It’s a well-known fact that The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were able to create some of the most iconic albums of the 60s even though they were only in their early 20s. But there are many other extremely premature talents that have released some of the best albums of rap, pop, and rock. Get ready for several surprises, and don’t miss #3 to discover who’s the musician that topped the charts at #1!
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Traffic was one of the most talented rock bands to emerge from England in the 60s. Though they broke up in 1969, fans were delighted when they reformed in 1970. However, it seems hysteria was omnipresent in this group’s relationships since they called it quits again in 1974, only to reunite for a third period two decades later!
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It’s undebatable that Traffic’s most beloved era is the one that corresponds to the 67-69 period, and this is probably because they released their most stunning record, Mr. Fantasy, in 1967. Steve Winwood (the one that looks like Harry Styles in the picture) was only 18 when they recorded those complex songs!
#22. Billie Eilish
Traffic’s wonderkid had been already playing in another band since he was 14, hence his ability wasn’t much of a surprise. A musical career with an incredibly early start is also the case for the latest pop phenomenon, Billie Eilish.
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After garnering attention with her gorgeous single from 2016, Ocean Eyes, the singer-songwriter finally released her debut album earlier this year. “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” is, according to critics and fans, one of the most subtly beautiful pop albums of 2019, and Billie is only 17 years old!
Let’s all hope Billie’s sudden fame doesn’t prevent her from enjoying the remarkable feat of having a number one record at such an early age, right? When you’re already an acclaimed artist before the age of 23 or 24, it’s definitely hard to keep your feet on the ground and maintain consistency.
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Well, this was far from being an issue for OutKast, rap’s most beloved duo. André 3000 and Big Boi were only 21 when they confirmed their huge potential with ATLiens, one of the classic hip hop albums of the 90s. Not only did they put the South Side on the map (rap’s mainstream was clearly dominated by the West Coast – East Coast rivalry), but the duo also started one of history’s most notable creative streaks.
#20. Green Day
That’s right, OutKast would then continue to push the genre’s sound forward, incorporating fresh ideas from rock, funk, and soul, and increasing their phenomenal success with subsequent albums like Aquemini and Stankonia.
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Since we’re talking about young and consistent artists, we can’t help but mention Green Day. The punk trio led by Billie Joe Armstrong combined speed and ferocity with some of the catchiest choruses ever to surpass everyone’s expectations and sell more than 10 million units (yes, you read that correctly!) with their third album, Dookie.
#19. Laura Nyro
Billie Joe Armstrong and his mates were only 21 when they recorded all of the anthems (Basket Case, Longview, etc) that would be released in 1994. The Californian rockers’ mainstream domination wasn’t over yet, though, since they would then achieve another big hit in 2004, with the frantic American Idiot.
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On the other hand, Laura Nyro is a relatively unknown artist. The pianist, singer, and songwriter inspired many legends like Joni Mitchell with her mesmerizing tunes, so check her out if her name doesn’t ring a bell! You can start with More Than A New Discovery, the brilliant debut album that she released with only 19 years.
Genesis fans tend to fight over which era of the band’s discography they prefer: the Peter Gabriel era or the Phil Collins one. Though the band’s most complex tunes, characterized by their unique approach to progressive rock, belong to the period where Gabriel was still in the group, Collins led Genesis to the top of the charts with his pop sensibility.
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However, the fans are usually so busy with this debate that they often overlook the band’s first classic album, Trespass. Released in 1970, when Peter Gabriel was only 20 years old and Collins and legendary guitarist Steve Hackett were yet to be a part of Genesis, Trespass saw the musicians’ virtuosity in full spring.
#17. Lil Wayne
Perhaps some of you don’t remember, but not long ago Lil Wayne was hailed as the greatest rapper alive. His clever wordplay and hilarious punchlines, combined with a unique charisma and confidence turned Weezy into rap’s king.
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His reign didn’t last too long, but for a couple of years, the New Orleans native dropped mixtape after mixtape, dazzling fans and peers alike with his unstoppable output. But Mr. Carter had been rapping long before his golden era of 2005-2008, in fact, his great debut, called Tha Block Is Hot was released in 1999.
#16. The Runaways
In case you think we’re exaggerating about Lil Wayne’s precocious success, here’s a mindblowing fact about his debut solo effort: it went platinum, and the rapper was only 19 years old when this happened! And the rest is history, fellas.
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What do Lil Wayne and The Runaways have in common, besides scoring a premature triumph with their first album? Both the MC and the hard rock/punk all-female band were extremely influential for other artists to come. However, The Runaways’ crucial place in rock and roll history is sadly overlooked by many.
#15. Mike Oldfield
Perhaps Joan Jett, Cherie Currie, and company weren’t as proficient with their instruments as other bands of the mid-70s, but they clearly made up for this with their badass attitude and wild live performances. The Runaways were not only very young (Jett was 17 at the time of their classic debut’s release) but also one of the first successful female rock bands.
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The importance of female artists like them, Patti Smith or Debbie Harry in rock history simply can’t be overstated, since they showed the way for many other women in a male-dominated genre and industry. And while we’re at it, Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells is another significant moment in rock. Mike, a multi-instrumentalist and musical genius, was only 20 when this odd record came out.
#14. Bob Dylan
No one seemed to pay much attention to Tubular Bells, but it’s intriguing cover art and its complex songs slowly started to garner acclaim. When the director of The Exorcist chose a song from the album for the soundtrack, people were suddenly waiting hours outside of their nearest record store to obtain a copy; eventually, it would sell 15 million units worldwide!
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Though Bob Dylan had a similar age when he blew up with The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, which came out in 1963 when he had just turned 22, his success was completely different. His folk classic didn’t sell millions as Tubular Bells did, but legendary protest songs like Blowin’ in the Wind and Masters of War turned him into “the voice of a generation”.
#13. The Jam
Truth be told, Dylan hated to be called like that, but it’s undeniable that his thought-provoking lyrics changed a lot of what was going on in the 60s. Rumor as it that The Beatles were perplexed with his poetry and this led them to take their writing process more seriously.
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On the other hand, The Jam was a band that was more heavily influenced by The Who and The Kinks. Their outstanding frontman, Paul Weller, started his remarkable career with The Jam’s debut album, In The City. Paul was definitely born with a gift for creating great songs since he wrote In The City before turning 20!
#12. Amy Winehouse
I bet you’re familiar with the infamous “27 Club”. This term refers to the legendary musicians who died at that young age, and, amongst many others, it includes Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, and one of the biggest RnB stars of this Century, Amy Winehouse.
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Most people love every song on Amy’s second and last album, Back to Black, but sleeping on her impressive debut is an unforgivable mistake, believe me! Frank, released in 2003, clearly shows the singer’s enormous potential. What’s more, Amy finished recording it when she was only 19.
#11. LL Cool J
LL Cool J is one of those trailblazing rappers that kick-started the genre’s success in the mid-80s, along with other legends like Run-D.M.C. However, the lyricist from Queens had something that set him apart from his contemporaries… and this was his surprisingly young age.
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That’s right, when LL Cool J released the celebrated Mama Said Knock You Out in 1990, he was 22, but, believe it or not, this was already his fourth album! The rapper’s debut, Radio, actually dropped when he was barely a 17-year-old kid. Slide on to discover more classic albums made by young stars!
Remember that time when a young girl from New Zealand took the Billboard charts by storm? It seems like it happened yesterday, but it’s already been 6 years! Lorde is practically the definition of a precocious musical talent, she first signed to a record label at age 13, and her debut album, Pure Heroine, was released when she was yet to turn 17.
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Royals, the debut single, rocketed towards the number one spot of the Hot 100 chart. But Pure Heroine wasn’t only a hit single, other awesome tunes like Tennis Court and Team garnered praise from none other than David Bowie, who called Lorde the future of pop.
In case you lost track of Lorde, her excellent 2017 album, Melodrama, once again demonstrated her ambitious approach to pop and earned her several Grammy nominations. Let’s all hope her third album comes out rather sooner than later, cause I’m sure it’ll be awesome!
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Yet another case of a young artist that achieved a notable debut album and an equally consistent sophomore LP is The Notorious B.I.G, also known as Biggie. Chances are you’ve seen a famous clip on Twitter or Youtube where a teenage Biggie is absolutely killing it in freestyle against another dude. If that’s not the case, you know what to search for after finishing reading this list!
As you probably know, Biggie’s career was cut short due to his murder, which occurred amidst the East Coast vs West Coast violent rap rivalry. Though he was only 24 when that happened, he had already accomplished 2 of hip hop’s most classic albums of all time. The first one, Ready to Die, came out when the New York native was only 21!
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To go on with our list, we have another group that now boasts an iconic status. Yes, U2 are considered rock and roll veterans, since they’ve been around for quite a while now, but that shouldn’t overshadow the raw energy and innovation of their first albums.
#7. The Undertones
U2 were definitely ahead of the curve for a couple of years in the 80s: War, The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree… the Irish rockers came out with classic after classic! The first of these outstanding albums was their debut, Boy, which was released in 1980. Yeah, maybe it’s not their best work, but their raw talent is clearly palpable here, and they were all teenagers at the time!
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I think it’s safe to bet that U2’s members had all listened to some of The Undertones’ furious material since the punk band from Northern Ireland had already been making some noise for about 5 years when U2’s first album dropped.
#6. The Beach Boys
The self-titled debut from The Undertones was short, catchy, and full of teenage energy. This was no surprise since the average age of those talented kids was only 19! Another band that just burst with an immense amount of youthful creativity is The Beach Boys.
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Most 60s rock fans recall their most notable accomplishment: Pet Sounds. Yes: this album was probably the closest they came to perfection, but it didn’t come out of anywhere! The band had been putting out record after record for 4 years. And this is no hyperbole: though Pet Sounds was released during the band’s fifth year of activity, it was already their 11th studio album!
#5. Arctic Monkeys
Yes, you read that right: The Beach Boys were really insatiable during their first decade. Surfin’ Safari, their impressive debut, was recorded when their leader, Brian Wilson, had only recently turned 20; and Brian wasn’t even the band’s youngest member: drummer Carl Wilson was 16 at that time!
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But let’s return to a more contemporary musical act: The Arctic Monkeys. The British quartet finally made it in the U.S with the huge success of their fifth album: A.M. Full of hits with heavy bass, catchy hooks, and straightforward love lyrics (Do I Wanna Know, R U Mine? Arabella), A.M finally earned them a massive American following.
#4. Kate Bush
But the band led by frontman Alex Turner had already been making a lot of noise in the rest of the world for several years. Their debut, wittily titled Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, saw the then 19-year olds cause quite a stir in the U.K. Don’t know about you, but I find it astonishing that those iconic songs were written by such a young pair of guys!
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If someone told me that he or she thinks Kate Bush is the greatest pop songwriter that has come out of Britain, I’d probably agree. This legend has released some of the most innovative and stunning records of all time: and this also applies to her earliest material.
#3. Stevie Wonder
Kate Bush’s debut, The Kick Inside, was released a couple of months before the artist turned 20. What’s more, most of the demos for those songs had been made when Kate was 16! The Kick Inside also broke some impressive records: Wuthering Heights, its lead single, became the first self-written number one hit by a woman in the U.K. Amazing!
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To start our top three, we have Stevie Wonder, one of the greatest musical geniuses of the 20th Century. Though his legendary “golden period” began in 1972 with the release of Music of My Mind, at age 22, he had been already successful for an incredibly long amount of time. Stevie’s first number-one single, Fingertips, topped the charts when he was only 13!
#2. Jackson 5
An amazing version of Fingertips can be heard on his album Recorded Live: The 12-year-old Genius. Wonder’s performance at Chicago’s Regal Theater is probably the artist’s first breathtaking release.
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Another star that burst into the scene at age 12 was Michael Jackson. Yes, it’s hard to remember his era as a member of The Jackson 5, since fans tend to focus on his colossal solo releases like Thriller or Off The Wall. But the Jackson brothers did come out with striking records; when their pop-soul debut dropped in 1969, Michael wasn’t even a teenager, and the eldest brother was 19!
Yes, Illmatic, Nas’s timeless classic is our number one. Maybe the rapper wasn’t as young as Stevie Wonder or Lorde were when they first achieved success, but here’s the thing: at only 19 the Queens rapper recorded the songs that would eventually conform one of East Coast’s landmark albums!
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With jaw-dropping flow, wordplay, and lyricism, Nas vividly portrayed the trials and tribulations of his childhood in Queens’ dangerous projects. His compelling narratives and complex rhymes turned Illmatic into what’s arguably the best rap album of all time, and one of the greatest debuts across all genres.