No one is born a star. Even if someone is born with a killer voice, they still have to toil away for years. They’ve got to hone their chops and await their big break. Thankfully, obscurity doesn’t mean the same thing as invisibility. The 10 stars on our list all have early moments caught online that they might not want us to see now.
Nevertheless, we think it’s important to remember that Lady Gaga used to perform at New York open mics in simple cotton dresses, or that Kanye West once toiled in the studio trying to impress Jay-Z, or that Ed Sheeran gleefully stuffed marshmallows into his mouth for no good reason at all.
1) Lady Gaga
Whether or not you think what she does is art, one thing’s for sure: Lady Gaga, aka Stefani Germanotta, works her buns off in the name of pop music.
Even before she was steaming up the stage as Lady Gaga, she was hitting open mics all over New York City performing her songs and perfecting her sound. Many of Gaga’s early performances have been shared, but this performance of “Fever” in 2006 might be the most noteworthy if only because years later the song became an Adam Lambert single. Check out Adam’s performance of it in 2010 and note the differences:
2) Katy Perry
By now, it’s common knowledge that Katy Perry hustled for years as a teen Christian artist named Katy Hudson. She wrote earnest songs about G-d on her guitar and played them for small audiences. This performance of “Search Me” from 2001 is intriguing because she monologues for about three minutes up top about her relationship with her religion and at times she sounds like a moody LiveJournal post brought to life.
3) Justin Bieber
When we talk about how the YouTube has changed the music industry, we’re usually talking about Justin Bieber. Lest we forget, the international superstar was once an adorable moppet who would busk in Canada. Armed with only his adult sized guitar, fantastic hair and an incredible voice, Bieber quickly attracted the attentions of people with recording devices. Between these fan videos and the videos that his mom, Pattie Mallette, uploaded to YouTube, Bieber was able to cultivate a massive online fanbase, that led to him being discovered by Scooter Braun. Now, while there’s no doubt that Bieber would have been a star no matter what, his course was undoubtedly sped up because of these early performances caught on YouTube.
Enough of the backstory, though. HE USED TO BE SO CUTE!
4) Ed Sheeran
If there’s a theme to this list so far, it’s that no one becomes a music star on talent alone. It also takes an immense amount of hustle. By the time that Ed Sheeran was performing “The City” for BalconyTV in 2008, had already released an indie EP. Oh, and he was only 17 years old! As a teen who had just moved to London, Sheeran was obsessed with matching James Morrison’s boast that he had done 200 gigs in one year. In 2009, the year after this was recorded, he netted 312 gigs.
The moral of the Ed Sheeran story? Hustle, hustle, hustle. Oh, and write amazing pop songs.
And if you have time, post a video online of yourself stuffing 23 marshmallows in your mouth.
5) Jessie J
Jessie J was born Jessica Cornish and when she was 15 years old, she snagged the honor of “Best Pop Singer” in Britain’s Brilliant Prodigies. It’s hard to find information on just what that means, but it looks like it was this televised special where they gave frou frou awards to British teens. Sarah Ferguson, the original Fergie, was involved. Anyway, it’s now pretty much only remembered as one of the first appearances of Jessie J. Did you know she had a beautiful voice? Because according to this video, she has a beautiful voice!
No, but seriously, she does have a beautiful voice.
6) Bruno Mars:
Now, Bruno Mars is one of the most powerful singer-songwriters in the music industry. He’s practically defined the sound of modern pop music. However, when he was a kid, he was famous for being slightly less original.
In this 1990 documentary, British television presenter Jonathan Ross interviews a four-year-old Bruno Mars about his life as the world’s youngest Elvis Presley impersonator. At one point, little Bruno was so renowned for his impression of the King he was featured in a cameo in the film, Honeymoon in Vegas.
Of course, Bruno wasn’t just interviewed by Bruno Mars. He was also interviewed by American comedian Pauly Shore.
7) Christina Aguilera
Yeah, yeah, yeah…Christina, Britney, Justin, J.C. and Ryan Gosling were all on The Mickey Mouse Club before they were famous. They all did time on cringe-worthy shows like Star Search. They all sang on any and every stage that would let them.
The reason we’re putting Christina on this list is because this performance from the then nine-year-old pop star is so vocally perfect that she could probably have won The Voice if she went on today.
On the opposite end of the vocal spectrum, this video from when 15-year-old Rihanna was starting her career (under her real name of Robyn Fenty) doesn’t quite show off the pop star’s singing ability to its best effect. I mean, it’s okay. It’s good in a lot of parts and very pitchy in others. It was apparently good enough to get her management, but would it get her a record deal now?
9) Destiny’s Child (specifically Beyoncé & Kelly Rowland)
Before they were solo artists, Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland were in Destiny’s Child, and before they were in Destiny’s Child together, they were both in Girl’s Tyme, a six-member girl group (which also included future former Destiny’s Child member LaTavia Roberson) . The band appeared on Star Search once where you can see Bey dominating the vocals and Kelly grooving in a white jacket in the back row.
Now, we know what happened to Beyoncé, and we know what happened to dancing Kelly, and we even know what happened to rapping LaTavia, but what happened to the other three girls? More importantly, whither Skeleton Crew?
10) Kanye West
Nowadays, Kanye West is getting interviewed saying things like “I’m the number one rock star in the world,” but over 10 years ago, he was an aspiring solo rapper and record producer hoping to land his own record deal. This collection of behind-the-scenes clips from West’s early producing days shows him mixing beats and freestyling in order to impress then boss Jay-Z. What did Jay think about West’s abilities? Well, you’ll have to wait until the end of the clip to find out.
[Photo Credit: Splash News, Getty Images & YouTube]