Following Bieber, comes an influx of young singers

Associated Press
FILE - In this Sept. 28, 2011 file photo, singer Cody Simpson, 14, poses for photos during an interview in New York. Simpson is one of many young singers blazing the charts. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, file)
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FILE - In this Sept. 28, 2011 file photo, singer Cody Simpson, 14, poses for photos during an interview …

NEW YORK (AP) — The kids are all right — at least in the music industry.

Take Justin Bieber: He's 17, has released three platinum efforts, earned Grammy nominations, released a top-selling movie and has sold out arenas around the world, putting him in the elite echelon of pop superstars.

But Bieber isn't the only young singer blazing the charts and outdoing his elders. Scotty McCreery was crowned "American Idol" champion this year and last month, the now 18-year-old became the youngest male to have his debut album open at No. 1 on Billboard's 200 albums chart.

Eleven-year-old Jackie Evancho has sold more than 1.5 million copies of her Christmas EP and her debut album, and has another Christmas project on the way; Willow Smith had grown people dancing in the clubs with her song "Whip My Hair"; and even 14-year-old Rebecca Black, though heavily ridiculed, had a viral hit with her song and music video "Friday."

Taylor Swift was only 16 when she released her 2006 self-titled, now multiplatinum debut. The country star believes young performers shouldn't be boxed into a "kids" category.

"I think an artist represents a certain thing that is all their own, and their age doesn't really have too much to do with it, in my opinion," the 21-year-old said.

Bieber, who came on the scene in 2009, knows fame can be fleeting, so he advises newcomers to "make sure you hold on to it and make sure you remember why you're in this position and not get lost in yourself."

Here's a look at three emerging acts poised to follow in Bieber and Swift's footsteps.

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CODY SIMSPON - 14

Cody Simpson was already a star on the rise, but the addition of Bieber's manager makes his ascension seem guaranteed.

"I'm really excited that we have someone with so much influence, and he definitely, really believes in me," Simpson said of Scooter Braun. "We have big plans for the future."

Like Bieber, Simpson is taking a slow approach with releasing music: He released his first EP last December, and dropped another last month.

"When I put out a full-length album, I want to it to be like, 'Bam!' And I think I definitely put out these two EPs to grow as an artist (and) to figure out my sound," he said.

Simpson's also growing as a person: The Australian traded a life on the beach for the hustle and bustle of New York City.

"It's a very different lifestyle than I was living before," said Simpson, who has surfer-boy looks and stands at 5'10.

His latest EP "Coast to Coast" — which debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard charts — ranges from up-tempo pop to R&B-flavored ballads. He also has a range of musical influences.

"I actually grew up listening to country music," he said. "I was a big fan of Johnny Cash and Keith Urban ... and then I started discovering different genres of music and I started becoming (a) big fan of like Justin Timberlake and Chris Brown."

But Simpson — who will start to record his first album this month — says he's leaning toward a sound like Jack Johnson and Bruno Mars.

"That's the type of music I will transition into, or just grow into," he said.

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MINDLESS BEHAVIOR (Prodigy, Princeton, Ray Ray, Roc Royal) - 14

For Mindless Behavior member Princeton, being in a boy band is more than just a career opportunity.

"It's really cool to me because growing up as a child, my mom didn't have any other kids, so being in this group, it's like I have three brothers," he said. "We're all similar and different in many ways, so we get along perfectly."

Prodigy, Ray Ray and Roc Royal round out the Los Angeles-based quartet. Roc Royal says the boys have been influenced by the Jackson 5, New Edition and B2K, and while their female fan base may not be as large, they are just as frenetic.

"Most of our songs talk about girls and everyone can relate to our songs," Roc Royal said. "We're looking for our No. 1 girl. That's why we named the album '(hash)1 Girl.'"

Their debut landed at No. 2 and No. 7 on the Billboard R&B and Top 200 albums chart, respectively.

The R&B-pop group also hit the No. 1 spot on BET's "106 & Park" with their music video for "Mrs. Right" and earned a nomination for viewer's choice at the channel's award show this year.

They have toured with Jason Derulo, the Backstreet Boys and Justin Bieber, who encouraged the 14-year-olds to "stay together, stay humble and stay kids while you're in this business," Princeton recalled.

They also hit the road with Janet Jackson, who gave them iPods.

"She actually gave us a good compliment, she said we reminded her of her brothers when she was younger," Roc Royal said.

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DIONNE BROMFIELD - 15

What Dionne Bromfield learned from her godmother — the late Amy Winehouse — was to write her own songs.

But Bromfield was only 12 when she started to work on her first album.

"There would have been nothing to write about apart from getting on the bus and going to school," she said, adding with a laugh: "Pretty boring."

Her 2009 debut, "Introducing Dionne Bromfield," was full of Motown covers like "Mama Said" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." Bromfield says growing up, her mother always played soul records and that she's mainly inspired by Aretha Franklin.

"Marvin Gaye is like one of my favorite Motown singers and I remember going in school once like, 'Have you heard of Marvin Gaye?' And everyone was like, 'Who's that? What about Britney Spears? What about Christina Aguilera?'" she recalled. "And I remember 'Ain't No Mountain' — someone actually thought I wrote that song!"

Now, Bromfield has released an album full of songs she mostly co-wrote. She described the recording of "Good for the Soul," done during after-school sessions, as "intense."

"Right now in the U.K., pop's like the biggest thing ... (and) as much as I like pop music, it's not what I want to portray as my style of music, and loads of people really wanted me to do that," she said.

It was released in the United Kingdom nine days after Winehouse's death; a U.S. release is planned for 2012. The album — out on Winehouse's label Lioness Records — is a collection soulful tunes that highlight Bromfield's booming, yet raspy voice. And on some songs, she sounds like a younger Winehouse.

"Amy's voice was Amy's voice, and only Amy can sing how Amy did sing," Bromfield said. "But, you know, I was trained up by her so I do, like, take a lot of characteristics that she had."

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Online:

http://www.codysimpson.com/

http://www.mindlessbehavior.com/

http://dionnebromfieldmusic.com/

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Mesfin Fekadu covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/musicmesfin

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