Back in the early 2000s, we thought American Idol was going to change the way artists broke into the music business. It seemed so democratic – WE could pick the next singing sensation instead of waiting for music execs to tell us! We didn’t see the bigger change on the horizon. Since YouTube was founded in 2005, anybody with a camera and an internet connection can exhibit their talent to a potential audience of millions. The result: some of today’s top artists first gained worldwide exposure without even leaving their living rooms. With a mix of signed musicians and the more internet-famous, here are some of the best YouTube-made artists (*that we actually know about – there’s a whole YouTube culture out there and frankly, we’re not hip to it).
Amy and Nick met while attending Berklee and posted covers of songs on YouTube, including this one of Look at Me Now by Chris Brown, Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes. Busta Rhymes, who’s known for his mile a minute raps. And she clearly kills it. It went viral and even caught the attention of Ellen DeGeneres, who brought them on her show and all the exposure led them to a record deal. Their Look at Me Now vid has over 101 million views and they went on to find success with their subsequent album, including my jam off their Hello album – Brokenhearted. Not brokenhearted – Amy and Nick. They got married earlier this year.
If you don’t know who Troye Sivan, just ask your 20 year old cousin or intern at work. Troye is 21, which means he grew up posting covers of himself singing on YouTube, and he soon transitioned to being a vlogger, which is how he helped accrue his over 4 million subscribers and more than 243 million views. One of his vids even won him a Teen Choice Award. For real. A few years ago, he made a coming out video which gained a lot of traction, and next thing you know, he was named one of the 25 Most Influential Teens by Time magazine. He focused back on music and last year he released his first full studio album, with electropop jams like Wild and Youth. Seriously, y’all – he’s kind of a big deal.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Ok, so Carly found fame in Canada before this video went viral (see: Canadian Idol, third place season five), but she became a worldwide sensation after Justin Bieber posted this “star-studded” lip sync video. Not only is Ashley Tisdale in it, but Jelena stans were going crazy that their fave couple was showing off publicly. As we all know, Call Me Maybe became THE song of the summer, and one of the greatest pop hits of this decade. And now Carly Rae is a Pop Queen, and if you disagree, I implore you to listen to her latest album, E•MO•TION in its entirety and dare to argue with me afterwards.
Lennon and Maisy
We wrote about Lennon and Maisy when this blog was just a baby, because we were two of the millions of people who fell in love with these siblings’ covers on YouTube. Their videos also caught the attention of the folks over at Nashville (the show) and they moved to Nashville (the city) to star in the series, which they’ve been recurring characters for the past four seasons. And their harmonies are as on point as ever.
We all know Bieber’s story. I thought he was cute when I first saw these vids years ago. Then he went through some troubling times, and if we’re being honest, now I’m a Belieber. Sorry is still my boo, and you can’t convince me otherwise. Also, if you want to feel some emotions (no matter your views on Bieber), here’s Usher surprising the crowd at JB’s recent Atlanta tour to sing U Got It Bad.
Before YouTube, people performing covers – even creative, beautifully arranged covers – were confined mostly to open mike nights or coffeehouse gigs. Now a wider audience can see that covers aren’t just someone else’s song: they’re a way to reimagine lyrics and melody to create something completely new. Enter Postmodern Jukebox. Their tagline is “today’s hits, yesterday” and they perform modern, popular songs in a way they might have sounded at a juke joint 60 years ago.
Chloe and Halle
They’ve been dubbed the “first superstars of the Beyonce Generation” – gaining fame on YouTube, landing a guest spot on Ellen, visiting the White House and ultimately appearing in Lemonade and performing at the BET Awards. These sisters are also talented, sweet, and the recipients of some seriously top-shelf genes. Nice generation, B.
Before Alessia’s ‘can’t I just stay home’ anthem (Here) was all over the airwaves, she made her name performing YouTube covers from her Canadian home. In just a few years she went from this one cover of Sweater Weather that everyone was sharing to supporting Coldplay on tour and winning a Juno.
Couldn’t resist going Double YouTube on this one. Leroy Sanchez is a YouTuber from Spain, and while he usually sings in English, Bieber’s Sorry sounds even better in Spanish.
Like Postmodern Jukebox, I like that this artist offers something that you wouldn’t hear on the radio. Namely: covering both the male and female parts in songs in a way that’s almost superhuman. It’s almost impossible to listen to one of his medleys without smiling. Guys. He even covered that song from Home Alone and Adele’s Hello in three octaves.