Thanks to the internet, our exposure to new artists isn’t reliant on record deals and radio hits. Alternative artists of all ages have been able to blow up on social media, release music on their own and launch their careers out of their bedrooms.
And, of course, the music they’re making is unlike anything we’ve ever heard, as these new artists are blending genres, taking inspiration from the past and creating something all their own.
We decided to shine a light on 21 rising artists who are 21 or younger who you need to listen to in 2021. You can check those out below.
20-year-old Zephani Jong, better known as zeph, makes music that soundtracks your feelings, even the ones you didn’t recognize in yourself. Her dreamy sound is inspired by movie scores and soundtracks, and her lyrics are culled from her innermost feelings of heartbreak, sadness, loneliness, love and more.
Flo Milli is a hip-hop sensation who makes music that’s in your face and lets you know she’s in charge, even though she’s just 21 years old. She’s passionate like Rico Nasty and can spit catchy lines about self-love and empowerment reminiscent of Megan Thee Stallion. Her 2020 debut mixtape, Ho, why is you here ?, exudes attitude, coolness and sass that’s challenging the traditional style of popular hip-hop songs.
21-year-old Noah Adams, better known as NOAHFINNCE, isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes in. As a transgender man, Adams has been open and honest about his transition on his YouTube channel. Through his in-your-face alt-rock music, he transforms societal norms and is unabashedly proud to be himself.
21-year-old Lindsey Jordan, better known as Snail Mail, is an indie-rock sensation. Her songs are honest and reach the depths of your soul. And her lyrics are relatable to anyone who has ever felt alone, misunderstood or just confused by the world around them. Her debut album, Lush, is complete with dreamy guitar work and vocals that exude emotional wisdom through bedroom-pop anthems.
18-year-old TikTok sensation Chase Hudson has kicked off his alt-rock music career as LILHUDDY in a massive way. He’s released a couple of singles so far, including a pop-punk anthem that was co-written and produced by Travis Barker called “The Eulogy Of You And Me.” It exudes the exact angst we’d expect from the vet.
21-year-old artist Claud Mintz, known as Claud, makes dreamy bedroom-pop songs from a nonbinary and queer perspective. The tracks spell out nearly every weird, awkward, beautiful and heartbreaking step of young relationships. They were the first artist to sign to Phoebe Bridgers’ label Saddest Factory and released their debut album, Super Monster, in February.
The Kid LAROI
The Kid LAROI is redefining hip-hop at just 17 years old. He became popular for his connections to Juice WRLD and is making dark hip-hop that challenges the status quo. He sounds like a mashup of artists such as Juice, Post Malone, Dashboard Confessional and twenty one pilots but in a totally modern and unique way.
Willow Smith, known as WILLOW, has grown into an experimental musician since debuting with “Whip My Hair” in 2010. After becoming the youngest person to sign to Jay-Z‘s record label Roc Nation, she’s created a style all her own, implementing elements of indie, R&B, alternative and more. And “Wait A Minute!” will likely be considered one of the grooviest songs of the 2010s.
glaive is a 16-year-old who’s making pop music for Gen Z from his home in North Carolina, and it’s blowing up on the internet. It’s hard to put him in a box, but his music is pop-inspired, with influences of SoundCloud rap, sunshine-y indie rock and electronic beats. His music is both hyperpop and anti-pop, and it’s exactly the creative resurgence that the genre needs.
Billie Eilish has become one of the biggest artists in the world in just a few short years. The 19-year-old artist has broken records for Grammy Awards and made history on the charts, all while having one studio album to her name. She’s preparing to drop a second LP with her brother/collaborator FINNEAS, and it’s sure to push her into another level of stardom that we can’t even imagine yet.
Rapper 24kGoldn became a big name after going viral on TikTok and has already been apart of some high-profile collabs at just 20 years old. In 2020, he worked with Machine Gun Kelly, Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee, DaBaby and iann dior, to name a few. This year is only going to be bigger, as the rapper just dropped his debut album, El Dorado.
beabadoobee catapulted into recognition in 2017 and has been on a fast track to indie-pop stardom ever since. Last year, the 20-year-old released her debut full-length, Fake It Flowers, in October. Since then, she’s collaborated with the 1975 and garnered a huge following on TikTok, so 2021 will only be bigger for bea.
Jaden Hossler, known as jxdn, started off as many 20-somethings nowadays—becoming a viral TikTok personality. Then in 2020, he started pursuing music and has collaborated with iann dior, phem, Travis Barker, blackbear and more, so he’s off to a great start in the alt-rap scene. And his music is honest when it comes to mental health, speaking about topics such as depression and suicide prevention. It’s sure to be a theme on his upcoming debut album, Tell Me About Tomorrow.
mxmtoon, known as Maia, is another 20-year-old artist and pioneer in the bedroom-pop genre. Her music is intimate, heartfelt and packed with emotion. Since releasing her debut album, the masquerade, in 2019, she’s garnered a prime position in the alt-pop realm alongside artists such as Clairo, girl in red and more.
Lil Nas X
Since the breakout success of “Old Town Road,” Lil Nas X has propelled into mainstream success as a country-rap star. More recently, he released “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” which is an LGBTQIA+ love song where Lil Nas X is open and honest about his sexuality. The 21-year-old went from internet personality to Grammy-winning artist, with collaborations alongside Travis Barker, Billy Ray Cyrus and more.
20-year-old merci, mercy (Mercedes Thorne) grew up with music in her blood. She was surrounded by musicians and inspired by multiple genres, which is why her songs reflect such variance as indie, pop, R&B and more. Her raw lyrics take center stage on her debut EP, no thank you, no thanks.
DeathbyRomy blends pain and euphoria into complex dark-pop tracks that are catchy and heavy at the same time. In 2020, the 21-year-old released “Come And Play With Me,” which is featured on the soundtrack for Promising Young Woman.
At just 16 years old, Nashville pop singer GAYLE is being an outspoken voice for Gen Z. Her electro-pop songs are catchy and describe experiences about relationships, social media and more that are extremely relatable to young people today.
21-year-old Ethan Snoreck began releasing music as Whethan in 2016. Since then, he’s toured with the Chainsmokers and collaborated with artists such as Oliver Tree, MAX and Dua Lipa. Throughout his career, Snoreck has infused elements of electro-pop and indie to create a futuristic signature sound.
When you’re related to mega music stars Billy Ray Cyrus and Miley Cyrus, you’re bound to try it yourself. That’s exactly what has happened to indie artist Noah Cyrus, who’s only 21. Her songs have an acoustic vibe, with her beautiful vocals taking center stage on every track.