From Will Smith to Lady Gaga, artists shuffling between music and acting aren’t a new breed in Hollywood. The new-age stars of the film industry are no exception.
Some, like Riz Ahmed and Zendaya, have been recording music way before their big acting break. On the other hand, there are singers like Hailee Stanfield and Jharrel Jerome who turned towards a musical career after establishing themselves as notable actors. In both cases, such artists have been excelling in their creative fields offering a lot of promise for their future discography.
10 Riz Ahmed (Riz MC)
After a streak of playing supporting parts in hits like Nightcrawler, Venom, and Rogue One, Riz Ahmed stunned critics and audiences with his Oscar-nominated lead performance in Sound of Metal. Ahmed had also received an Emmy for his work on the HBO miniseries The Night Of.
As a musician, Riz Ahmed has been delivering razor-sharp flows under his rapping persona Riz MC. Under this alias, he was also a part of the hip-hop group Swet Shop Boys. However, over the years, his songwriting and rapping have grown to be more poetic and introspective, documenting his thoughts and observations as a Muslim man in Britain. Some of his finest works in recent times include the album The Long Goodbye and Mogul Mowgli‘s Once Kings.
9 Jaden Smith (Jaden)
Even though he’s the son of rapper-turned-actor Will Smith, Jaden Smith has carved out his own distinct body of work. After lead roles in The Karate Kid and After Earth, Smith transitioned towards diverse projects like the Netflix anime Neo Yokio, Baz Luhrmann’s musical drama The Get Down, and the romantic drama Life In A Year.
He has had a more popular run as a proponent of alternative hip-hop. His first two albums Syre and Erys have both garnered immense critical acclaim. Both the records feature Smith crooning on thematic concepts with star-studded features from Kid Cudi, Tyler The Creator, his sister Willow, and many more.
8 Jharrel Jerome
Jharrel Jerome attained popularity with a brief yet impactful role in Barry Jenkins’ coming-of-age epic Moonlight. He drew further attention with an intense and gut-wrenching lead performance in the Netflix miniseries When They See Us, for which he ended up winning an Emmy.
While his acting roles continue, Jerome has been vocal about his love of rapping. ‘Before I became an actor, hip hop was my first love.‘, he wrote in an Instagram post while revealing his debut single “For Real”. Featuring Bronx rapper Kemba, the song attempts to understand the actor’s newfound fame and success from the perspective of a social media-obsessed world.
7 Olivia Rodrigo
18-year-old Olivia Rodrigo is known for her role as Nini Salazar Roberts in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Another Disney+ original that the actress has been associated with is the comedy Bizaardvark.
Her musical career skyrocketed with her single Drivers License that grew a viral following on social media platforms like TikTok. The song was a result of her record deal with Interscope in 2020 and reached number one in the United States and other countries. Her musical style signifies a new age of teen pop that’s also reminiscent of past stalwarts of the genre. This year saw the release of Rodrigo’s debut studio album Sour that was written and recorded during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
6 Finn Wolfhard
Finn Wolfhard is easily one of the most recognizable child actors thanks to a star-making turn in Stranger Things. A main role as one of ‘The Losers’ in It also marked his presence in films.
What some might not know is that he once fronted the band Calpurnia, in which he served as lead vocalist and guitarist. The indie rock band was started in 2017 and was famous for their pop-rock covers other than their originals. Two years later, the band parted ways and Wolfhard started a new outfit christened The Audreys. For the latter, the singles Loved One and New Offerings make for essential listening.
With roles in Euphoria and Marvel’s ongoing Spider-Man franchise, Zendaya is definitely making it big as an actress. She started her acting career with Disney shows like KC Undercover and Shake It Up, but her lead role as Rue in Euphoria has given her career a mature boost.
The same can be said for her musical career. While she started out with teen-pop singles like Swag It Out and Watch Me, her recent soundtrack work shows signs of evolution. The single Rewrite The Stars was a major success in this regard, which she performed alongside Zac Efron in The Greatest Showman. Another hit to her name is All For Us, the closing track to Euphoria’s season finale written and co-performed by Labrinth.
4 Dylan Minnette
Dylan Minnette initially had a few film roles to his credit, including the likes of Goosebumps and Don’t Breathe. However, it’s his portrayal of Clay Jensen in the drama series 13 Reasons Why that made him a teen icon.
Minnette also engages in musical pursuits, notably with his band The Wallows. The LA-based alt-rock group usually produces songs that are ambient and somewhat ‘retro’ in their style and approach. Singles like OK and Are You Bored Yet bear testimony to this. The latter also found them collaborating with popular bedroom pop artist Clairo. The Wallows’ latest work is the six-track EP called Remote.
3 Donald Glover
Donald Glover’s acting gained prominence with the sitcom Community, which he eventually left for his musical career under the stage name Childish Gambino. His acting still continued on the side with a universally praised stint on the FX comedy Atlanta.
With iconic EPs and albums under his belt, Childish Gambino has established his supremacy over pop culture. As a rapper and an R&B vocalist, his range and lyrical themes have constantly undergone an evolution that’s unmatched by his peers. While 3005, The Worst Guys, Redbone, and Summertime Magic are all worth listening to, “This Is America” can be seen as his magnum opus given the song and its accompanying music video’s socio-political commentary.
2 Hailee Stanfield
After a stunning acting debut in True Grit, Hailee Steinfeld did pick a few music-oriented roles in films like Begin Again and Pitch Perfect 2. Her name is also associated with big-budget franchises, as can be seen from her casting in Bumblebee as well as the upcoming Hawkeye series.
The aforementioned Pitch Perfect 2 offered Steinfeld a musical breakthrough as she performed the original track Flashlight. This was followed by an official debut single called Love Myself. Since then, Steinfeld has established herself as a notable pop star, even helming two major electro-pop collaborations. These include Starving with Zedd and Grey and “Let Me Go” with Alesso and Florida Georgia Line.
1 Jacob Anderson
Jacob Anderson is best known for his role in the monumental fantasy Game of Thrones in which he plays Grey Worm, one of the closest aides to Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen. Apart from acting, Anderson has adopted the musician identity of Raleigh Ritchie.
His musical persona has allowed him to explore several concepts. So, while Bloodsport is an emotive testament of a troubled romance, The Greatest is an optimistic ode to carefree living. His first studio album You’re A Man Now, Boy exemplifies his transition to adulthood while his sophomore effort Andy largely deals with his encounters with social anxiety.
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