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Redefining the Popstar: This is Who Teens Are Listening to Right Now

Music & Podcasts

September 17, 2023

It's no secret that music plays an important role in the lives of many teens. That being said, you might wonder: what in the world are teenagers listening to today? What music artists are very prominent in the Gen Z culture? Let's take a look at five of the current most influential people in the music industry.

5. Conan Gray

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Conan Lee Gray was born on December 5, 1998, in Lemon Grove, California. Like most Gen Z, he was very active on YouTube as a teenager, to the point where he started publishing vlogs, song covers, and even original songs that he wrote himself. In 2017, Gray was signed to Republic Records.

He started releasing single tracks and gaining more popularity. Finally, in 2020, he released his first album Kid Krow, featuring some of his more popular songs "Wish You Were Sober" and "Maniac", although "Heather" became the most internet-famous song off of the entire album.

In 2022, Gray debuted his second studio album, Superache, which consists of 12 tracks. The "Crush Culture" singer said in the magazine Rolling Stone that creating this album felt like "scraping my ribs of any last bits of meat" because it was "an accurate depiction of my life". "Telepath" is my favorite song by him. It really just embodies the typical "indie-kid" aesthetic. In 2023, Gray released the singles "Never Ending Song" and "Winner".

4. Sabrina Carpenter

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Born in Quakertown, Pennsylvania on May 11, 1999, American actress and singer Sabrina Annlynn Carpenter is currently one of the most successful internet artists of the 2010s-2020s. Carpenter rose to fame around 2014 in the Disney Channel show Girl Meets World as the character Maya Hart. Shortly after she started the show, which would cease airing in 2017, she entered the music industry. Carpenter stuck to a more pop-R&B feel when making her albums. "Looking At Me" was a perfect example, a fun, Latin pop tune.

Her most recent album, Emails I Can't Send, and the deluxe album, Emails I Can't Send Fwd: is probably Carpenter's most successful album in her entire music career. Although the songs "Because I Liked a Boy" and "Feather" are very popular songs on the album, "Nonsense" is the most streamed song on the album, with over 380 million streams on Spotify.

And we all know, that no song is a popular song in Gen Z without a viral TikTok dance, which is exactly what "Nonsense" also achieved. Recently, Carpenter was invited to be the opening act of the South American and Asian leg of Taylor Swift's "Era's Tour" starting August 24, 2023, and ending March 9, 2024.

3. Harry Styles

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English pop sensation and actor Harry Styles was born on February 1, 1994, in Redditch, United Kingdom. Immediately, his career kicked off at the young age of 16. Styles participated in X Factor, where he would join One Direction.

One Direction became a huge hit around the early-mid 2010s. Unfortunately, the boys went on an everlasting hiatus in 2016 due to members being absent during tours, promotions, etc. In 2017, Styles released his debut album, Harry Styles. Popular tracks include "Sign of the Times", "Kiwi" and "Sweet Creature", all of the songs being different genres and vibes.

In October 2019, the soft-pop album Fine Line was released. The most popular song was "Watermelon Sugar". This song absolutely shook the music industry, the song being played every 10 minutes on radio stations around the country.

As a result, "Watermelon Sugar" was Styles' first number-one single in the United States. A personal favorite on the album was "Adore You" because it had the right amount of upbeatness to it while having a softer flare.

Harry's House, Styles' most recent album, was released in 2022. He accomplished many things that year, in his singing as well as his acting career. Styles headlined the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, won Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards Ceremony, and completed his extravagant world tour, Love on Tour.

2. Olivia Rodrigo

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Like Sabrina Carpenter, teen pop sensation Olivia Isabel Rodrigo is a product of the Disney franchise. Rodrigo was born on February 20, 2003, in Murietta, California. At the age of 13, Rodrigo moved to Los Angeles after being cast in the Disney Channel comedy, Bizaardvark. In 2019, she was cast in High School Musical: The Series, another show on Disney Channel, though she left after the third season to pursue her individual music career.

After Rodrigo's album Sour came out, Rodrigo received the title "Gen-Z's most versatile artist". Sour became the most streamed album of 2021 on Spotify, as well as "Drivers License" being the most streamed song. The singer starred in a Disney+ film that dove deeper into the making of Sour.

Guts, Rodrigo's latest album, was released on the 8th of September, 2023. "Vampire", the first and leading single on the album, was the singer's 3rd track to debut at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. In my opinion, Vampire has to be the best song she has made.

1. Taylor Swift

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Single-handedly carrying the music industry throughout the 2010s, West-Reading, Pennsylvania former resident Taylor Alison Swift is one of the most notable singers and songwriters of our time. Born on December 13, 1989, Swift always had an interest in the fine arts, participating in theatre programs in her community at the age of nine. Country music, though, was always her passion.

When she was 14, the Swifts packed up and moved to Hendersonville, Tennessee to expose the singer to the Nashville country music scene. At age 16, Swift debuted her self-titled album. The second studio album by Swift, Fearless, was released in November 2009. A notable song is "You Belong With Me." At the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, Fearless was awarded Album of the Year. Throughout the 2010s, Swift released five different albums, all in different genres, but they were all extremely successful. Popular songs include "I Knew You Were Trouble", "Shake It Off", "Bad Blood", and "Me!"

Swifties were surprised over the 2020 pandemic with two albums, Folklore and Evermore. The overall vibe of both albums was very soft and laid-back pop. In 2021, Swift released her first re-recorded album, Fearless (Taylor's Version), which was a new project for her, as it was her first re-recorded album.

Red (Taylor's Version) would be released later that year, which would reawaken my obsession with the song "I Knew You Were Trouble". Midnights was released in 2022, "Anti-Hero" being the theme song of 2022. Speak Now (Taylor's Version) was released in mid-2023. This was around the time that I became interested in Taylor Swift's music again, "Haunted", "Innocent" and "Enchanted" quickly became some of my favorite songs she's ever made. Swift's next big project is the highly anticipated 1989 (Taylor's Version), which will be released on October 27, 2023.

Who To Listen To Next?

Other artists that teens avidly listen to include Lana Del Rey, Laufey, Billie Eilish, The Weeknd, The Neighborhood, and many more. To catch up on the latest hits in the adolescent world, tune into the "Teen Beats" playlist available on Spotify that is updated daily.

Morgan Kimble
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Writer since Aug, 2023 · 3 published articles

Morgan Kimble is a freshman in high school. In her free time, you can find her playing her instruments, laughing at a stand-up comedy bit, listening to music, or doing a word search.