5 Artists from the Americas Who Changed the World of Music
OnRecord Staff · June 21, 2018 · 4 Minute Read
We’re celebrating World Music Day by highlighting the music and stories of some of the most successful artists from around the world. Check out our World Music Map featuring the artists who transformed their musical landscape, and listen to all of their music!
Canada: Justin Bieber
From child star to superstar, Justin Bieber’s story is one of continual reinvention and success, despite the odds.
The London, Ontario-born singer and songwriter was born to a single mother, Patricia Mallette. Discovered by visionary artist manager Scooter Braun on YouTube in 2007, Bieber released his first EP, My World, in 2009. My World, produced under the guidance of Bieber’s mentor Usher, was certified platinum both in the United States and his native Canada, making him an instant favorite for teens and pre-teens across North America. The following year, Bieber’s debut album, My World 2.0 became inescapable the world over. Driven by lead single “Baby,” My World 2.0 announced to the world that a new superstar had official been born.
As Bieber matured, so did his voice, his image, and his subject material. He also learned to live with the intense media scrutiny surrounding his every move, evolving from golden boy, to bad boy, to self-sufficient man. His third album, Believe, featured the edgy “Boyfriend,” but the transformation was complete in 2015’s Purpose, which featured a tattooed, shirtless Bieber on its album cover. Featuring the smash hits “Sorry” and “Love Yourself,” Purpose reaffirmed Bieber’s status as one of the 2010s most prominent musical stars.
Cuba: Camila Cabello
Born in Cuba, Camila Cabello’s family shuttled between Havana and Mexico City before her father moved them to Miami as when she was five. Passionate about music and singing throughout her childhood, Cabello’s first taste of success came as part of the group Fifth Harmony in 2013.
Two years later, Cabello recorded “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” a collaboration with fellow millennial favorite Shawn Mendes. Released in 2015, the single demonstrated her star power as a standalone act, showcasing her signature husky, powerful vocals. She then collaborated with Major Lazer, Travis Scott, and Quavo for the 2017 smash hit “Know No Better.”
Still, no one could have predicted the incredible performance of her next single, “Havana,” from her debut solo album, Camila. The song launched her to global superstardom, and has placed her firmly on the list of artists to watch in the next decade. She’s effortlessly able to fuse her Latin heritage with contemporary R&B, pop, and electronic sounds. Superb!
Born in Barranquilla, Colombia, Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll’s ancestry stretches as far and wide as Lebanon, Catalonia, and Italy. Her first name, which she also adopted as her stage name, means “grateful” in Arabic. We’re all grateful that Shakira didn’t listen to the doubters — legend has it that her elementary school music teacher compared her singing to the bleating of a goat. Harsh!
The English-speaking world probably knows Shakira from one of her various hits in her breakout decade, the 2000s. But prior to becoming a global name across the world, Shakira was already a well-known, successful singer-songwriter in Latin America. Prior to 2001’s Laundry Service, she’d already released four studio albums — all before the age of 24!
Shakira’s ability to create global hits while infusing her music with elements from various cultures, including Arabic and Indian music, mean she is a true icon of world music. And aside from being the highest-selling Colombian artist, ever, she’s also a UN Goodwill Ambassador, and the founder of a charity that supports underprivileged schools across her home country. Shakira has consistently used her platform to bring attention and funding to the causes that matter to her. Truly inspiring.
Jamaica: Bob Marley
More than a man: a symbol. A symbol of his country and his genre, of love, peace, and acceptance. Without Robert Nesta Marley, the world may not have come to accept, and appreciate, reggae, the way it does today. Seriously, imagine Sunday mornings without classics like “Three Little Birds?”
After spending time in the United States working as an assembly worker in an automobile manufacturing plant, and also a pharmaceutical lab assistant, Marley returned to his native Jamaica in the late 1960s. There, he teamed up with producer Lesley Kong to develop some of the earliest reggae recordings — and the rest was history. Both as the leader of the legendary Wailers, and as a solo artist, Marley went on to release some of the most iconic reggae songs ever, including “Could You Be Loved,” “One Love/People Get Ready”, “No Woman No Cry” and “Is This Love.”
After a four-year battle, Marley tragically succumbed to cancer in 1981, when he was only 36. Despite his relatively short recording career, he remains one of the most popular, enduring, and highest-selling musicians of all time.
United States: Michael Jackson
To call Michael Jackson a singer, or a dancer, or a songwriter, would perhaps be to miss the point. He was, quite simply, the King of Pop, the living embodiment of joy and entertainment for the four decades in which he recorded and performed for the world.
He was a star by the time he was 8, as a member of the Jackson 5, which created ’70s Motown classics such as “I Want You Back,” “I’ll Be There,” and “ABC.” But that was only the beginning. It was in the ’80s that Michael Jackson became the face of pop music, arguably paving the way for the stars we celebrate today, including Justin Bieber. Despite the complex racial climate of the United States at the time, Jackson simply was music, and therefore had to be on MTV — overcoming a hurdle that would allow successive generations of African-American musicians to enjoy the platform provided by the mainstream media.
Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad provided arguably the most successful three-album stretch of all time, giving the world smash hits like “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough,” “Rock with You,” “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” “Thriller,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” and “Smooth Criminal,” as well as the coolest dance move of all time, the moonwalk. If there’s one artist who was born for music, it was Michael Jackson.
If it were up to us, every day would be World Music Day! We hope you enjoy listening to these playlists on Saavn as much as we enjoyed curating them.