Playlist: Thriving Solo

For a group’s lead vocalist, the thought of breaking away is tempting. In the end, many end up realizing that they are better off together than alone. Nowadays, reunions are commonplace for the same reason. However, not all are unfortunate. Here are 15 artists whose careers thrive flying solo or otherwise.

Justin Timberlake

At the height of ‘N Sync’s popularity, the band decided to call it quits. His first three albums cemented his place as the likeliest to take the throne as King of Pop. Unfortunately, his last record Man of the Woods experienced a commercial setback and a critical beating. The title King of Pop is now in jeopardy but that narrative lasted for quite a period.

Gwen Stefani

I’m a huge fan of No Doubt. But Gwen Stefani was always the band’s star. Only time got in the way of her embarking on a solo career. In 2004, she released Love. Angel. Music. Baby. and dominated the radio airwaves, album charts and set records for digital downloads. Nowadays, she’s barely making a dent in pop music. But before the downfall, she blessed us with two landmark albums that people put on repeat.

Nick Jonas

No one would take a Jonas brother seriously. At least, that’s the mindset of the general public when the siblings went on their separate ways. This motivated Nick Jonas to create a masterpice in “Jealous”. He silenced his critics and made people converts. Nowadays, even the reunion of the brothers brought them to greater heights. Time off from the group paid off for each one of them and for the collective.


There was a time when the prospects of a prosperous solo career for Beyonce looked grim. She started off with a soundtrack single, “Work It Out”, for her movie appearance in Austin Powers in Goldmember. The reception was lukewarm. A year later, she came back with “Crazy in Love” and the rest is history. Destiny’s Child had one of the best runs for any girl group. Beyonce had one of the best runs for any artist who has ever lived.


Zayn achieved a milestone his former group never managed to – reaching the pole position of the US Billboard Hot 100. In fact, “Pillowtalk” was a worldwide smash, also reaching number one in the UK and Australia. His debut record proved there was life after One Direction. Even though his sophomore album barely took off, he has already proven that he can succeed on his own.

Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill’s solo career was short-lived but the output was immaculate. When she broke out of the Fugees, she created one of the best records of my lifetime – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. I flash forward to today. The biggest disappointment is her personal troubles getting in the way of  showing the world what she’s capable of. She is a one album wonder. But the impact the masterpiece has created is unprecedented.

Jack White

Jack White may never experience the same commercial success he enjoyed as part of the White Stripes. However, there’s no need to be upset. Creatively, he continues to push the boundaries and deliver quality music. Critics and the recording academy alike continue to shower him with praises and accolades. People’s respect for him is greater now than how it was before.

Camila Cabello

Only time will tell if Camila Cabello has the longevity to build a long-term career in the music industry. But assessing the question based on her first attempt, she may just have what it takes. She succeeded in reaching heights Fifth Harmony never managed to. And she also pulled off another hit with “Never be the Same”. People dismissing “Havana” as a one-off record can now shut up.

Ronan Keating

Ronan Keating achieved two number one records in the UK by doing country covers. Given the lack of exposure non-US markets have to the genre, he made the right bet. Nowadays, he’s back with the group to capitalize on people’s nostalgia and get the old fans of Boyzone energized. It’s easy to forget. But he was a household name on his own and enjoyed a fruitful career outside of the boy band.


The Duchess gave Fergie tremendous success. With hits under her belt, continuing to go solo would’ve made sense. Instead, she chose to reunite with the Black Eyed Peas and was heavily rewarded for it. “London Bridge”, “Fergalicious”, “Glamorous”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Clumsy” were certified jams. But “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling” were monstrous and ended the decade as some of the period’s biggest songs.

Rob Thomas

Even though Santana gets majority of the credit for “Smooth”, the vocals of Rob Thomas deserves equal recognition. His Grammy-winning turn in the track probably inspired him to go solo. When he did, the record still sounds like a Matchbox Twenty record – going from More Than You Think You are to …Something to Be. Now and then, he would switch back and forth from Matchbox Twenty to doing his own thing.

Pharrell Williams

No one remembers N*E*R*D. Even when Rihanna assisted with their comeback record “Lemon” in 2017 (their first in 7 years), the single barely charted. On his own, Pharrell is a household name. He’s a producer most artists dream of collaborating with. He’s a preferred coach by up and coming artists on The Voice. But the peak of his solo career has been “Happy”. The soundtrack single has been inescapable since its release.

Geri Halliwell

Two decades earlier, Geri Halliwell pulled out of the Spice Girls. Her move signified the end for one of the biggest girl groups to ever walk the Earth. Can you blame Geri Halliwell? She notched four consecutive number one singles in the UK. Nowadays, her solo career isn’t enjoying the same glory All others are in the same predicament. Now, they’re trying to get back together for a reunion. The only holdout is Victoria Beckham.

Robbie Williams

Leaving one of the greatest British Boy bands would be a mistake for most people. Unless you are Robbie Williams and you are the best-selling British solo artist in the UK. I get a sense there is no regrets from his end. Moreover, I never thought I’d compare the Take That to the Jonas Brothers. But their reunion went beyond selling out concerts. They group rose to the top of the charts, with and without Robbie Williams.

Harry Styles

Commercially, Harry Styles may never match the success he experienced in One Direction. He may not even surpass Zayn at the rate they’re both going. But the quality of his debut album is far superior to all the output of One Direction or its members. Had any other artist released Harry Styles, he/she would be winning Album of the Year. But since Harry comes from a boy band, he has to work twice as hard to be taken seriously.

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