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21 Pop Divas at 21 Years Old

From Mariah to Christina to Ariana – What did your fave female pop star accomplish at 21?

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Ariana Grande is only 21 years old, and her sophomore album My Everything just debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. This isn't the first time a songstress has hit a stride or career high at 21. Is it a magical age for many of our favorite female singers?

We've rounded up 21 of the biggest names in modern pop to investigate where they all were in their careers at 21 years old. Were they on a massively successful world tour? Sweeping award shows? Or still struggling to make it in the industry?

Click through and find out what your favorite female pop star was doing at 21...

1 / 21


NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 17: Singer Adele attends 2009 VH1 Divas at Brooklyn Academy of Music on September 17, 2009 in New York C
Theo Wargo/FilmMagic

Who: Adele

Turned 21 Years Old: May 5, 2009

Adele's now-classic 21 album is titled after her milestone year. The British powerhouse had cancelled a U.S. tour that would have run from 2008 through mid-2009 in order to spend more time with an ex-boyfriend. She told NYLON magazine, "[I] was drinking far too much and that was kind of the basis of my relationship with this boy ... I couldn't bear to be without him." Said ex would end up the inspiration for 21, an album that went on to become America's biggest-selling record of both 2011 and 2012, as well as the last album to be certified Diamond (more than 10 million copies sold). It's safe to say Adele's year at 21, while personally difficult, went on to help cement her place in pop music history.

2 / 21

Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys during The 44th Annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Jeff
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Who: Alicia Keys

Turned 21 Years Old: January 25, 2002

Alicia Keys was already a breakout star leading up to her 21st birthday: Her debut single "Fallin'" had already enjoyed six weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart and her debut album Songs in A Minor, released in June 2001 when Keys was only 20, had already bowed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart and sold millions of copies. But it was a month after turning 21 that Keys cemented her place in modern music history by becoming just the second female solo artist (after Lauryn Hill in 1999) to take home five GRAMMYs in one night, including awards for Song of the Year, Best New Artist and Best R&B Album. Keys then spent the rest of her 21st year brining her successful Songs in A Minor tour across North America.

3 / 21

Ariana Grande

MIAMI BEACH, FL - JUNE 27: Ariana Grande performs onstage at iHeartRadio Ultimate Pool Party Presented By VISIT FLORIDA At Fo
Alexander Tamargo/WireImage

Who: Ariana Grande

Turned 21 Years Old: June 26, 2014

Ariana Grande is the latest starlet to hit her milestone 21st birthday, and just this week it was announce that the singer/actress had earned a No. 1 album with My Everything. The chart-topping LP marks her second No. 1 in less than a year, following September 2013's Yours Truly. Over on the singles charts, the little diva currently has three Top 10 hits ("Problem" featuring Iggy Azalea, "Break Free" featuring Zedd and "Bang Bang" alongside Jessie J and Nicki Minaj). Grande is now the second female artist to have three simultaneous Top 10 songs, joining Adele who did so with tracks from her album 21. How appropriate.

4 / 21

Avril Lavigne

(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) Avril Lavigne and Deryck Whibley *exclusive* (Photo by Jason Merritt/FilmMagic for Us Weekly
Jason Merritt/FilmMagic for Us Weekly

Who: Avril Lavigne

Turned 21 Years Old: September 27, 2005

Avril Lavigne already had a pretty successful career before turning 21. The pop-punk princess released the six-times platinum Let Go at just 17, and at 19 followed up with the three-times platinum Under My Skin. At 21, Avril was busy recording her 2007 album The Best Damn Thing, including the albums' smash lead single "Girlfriend," which went on to become Avril's first (and only) No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100. Also at 21 years old, Avril married boyfriend and Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley. Unfortunately the couple split a little over 3 years later.

5 / 21


Beyonce Knowles performs at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards (Photo by J. Shearer/WireImage)
J. Shearer/WireImage

Who: Beyoncé

Turned 21 Years Old: September 4, 2002

It's hard to imagine a pop singer having a better year at 21 than Beyoncé. Already world famous as a member of Destiny's Child, Bey turned the big two-one at the tail end of 2002 right before her hit with then-boyfriend Jay Z "03 Bonnie & Clyde" dropped and ruled urban radio. Things only went up from there: In May 2003 the singer launched her solo career by dropping her single "Crazy in Love" (also featuring Jay Z), which ended up spending 8 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The hit launched Bey's first album Dangerously in Love, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart, selling 317,000 copies in its first week. The release went on to sell over 4 million copies, garner multiple awards (including 5 GRAMMYs!), and is still Queen Bey's best-selling album to date. Not impressed? The album's second single "Baby Boy" featuring Sean Paul was another instant smash and spent 9 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100. Basically, Beyoncé owned the entire summer of 2003, and her reign has yet to cease.

6 / 21

Britney Spears

Britney Spears performs in the opening act at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Who: Britney Spears

Turned 21 Years Old: December 2, 2002

Britney Spears turned 21 at the end of 2002 after being named Forbes' Most Powerful Celebrity. Her Dream Within a Dream tour, which was in promotion of her third album, Britney, had grossed $43.7 million, making it the second biggest tour by a female that year (behind only Cher's massive Farewell Tour). In August of 2003, Britney made headlines with her infamous girl-on-girl smooch with Madonna at the MTV VMAs, which still stands as one of the most-talked about VMA moments of all time. Then in November, she dropped her critically acclaimed album In the Zone. It became her fourth consecutive album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart.

7 / 21

Christina Aguilera

Christina Aguilera (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage)
Theo Wargo/WireImage

Who: Christina Aguilera

Turned 21 Years Old: December 18, 2001

Ahead of her 21st birthday, Christina Aguilera was already hinting at a change from the bubblegum-pop image that had given her three No. 1s. The sultry "Lady Marmalade," a collaboration with P!nk, Mya and Lil Kim, showcased her knack for nailing big-diva belts and wearing garter belts. While 21, Aguilera debuted her "Xtina" alter ego for the controversial (if not prophetic) "Dirrty." The lead single, along with the anthemic smash follow-up "Beautiful," launched what many consider the most-important album of Christina's career, Stripped. The disc dropped in October 2002 and resulted in five hit singles, over four million copies sold in the U.S., and a co-headlining summer tour with Justin Timberlake in 2003. Xtina successfully shed her teen pop image and hasn't slowed down since.

8 / 21


NEW YORK - DECEMBER 10: Singer Ciara performs onstage at the Nokia Theatre on December 10, 2006 in New York City.  (Photo by
Scott Gries/Getty Images for AOL Music

Who: Ciara

Turned 21 Years Old: October 25, 2006

Ciara unleashed her debut album Goodies at age 19, and it remains her best-selling release. The R&B star followed up by unveiling her sophomore album, The Evolution, just weeks after turning 21. It netted her four Top 40 singles, including the platinum-selling lead single "Promise." The album itself is certified platinum and the back-to-back success of her first two releases proved Ciara wasn't about that "sophomore slump" life.

9 / 21

CL (of 2NE1)

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 24: Lee Chae-Rin (CL) of South Korean girl group 2NE1 performs during the Pantech 'Vega R3' sm
Han Myung-Gu/WireImage

Who: CL (Leader of K-Pop girl group 2NE1)

Turned 21 Years Old: February 26, 2012

Appropriately, K-pop mega group 2NE1 had a huge year when their leader CL turned 21. Less than four months ahead of the rapper/singer's milestone bday, 2NE1 was named "Best New Band in the World" by MTV Iggy and performed in New York's Times Square to accept the honor. In the summer of 2012, 2NE1 released the melancholy electro-pop track "I Love You," which spent two weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard K-Pop Hot 100. The girl group embarked on their New Evolution World Tour, which held stops in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and both the east and west coasts of the United States, marking the first time a K-pop girl group held solo arena shows in America.

10 / 21

Demi Lovato

ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 13: Demi Lovato  performs onstage during The Neon Lights Tour held at Honda Center on February 13, 201
Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Who: Demi Lovato

Turned 21 Years Old: August 20, 2013

Demi Lovato was already a household name as a teenager after starring roles in Disney's hit TV movie Camp Rock and her own Disney series Sonny With a Chance. Her early singles and albums were relatively successful, but it was her more mature third album, 2011's Unbroken, that helped Demi move beyond the Disney image for good. Less than two years later, Demi dropped her fourth album Demi right before turning 21. The album and supporting Neon Lights tour further cemented the singer's status as a successful artist in her own right. But don't think Demi forgot her TV roots; in late 2013 a 21-year-old Lovato served again as a judge on The X Factor and had a recurring role on the hit teen dramedy Glee.

11 / 21

Hayley Williams (of Paramore)

SHEFFIELD, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 11: Hayley Williams of Paramore performs on stage at Motorpoint Arena on November 11, 20
Gary Wolstenholme/Redferns

Who: Hayley Williams

Turned 21 Years Old: December 27, 2009

Hayley Williams rose to fame as the frontwoman of Paramore at an extremely young age; the group's debut LP All We Know Is Falling came out when she was only 16. But at age 21, Williams also found success as a solo act. "Airplanes," Hayley's 2010 hit song and video with B.o.B, became her first major action outside of Paramore and arguably the biggest hit she's ever been involved in. As a 21-year-old, Hayley effectively showed she deserved her place in the music landscape--with or without Paramore. 

12 / 21

Janet Jackson

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1980: Photo of Janet Jackson  Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Who: Janet Jackson

Turned 21 Years Old: May 16, 1987

Janet Jackson was between albums at 21 years old, but they were two of the most important albums of her career. In February 1986 she had released her third studio album, Control, which was literally Jackson taking control of her life and career, including separating herself from her famous family and firing her father as her manager. The move was a smart one: The album was an instant smash, hitting No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and giving Janet her first No. 1 single with "When I Think of You." On a personal level, it helped Janet reinvent herself as a mature, confident young woman. So at 21 years old, she began recording music for her next album, Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814. When that album was released in 1989, it became her second No. 1 and elicited seven GRAMMY nominations, further cementing Jackson's status as a pop force to be reckoned with.

13 / 21

Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson with her Platnium Album for "Thankful" (Photo by L. Cohen/WireImage)
L. Cohen/WireImage

Who: Kelly Clarkson

Turned 21 Years Old: April 24, 2003

Perhaps no other diva in the 2000s broke out as rapidly and forcefully as Kelly Clarkson. She was just 20 years old when she won the first-ever season of American Idol, and she's since become one of the most-successful Idol winners ever. Her debut album Thankful dropped just nine days before her 21st birthday, which means Clarkson spent most of that year supporting the double-platinum record and its No. 1 single "Miss Independent." That included passing much of her 21st year on her Independent Tour, criss-crossing the country with another Idol star: season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken.

14 / 21


American singer Madonna reflected in a dressing room mirror, New York City, Spring 1979. She has recently moved to New York C
Michael McDonnell/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Who: Madonna

Turned 21 Years Old: August 16, 1979

Unlike most of the women on this list, Madonna was not globally, nationally or even locally well know when she turned 21. In 1978, a 19-year-old Madonna had dropped out of the University of Michigan, where she was studying on a dance scholarship, and moved to New York City with $35 in her pocket. In the year Madonna turned 21, she went from being a struggling dancer to touring with French disco artist Patrick Hernandez as a dancer and backup singer. Madonna's growing interest in creating music led to her joining a few bands. But it wasn't until 1982 that Madonna would release her debut single "Everybody," creating a club hit that lead to a self-titled debut album that lead to, well... history.

15 / 21

Mariah Carey

LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 27: Singer Mariah Carey attends the 19th Annual American Music Awards on January 27, 1992 at the Shrine
Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage

Who: Mariah Carey

Turned 21 Years Old: March 27, 1991

In the year before Mariah Carey turned 21, her debut single "Vision of Love" hit No. 1 and successfully launched her self-titled debut album. It was, however, Carey's impressive performance of "Vision of Love" at the 1991 GRAMMY Awards that really kicked Mariah Carey-mania into high gear. Following the show, where she picked up two GRAMMYs for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, the album shot back up to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart, remaining there for eleven consecutive weeks. Thus Carey rang in 21 with a No. 1 album. She dropped the album's fourth (and final) single "I Don't Wanna Cry," which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and ensured Mariah was the first artist (at the time) since the Jackson 5 to have their first four singles hit No. 1. Later that year Carey started recording her sophomore album Emotions and ended the year on a high note with her debut album being named the top-selling album of 1991.

16 / 21

Miley Cyrus

ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 20: Miley Cyrus performs onstage during her 'Bangerz' tour at Honda Center on February 20, 2014 in Ana
Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Who: Miley Cyrus

Turned 21 Years Old: November 23, 2013

Between her already substantial career and constant controversy, it's somewhat shocking that Miley Cyrus is still only 21 years old today. Miley's breakout Bangerz album was released just weeks before her 21st birthday (for which she threw a crazy party at the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles following the American Music Awards). Bangerz hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200, has already been certified platinum and, most significantly, launched Miley into a role as an omnipresent pop culture icon. Whatever you personally think of her, you can't deny the reach and influence she has, especially over her army of devoted fans.

17 / 21


Pink joined Lil' Kim, Christina Aguilera and Mya to perform 'Lady Marmalade' at the 2001 MTV Movie Awards at the Shrine Audit
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Who: P!nk

Turned 21 Years Old: September 8, 2000

P!nk's debut album Can't Take Me Home dropped just a few months before the singer turned 21. That same year, she recorded the majority of the classic follow-up Missundaztood, her most successful album to date. Let's not forget a little (and we mean huge) song she was part of at 21 years old, "Lady Marmalade" with Christina AguileraLil Kim and Mya off the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. The song was P!nk's first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and one of the biggest songs in the world that year. Way to do the thing, P!nk.

18 / 21


OBERHAUSEN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 10: Rihanna performs during the German TV Show 'Popstars You & I' final at the Koenigspilsener
Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images

Who: Rihanna

Turned 21 Years Old: February 20, 2009

After securing her place in the pop world with her wildly successful Good Girl Gone Bad album (which spawned three No. 1s in the U.S.), Rihanna turned 21 less than two weeks after being assaulted by then-boyfriend Chris Brown. The Barbados singer spent a majority of her milestone bday recording her darker Rated R album, which proved to be another success. The project contained moody, hard-hitting singles like "Russian Roulette" and "Hard," along with the sexy "Rude Boy." "Rude Boy" was released the day before Rihanna's 22nd birthday, and went on to become her fourth Billboard Hot 100 No. 1. Also released while Rih was 21? Her collaboration with Jay Z and Kanye West "Run This Town," which proved her to be probably the most in-demand guest star of the time.

19 / 21


PASADENA, CA - APRIL 11: Shakira attends Fourth Annual ALMA Media Awards on April 11, 1999 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium i
Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage

Who: Shakira

Turned 21 Years Old: February 2, 1998

Shakira had yet to attempt an English crossover, but at 21 years old she was recording a Spanish album that nonetheless became one of her best-selling in the States. Her Latin pop/rock-leaning ¿Dónde Están los Ladrones? (Where Are the Thieves?) dropped in fall of '98 and would go on to sell nearly one million copies in America; her fourth-biggest record in this country to date, and biggest at the time. The album spawned eight singles and garnered Shaki her first GRAMMY nomination for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album.

20 / 21

Taylor Swift

NASHVILLE, TN - MAY 21: 4-time Grammy winner Taylor Swift took the unprecedented step of opening the last dress rehearsal for
Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Who: Taylor Swift

Turned 21 Years Old: December 13, 2010

Taylor Swift was a few months shy of 21 when her third album Speak Now was released in October 2010. Prior to Speak Now, Swift had already lofted a stunning 13 songs into the Billboard Top 40. That trend continued with Speak Now, which spawned the double-platinum hit "Mine," as well as four other songs that sold at least 1 million units. Taylor performed sold-out shows almost every night in 2011, while the album continued its stellar performance, landing at No. 2 on Billboard's 2011 year-end album chart, second only to Adele's smash 21 album. Swift's feel-good hit might be titled "22," but we think she had a pretty good time at 21, too.

21 / 21

Whitney Houston

NEW YORK, NY - 1985: American singer Whitney Houston (C) at an event to celebrate her debut album 'Whitney Houston' receiving
Peter Carrette Archive/Getty Images

Who: Whitney Houston

Turned 21 Years Old: August 9, 1984

In April 1983, Clive Davis had signed a 19-year-old Whitney Houston to Arista Records to ensure no other label scooped up the young talent. But it wasn't until Valentine's Day 1985, when Houston was 21 years old, that she released her self-titled debut album. The album, which hit No. 1 for multiple weeks and has now sold over 13 million copies, featured the hit singles "You Give Good Love," "Saving All My Love For You," "How Will I Know," and "Greatest Love of All." Whitney Houston soon became the first black female artist to receive regular airplay on MTV. The album also netted Houston her first GRAMMY: Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Saving All My Love For You."


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