Teen girl musicians with talent beyond their years

Who cares about Blur or Snoop The only singer we want to see headlining BDO Auckland is Lorde. (Disagree Then let’s go down to the tennis courts and talk it out like yeah! YEAH!).

Lorde is getting a lot of buzz for her Royals and Tennis Court – mostly because her sultry voice and witty songwriting disguise the fact that she’s just 16 years old.

She isn’t the first teenage girl with extraordinary talent to make her mark in the music world. The 1960s ushered in the rise of the girl group, the 1990s uncovered youthful indie stars, and the decades in between saw several young women with memorable voices and musical maturity find places on radio playlists – and in serious record collections – everywhere.

Scroll down to see Lorde and nine other notable female recording artists who accomplished big things before their 20th birthdays.


Lorde’s single Royals, which pokes sarcastic fun at materialistic rap and pop songs about partying and bling, sets her apart from her fellow teen musicians on the charts. It is is the first single from a female solo act to crack the Billboard alternative charts since Fiona Apple had a No. 4 hit with Criminal in 1997.

Lorde, whose real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor, was signed to a development deal with Universal Records when she was only 12. Her alternative, wise-beyond-her-years bent is clear in her influences; she counts Bon Iver, poet T.S. Eliot and The Smiths among her inspirations.

Her first full-length album is expected to hit shelves in September.

Diana Ross

Diana Ross joined The Supremes in 1959 aged 15, launching a decades-long career that would take her from Motown to Studio 54 through to the 1980s.

Young all-girl groups were a mainstay in the 1960s, but Ross’s personality and emotive voice on songs like Tears of Sorrow and Where Did Our Love Go spoke of a maturity beyond her teenage years. After years of infighting and conflict – The Supremes inspired the musical and movie Dreamgirls – Ross left the group in 1970. Her later disco hits such as Upside Down proved her staying power as a solo artist.

Ross still sings and performs today; she’s on tour over the US Summer playing dates in the US and South America.

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse’s future as a singer was assured from an early age. She attended a performing arts school from the age of nine and often got in trouble for singing in class.

Her debut CD, Frank, came out when she was 19. Her sound and look were throwbacks to 1960s girl groups like The Ronettes, and her smoky, weathered voice and brutally honest lyrics surprised critics.

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Winehouse’s outlandish and erratic behaviour earned her as much attention as her music, but her unmistakable voice and tell-it-like-it-is songwriting skill never seemed up for debate. Her second album, Black, was one of the best-reviewed releases of 2007.

She died aged 27 from alcohol poisoning.

Kate Bush

Kate Bush’s The Kick Inside changed the game for young female songwriters. The album was released when she was 19, but Bush wrote many of the songs when she was 13. Her influence on women in music is still felt today; Florence Welch and Joanna Newsom are just some of the artists who Bush has inspired.

Her literary, lyrical songwriting and fearlessness in talking openly and smartly about sex in her lyrics were groundbreaking when she hit the scene in the late 1970s. So was her ability to stick to her guns in the notoriously male-dominated music industry.

Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill met rapper Pras when she was a 17-year-old New Jersey high school student. The pair joined forces with Pras’ cousin, Wyclef Jean, named themselves The Fugees and recorded their debut album, Tranzlator Crew, that year. The album was finally released in 1994, with their 1996 follow-up, The Score, catapulting them to fame.

Their blend of African and Caribbean musical influences, rapping, and Hill’s accomplished vocals reinvented rap in the mid-90s. Her solo album, 1998’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, debuted at No. 1 on the charts and earned her five Grammys.

Hill, who is currently serving jail time on tax-evasion charges, has faced her share of legal and personal issues in recent years, but her impact on hip-hop and rap will no doubt be felt for generations to come.


Adele wrote her debut album, 19, when she was 19. She said the songs were about her own coming of age: “I just kinda remember becoming a bit of a woman during that time. And I think that is definitely documented in the songs.”

The album resonated with fellow teenagers and critics alike. The BBC called it “genuinely touching, maturely considered, and brilliantly sung.”

Adele followed up the album with 21 in 2011, which was anything but a sophomore slump. She took home six Grammys – tying an all-time record – at the 2012 awards ceremony.

Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple was 19 when her Grammy-winning album Tidal hit the shelves in 1996. Apple was first discovered two years earlier when a friend gave her demo tape to a music publicist, who then passed it onto an executive at Sony.

Apple’s piano-driven, confessional album earned her critical praise and commercial success. Her controversial video for the song Criminal, which featured a scantily clad Apple, attracted the ire of conservative groups and concerned parents. The singer famously responded: “I decided if I was going to be exploited, then I would do the exploiting myself.”

After a seven-year gap between albums, Apple released her fourth CD, The Idler Wheel… last year. This week, the Paul Thomas Anderson-directed video for her single Hot Knife hit the web, once again putting the spotlight on the singer’s otherworldly vocals.

LeAnn Rimes

LeAnn Rimes was 13 when her cover of the Patsy Cline hit Blue hit the airwaves. Rimes’ wise-beyond-her-years delivery of the song’s lyrics about heartbreak and loss earned her a spot in the top 10 on the Billboard charts.

In 1997, Rimes became the youngest musician to ever win a Grammy for best new artist.

She has since released 11 studio albums.

Laura Marling

Laura Marling was already an accomplished musician when her first album, Alas, I Cannot Swim, was released. By then, the 17-year-old had already recorded with indie group Noah and the Whale and collaborated with bands like The Rakes and The Mystery Jets.

Still, Marling’s solo work brought her the most acclaim. Her first CD was nominated for a prestigious Mercury Prize, and her latest album is garnering critical praise for its advanced guitarwork and introspective sound.

Of course, there are challenges that come along with being a remarkably young performer, but Marling took them in stride. Once, she performed on the sidewalk outside the venue where her show was being held after she was denied entry for being underage.

– Original Pop Sugar Article edited for Stuff