: 3.7 billion
Last year, Lil Tecca cruised past the sophomore jinx with the release of his second studio album, We Love You Tecca 2. The sequel to his 2019 debut, We Love You Tecca, spawned his highest-peaking Hot 100 hit, “Ransom” (No. 4) and included features from Gunna, Trippie Redd, Lil Yachty and Nav; it debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200. In February, the New York native announced his Tecca Loves You Tour, a two-month trek that included stops in Los Angeles, New York and Miami. Next up, he’ll play festivals like Chicago’s Summer Smash and Rolling Loud’s Toronto installment.
Label: Machín Récords
Publisher: SESAC Latin
Management: El Hueso Producciónes
Total Streams: 240.1 million
Aguilar, the daughter of Pepe Aguilar, says she “had been working with my parents’ record label all my life,” having signed to Machín Récords herself in 2012. Nearly a decade later, in 2020, she scored her first No. 1 on Billboard’s Regional Mexican Airplay chart with the Christian Nodal-assisted single “Dime Cómo Quieres”; she says the biggest benefit of being a young artist is “the ability to DM someone about a collaboration.” Earlier this year, she scored her second No. 1 on the chart with “Ahí Donde Me Ven.” The Latin Grammy nominee is eager to explore acting, like her father has, and says some of his best career advice includes being “respectful of your craft and the public — to keep your roots well-embedded in your heart.”
The Kid LAROI
Label: Columbia Records
Publisher: Sony Music Publishing
Total Streams: 2.3 billion
After breaking out in 2020, The Kid LAROI enjoyed an even bigger 2021: He scored a Grammy nomination for best new artist and landed his first No. 1 entries on the Hot 100 and the Billboard 200. Following a recent split from former manager Adam Leber’s Rebel (he signed a deal last September after parting ways with Scooter Braun’s SB Projects), LAROI is gearing up for the arrival of his official and highly anticipated debut album, which will include the recently released, rueful “Thousand Miles” that debuted at No. 15 on the Hot 100 in May. His Justin Bieber-assisted synth-pop hit “Stay” ruled the Hot 100 for seven nonconsecutive weeks, and a final reissue of his F*CK LOVE mixtape buoyed the project to the top in its 53rd week on the Billboard 200.
Label: Big Machine Records
Publisher: Big Machine Music
Management: SB Projects
Total Streams: 33 million
Clark was just 13 when manager Scooter Braun and his business partner Allison Kaye reached out after she went viral on YouTube with her version of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain.” Her own hit, “It’s ’Cause I Am,” reached the top 30 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart in 2021, and this year, she became the youngest member of CMT’s Next Women of Country class. Clark believes her age helps to “bring a fresh perspective to the songwriting process,” which is in part why she admires Maren Morris. “She writes and sings whatever is honest to her … which is something that I love to do with my songwriting as well.”
Label: The Darkroom/Interscope
Publisher: Universal Music Publishing Group
Management: Best Friends
Total Streams: 16.7 billion
In the final months of her teens, Billie Eilish was given the tall order of following up 2019’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? — one of the most successful debut albums of all time that helped the pop superstar become only the second artist ever to sweep the Big Four Grammy categories in 2020. Last year’s Happier Than Ever became her second Billboard 200 chart-topper, spawned five top 40 Hot 100 hits, produced seven more Grammy nods and delivered the 20-year-old to arena audiences. And in between sold-out dates, Eilish won an Academy Award alongside her brother, FINNEAS, for their James Bond theme, “No Time To Die.” “In the last year, I’ve done so many things that I dreamed about doing years and years ago,” Eilish recently told Billboard. “I was like, ‘Oh, I can actually do that now.’ Nothing is stopping me.”
Label: Columbia Records
Management: The Golden Kids Group/Forever 150
Total Streams: 246 million
Shortly after the 2020 release of 347aidan’s bouncy, pop-leaning single “Dancing in My Room” — which peaked at No. 15 on the Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart — the track became a sensation on TikTok, where it has since been used to soundtrack over 1.5 million clips. By 2021, the Cambridge, Ontario, native signed a record deal with Columbia. He closed last year with another hit on the same chart — “Memories!” peaked at No. 21 — and scored a Pop Airplay entry this year for his feature on the 88rising track “The Weekend (Remix).” Having just wrapped his first tour in support of Oliver Tree, he says he “mainly learned confidence” and that, as a young artist, “it’s relieving to know I have a lot of time to do all I hope to do.”
Label: Grand Move Records/Warner Music Latin
Publisher: Sony Music Publishing
Management: Move Management
Total Streams: 7.1 million
Tiago PZK was only 6 years old when he discovered his passion for music, thanks to Daddy Yankee’s 2007 song “Impacto (Remix)” (featuring Fergie). The Argentine newcomer (who also cites Justin Bieber as inspiration) has since created his own fusion of R&B, reggaetón and alternative rock, best heard on his five Billboard Global 200 hits: “Además de Mi,” “No Me Conocen,” “Entre Nosotros,” “Salimo de Noche” and “Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 48.” In 2021, the artist born Tiago Uriel Pacheco signed a worldwide publishing agreement with Sony Music Publishing U.S. Latin and, this year, a record deal with Warner Music Latina (through a partnership with indie Grand Move Records). Looking ahead, he says he’s most excited to tour: “It will make me travel the world and strengthen me mentally.”
Label: Island Records/Republic Records
Management: David Ehrlich
Total Streams: 220.5 million
You recently sold out your first-ever tour. What’s another area of the industry you’re excited to explore and learn more about?
I would love to write for other artists or learn more about getting your songs in movies. I would love my songs, like Labrinth [has done], to be in Euphoria or something like that.
What’s the biggest challenge, and benefit, about being a young artist?
You have a lot of negativity coming from older people, stereotyping you because you’re young. They just think you’re part of Gen Z and not hardworking. But the same thing is the best thing because people underestimate you, so when you work your ass off to prove people wrong, you’re the underdog in a good way. Anyone that I have ever met that is truly confident never tries to put someone else down. So when I’m in a negative situation with someone, I think that this person is dealing with their own issues because if they were truly happy, they would cheer me on and have a positive energy.
Whose career do you admire most and why?
I admire Billie Eilish because she blew up so fast and so young. She’s so successful that she could honestly just do whatever she wants musically. I also admire people like Lizzo, who didn’t break through until she was older and maybe had more time to hang out with family or have a normal life in her 20s.
How do you try to live as normal a life as possible as you enter your 20s?
I’ve always felt older than I am because of my life experiences with divorced parents and working from a young age. I’ve never been into partying or reckless things, and I love working out and having a routine. To feel like you still have a childhood, though, you just have to surround yourself with the people who have always been there and make you feel normal. People that bring the fun into your life.
Label: NLE Entertainment/Warner Records
Publisher: Sony ATV/NLE Choppa Entertainment/Tricky Businezz
Management: Angeleta Ellis, Tricky Montgomery
Total Streams: 4.5 billion
NLE Choppa’s penchant for trunk-rattling anthems and high-profile collaborations has helped him stay top of mind since his 2019 breakout hit, “Shotta Flow,” which peaked at No. 36 on the Hot 100. His efforts resulted in record deal offers as high as $3 million — all of which he turned down to partner instead with independent distribution company UnitedMasters. But by the end of 2019, he had launched his own label in partnership with Warner Records on which he has since released three projects. Earlier this year, the Memphis native’s latest mixtape, Me Vs. Me, debuted at No. 14 on the Billboard 200 and featured three Hot 100 hits — “Final Warning,” “Jumpin” (featuring Polo G) and “Shotta Flow 6” — bumping his career tally on the chart to nine.
Label: Thrive Music/Virgin Music
Management: Prodigy Artists
Total Streams: 5.9 million
Last year, Moore Kismet became the youngest artist to play Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas, an electronic and dance music megafest that they will return to later in May. “I can’t wait to do it again, but bigger and better, showing people that artists like me are here to stay,” says the producer. “Younger artists have always been viewed as industry plants before they were seen as prodigies or cool creatives.” Having blown up largely during the pandemic, Kismet’s plan post-high school graduation is “to learn what it’s like to work with people in person and not just over the internet.” Taking inspiration from Madeon and Porter Robinson, whose careers also launched when they were young, Kismet is excited to have time to explore other avenues in art and “use what I create to take care of my friends and family.”
Label: RCA Records
Management: Hard 8 Working Group
Total Streams: 1.5 billion
After releasing her second EP, Too Young To Be Sad, last March, McRae’s breakout hit, “You Broke Me First,” reached a new peak of No. 17 on the Hot 100. She added four more entries on the chart ahead of the release of her debut album, I Used To Think I Could Fly (out May 27). McRae says she has learned “to always trust my gut … my own instinct is what I always end up gravitating toward and is what I’m most proud of.” Having recently toured for the first time, McRae says she can’t wait to continue traveling and performing, “as it completely changes my perspective on the songs I write … There are so many things I have yet to experience, so my music/writing is genuinely shifting and changing in real time.”
Label: Atlantic Records/Arthouse Records
Publisher: Arthouse Entertainment
Management: Kristina Russo
Total Streams: 347.9 million
How do you feel when you hear your Hot 100 top 10 hit “abcdefu” today?
It’s really crazy to hear something that you wrote on guitar with your friends on the radio or in the car, or you see somebody wearing a T-shirt that you designed with the song. [Me and my friends] made a pact that if we got 100 million streams, we’d get matching tattoos. We got the tattoos a couple of months ago. To get my mom to say OK to a tattoo of the alphabet … it would have to take a lot.
Why do you think that song led to your breakthrough?
“Abc” was the first time I was openly angry in a song — and unapologetically angry, at that. And I didn’t particularly know how that was going to be accepted by people, especially being a young woman. I even showed the song to my grandmother and was nervous. She was like, “You get to say all the things at 17 that I never could.”
What’s the biggest challenge, or benefit, of being a young artist today?
I feel like some people think when you’re younger you can work harder because you’re just like, not as tired and still excited about life. I always get both ends of the spectrum where it’s like, “OK, she’s young. Let’s let her go to bed.” But then it’s like, “OK, she’s young, that means she could do all this work.”
Whose career do you admire most and why?
I do really admire Billie [Eilish]. Her music videos and merch and shows are so outstanding. She really has a good way of showing her personality as well. Everything she makes feels like her. Even if people have the possibility of not liking it, it’s still her, and she’s not going to change that for anybody.
Label: Rebel Music/The Valory Music Co./Geffen Records
Management: Hard 8 Working Group
Total Streams: 338.1 million
In 2020, Kidd G signed a record deal with Rebel/Geffen (later partnering with Big Machine Label Group’s Valory Music). In 2021, he earned a top 40 Hot Country Songs entry with “Teenage Dream” and reached No. 30 on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart. Still, he’s a bit shocked by it all. “Even though this was always a dream of mine, it seemed far off, so it was really surprising how fast it all came together,” he says. In March, he released the remix of his 2020 hit “Dirt Road” (which that year became his first Billboard chart entry) featuring BRELAND, whom he calls “another artist that had a fast come-up like me. The fact that we’re both younger artists made the experience cool.”
Label: VSP Music/Warner Music Latina
Publisher: Warner Chappell
Management: Jose Luis Aguilar
Total Streams: 4.8 million
Self-taught musician DannyLux hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Latin Songwriters chart at just 17 years old thanks to his work on Eslabon Armado’s “Jugaste y Sufrí” (off the band’s third album, Corta Venas). The sierreño artist has since signed a record deal with Warner Music Latina (in partnership with his indie label, VSP Music) and released his ultra-melancholic album, Perdido Sin Ti. He’s already working on new music because, as he says, consistency is key. “Since I’m young, I have so much time to grow up to be the best artist I can be,” he says, citing Bad Bunny’s career as an inspiration because “he never gave up.”
The Linda Lindas
Ages: Mila de la Garza, 11; Eloise Wong, 14; Lucia de la Garza, 15; Bela Salazar, 17
Management: Fly South Music
Total Streams: 6.9 million
Your performance of “Racist, Sexist Boy” at the Los Angeles Public Library went viral last year and helped score a record deal with Epitaph. What surprised you about the process of getting signed?
Lucia de la Garza: We were planning on getting signed to Epitaph even before the “Racist, Sexist Boy” video blew up. Like two months before that, we were already in the process of figuring something out with them. The video just gave us more momentum.
Bela Salazar: A lot of people have it very hard [in the music industry], and we’ve been really lucky.
What has been the biggest challenge since releasing your debut album, Growing Up, in April?
Lucia: We don’t have time to be full-time musicians and we don’t have time to be full-time students, but we’re making it work. I love having something to put creative energy into.
Are you touring during school breaks?
Lucia: We’re skipping school, but we still have to do the work. I’m falling so behind.
Salazar: I just don’t care [about school] anymore.
Lucia: Bela’s a senior, so she’s allowed to say that.
Salazar: I have one more month left of school.
Mila de la Garza: I have one more month — and then six years.
You recently played five shows in New York and performed on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon. As Los Angeles natives, what did you think of New York?
Lucia: New York has been really cool. It’s a different vibe. One night after the show, we walked to get pizza and then took the subway back at 12:30 a.m. That was a good experience.
Where are you headed next on tour?
Lucia: We have a tour lined up for summer. We have five or six headlining shows, and we’re playing some shows with Japanese Breakfast … We want to travel, and playing shows while we travel is always a bonus.
Whose career do you admire the most?
Eloise Wong: We’re surrounded by these lifers who have been doing music for so long like Hayley Williams, Alice Bag, Kathleen Hanna. If we can continue doing what we’re doing, I think that would be cool.
What are the benefits of being a young artist?
Salazar: We still live at home, so we don’t have anything to worry about.
Lucia: We don’t have to worry about paying rent.
Salazar: We’re having so much fun making music, and we don’t have to worry about any of that. That’s our parents’ job.
Yahritza Y Su Esencia
Ages: Yahritza Martinez, 15; Jairo Martinez, 17; Armando Martinez, 24
Label: Lumbre Music
Management: Lumbre Music
Total Streams: 52.9 million
Your debut single, “Soy el Unico,” debuted at No. 1 on Hot Latin Songs and hit No. 20 on the Hot 100, making your group the youngest Latin act to enter the all-genre chart. What do you think is the song’s appeal?
Yahritza Martinez: I never knew that I was going to be up there. I feel that a lot of people can relate to the song because they’re probably dealing with a similar situation: It’s about being hurt because you’re the only one giving it all in the relationship, and in the end, the other person will never find anyone like me.
Your ability to write these deep, mature songs at such a young age is notable. Where do you seek inspiration for these heartfelt lyrics?
I know that the words are very strong, but honestly, when it comes down to me writing my songs, it’s more like a research process. I see other people’s stories on TikTok — that’s how I [wrote] “Soy el Unico,” because I saw a clip that said, “It’s crazy how someone can leave you when you’re the only one who’s best for them.” No one’s going to believe me when I say that I get my inspiration from TikTok. This was actually the first song I wrote when I was 13.
What’s the biggest challenge and benefit of being a young artist?
The biggest challenge is that we won’t be able to live our normal childhood or have a regular life like other kids our age. We’re always on the go with meetings and interviews, and it reflects in our schoolwork because we need to keep up. One of the benefits, however, is that we can inspire young people our age as well.
What’s the best career advice that you’ve received?
To stay humble and just enjoy the ride, and also to do everything with your heart. I feel that fans will notice when you do something for money as opposed to for passion. And not to forget the purpose of our dream. We want to hopefully buy our parents a house [so they can] retire.
Total Streams: 707,000
When Lamorn first submitted his tracks to mau5trap in 2020, label head deadmau5 was so struck by the tunes that he asked to see the file sessions, wanting to verify that the then-17-year-old was in fact making the music himself. Shortly after, deadmau5 signed Lamorn to his label (Lamorn waited until his 18th birthday “so that my parents didn’t have to sign for me”) and the rising artist released his debut project, Encore, last November. With music going from his hobby to his career almost overnight, Lamorn’s crash course in deals, gigs and producing “has forced me to build my confidence.” Traveling on his own, working with promoters and “generally fending for myself in those situations has been challenging,” he says, “but I’ve been learning quickly.”
Label: Public Consumption/Fueled by Ramen
Management: Zack Zarrillo, Alternate Side
Total Streams: 140.3 million
Since becoming a successful YouTuber in 2014, Detroit native chloe moriondo had a built-in fan base — over 3 million followers on YouTube alone — eager to consume her brand of bedroom pop. “Having somewhere to put yourself out there is really important as a young artist, and for me, YouTube was it — and it still is for some,” they say. “TikTok is a crazy wormhole of a place, but it is also mysteriously crazy at making huge stars out of small artists.” In 2020, moriondo signed to Fueled by Ramen, and last year, after releasing her full-length label debut, Blood Bunny, they scored their first late-night TV gig on Jimmy Kimmel Live! This April, she released her second EP, puppy luv — inspired entirely by their dog.
Contributors: Rania Aniftos, Katie Bain, Griselda Flores, Josh Glicksman, Lyndsey Havens, Carl Lamarre, Jason Lipshutz, Taylor Mims, Jessica Nicholson, Jessica Roiz
Total career on-demand official u.s. streams source: Luminate, formerly MRC Data
This story originally appeared in the May 14, 2022, issue of Billboard.