Playlist: Thriving Solo

A fair share of airtime tends to be devoted to lead singers of successful bands. Breaking away is tempting. Not all are fortunate. But some are. Here are 15 artists who thrive solo or with the rest of the group.

Justin Timberlake

At the height of ‘N Sync’s popularity, the band called it quits. Justin’s first three albums cemented his place as the likeliest to take the throne of “King of Pop.” Unfortunately, his last record, Man of the Woods, experienced a commercial setback and a critical beating. The title is now in jeopardy and up for grabs.

Gwen Stefani

Only time got in the way of Gwen embarking on a solo career. In 2004, she released Love. Angel. Music. Baby. She dominated the radio airwaves, topped the album charts, and set records for digital downloads. Nowadays, she barely makes 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 took the Jonas Brothers seriously. That was the mindset of the public when they went on their separate ways. Nick Jonas silenced his critics and made people fans with “Jealous.” Nowadays, 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.


Once, Beyonce’s prospects for a solo career looked grim. She started off with a soundtrack single, “Work It Out.” 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 careers for any artist.


Zayn achieved a milestone his former group never managed to – reaching the pole position of the US Billboard Hot 100. “Pillowtalk” was a worldwide smash, making the same feat in the UK and Australia. The record proved there was life after One Direction. His sophomore album barely took off. But he has already proven that he can succeed.

Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill’s solo career was short-lived, but the output was immaculate. She created one of the best records of my lifetime – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. I flash forward to today. Her personal troubles get in the way of showcasing the talent she’s capable of. She is a one-album wonder. But the impact is more significant than most artists’ discographies.

Jack White

Jack White may never experience the same commercial success he enjoyed as part of the White Stripes. However, creatively, he continues to push the boundaries and deliver quality music. Critics and the Recording Academy continue to shower him with praises and accolades. People’s respect for him is higher now than it has ever been.

Camila Cabello

Only time will tell if Camila Cabello has longevity. But assessing the question based on her first attempt, she may just have what it takes. She reached peaks Fifth Harmony never managed to. And she pulled off another hit with “Never Be the Same.” People dismissed “Havana” as a one-off record. I guess the same people 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.


The Duchess gave Fergie tremendous success. With hits under her belt, continuing solo would’ve made sense. Instead, she chose to reunite with the Black Eyed Peas and was rewarded. “London Bridge,” “Fergalicious,” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” were certified jams. But “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling” were monstrous.

Rob Thomas

Even though Santana gets the majority of the credit for “Smooth,” the vocals of Rob Thomas deserve equal recognition. Probably, his Grammy-winning turn in the single inspired him to go solo. When he did, the record still sounds like a Matchbox Twenty record – something we are all thankful for.

Pharrell Williams

No one remembers N*E*R*D. Even when Rihanna assisted with their comeback record “Lemon” in 2017, 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.”

Geri Halliwell

Two decades earlier, Geri Halliwell pulled out of the Spice Girls. Her move signified an end to one of the most successful girl groups. In the process, she notched four consecutive number-one singles in the UK. Nowadays, her career isn’t enjoying the same glory. Others are in the same predicament. Now, they’re busy scrambling for reunions.

Robbie Williams

Leaving one of the biggest British Boy bands would be a mistake. Unless you are Robbie Williams. Now, you are the best-selling British solo artist in the UK. I get a sense there are no regrets from his end. Even though they did not come back for good, their reunions with or without Robbie Williams, experienced commercial success.

Harry Styles

Harry may never match the commercial success of One Direction. He’d be lucky to even surpass Zayn. But his debut album is superior to any output of either One Direction or its members. Had any other artist released Harry Styles, he/she would be winning Album of the Year. But since Harry came from a boy band, he has to work twice as hard.

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