For most of us, being a teenager means slogging through high school, struggling with adolescence and desperately hoping for a hot date for the school dance. However, there are some teenagers out there who are instant musical legends. It didn’t take them years of doing crappy gigs to get to the top; the 20 pop music prodigies on our list wrote and recorded landmark albums before they were even old enough to legally drink.
It’s easy to forget about it now, but Stevie Wonder started out young. He was signed to Motown at the age of 11 and had his first solo hit at 13. Similarly, Michael Jackson landed his first number one at the age of 11 (when he was lead singer of the Jackson 5) and he was also snagging solo hits at 13.
Not to be outdone, new BFFs Lorde and Taylor Swift were both publicly heralded as music geniuses by the age of 16. That’s the age that Swift wrote and released “Our Song,” which garnered rave reviews from The New Yorker‘s Sasha Frere-Jones, who called her “a prodigy,” and the how old Lorde was when she wrote and recorded her Grammy-winning “Royals.”
You could argue that Ed Sheeran deserves to get credit for releasing his first EP at 15, and that’s impressive and all. However, he wrote “The A Team” when he was 18 years old, and that’s the song that not only put him on the international stage, but has earned him song-writing legend status. Sheeran jokingly told VH1 recently that songwriting is like “a dirty tap,” but he was inspired to write the universally acclaimed song after performing a gig in a homeless shelter that catered to caring for drug addicts.
Pop music is full of talented young stars, but the 20 on this list stand out because they accomplished things that even talented, hard-boiled adults can only dare to dream of doing. Basically, they make the rest of us feel like old failures.