As a musician, there are pros and cons to being part of a group. Being famous can get lonely, and if you have a group of people to tour, write music, and perform with, it makes it easier to so often be away from home. You also have other people to rely on and motivate you when you need inspiration. But on the other hand, as part of a group, you’ll always have to share the spotlight.
There are plenty of musicians who left a successful band and didn’t do much with their career after that. Or they tried and never got anywhere close to the success they had with their band. Kevin Richardson left the Backstreet Boys in 2006 and did very little in the way of a solo career before returning to the band. Only time will tell how Zayn Malik‘s career will go now that he’s left One Direction, but he has landed a recording deal with RCA records.
Going solo is a risk because there is the chance you’ll alienate your fans, but these 10 musicians managed to do it and became even more successful than they ever would have if they stuck with their original group.
From 1992 until 2001, Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson was a member of the girl group Wild Orchid. During that time they only released two full albums, neither of which were very successful. In 2003, she joined the Black Eyed Peas for a few songs on their album Elephunk, the most popular being “Where is the Love” and “Shut Up”. She was offered a permanent place in the band for the next album Monkey Business which earned them a Grammy award for the song “Don’t Phunk With My Heart”.
Fergie released her solo album The Dutchess in 2006, which included six hit singles and three #1s (“Fergalicious”, “Glamorous”, and “Big Girls Don’t Cry”.) Despite her solo success, she returned to the Black Eyed Peas to release two more albums. The song “I Gotta Feeling” won them a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group. Not only did Fergie help make the Black Eyed Peas what they are today, but she also managed to have a successful solo career without ever leaving her band. She’s currently working on her second solo album.
9. Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez first got famous starring on the Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place. She formed the band Selena Gomez & the Scene in 2008 and they released three albums together before going on hiatus. In between working on film projects, Gomez released her debut solo album Stars Dance in 2013 which included the Billboard top-ten single “Come & Get It”. Her second album, Revival, released in October of this year debuted at number one on the Billboard charts. Her solo music and acting career, not to mention her high profile on-again, off-again relationship with Justin Bieber has officially made her more famous than her original band ever would have.
8. Justin Timberlake
The second biggest boy band of the late 90’s, N’Sync, always had a clear front runner for potential solo artist, and everyone knew it was Justin Timberlake. During the band’s hiatus, Timberlake released his debut solo album Justified in 2002 which included the singles “Cry Me a River”, and “Rock Your Body”. He earned his first two Grammy Awards (of an eventual nine) as a solo artist. He went on to release three more albums, appear in various movies, and even win a couple Emmy’s for his work on Saturday Night Live sketches, like fan favorite opposite Andy Samberg, “Dick in a Box”. Say the name Justin Timberlake now, and hardly anyone even remembers he started out in a boy band.
7. Gwen Stefani
Gwen Stefani was the lead singer of No Doubt since they formed in 1986. But it wasn’t until their third studio album, Tragic Kingdom was released in 1995 that No Doubt really started making an impact. They were considered the leaders of the third-wave ska revival in the 1990’s and their third single “Don’t Speak” broke Billboard records after spending 16 weeks at number one on the Hot Airplay chart.
In 2004, during the band’s hiatus, Stefani released her debut solo album, Love. Angel. Music. Baby. which included the hit singles “Hollaback Girl” and “Rich Girl”. Although she’s been incredibly successful as a solo artist, Stefani hasn’t given up on No Doubt, and she’s currently working on two new albums, one solo, and one with the band.
6. Dr. Dre
Dr. Dre started out as a member of hip-hop group N.W.A alongside Eazy-E and Ice Cube. They rose to prominence with songs like “F*ck Tha Police” and “Straight Outta Compton”, and are credited with bringing a new style of “gansta rap” into the mainstream. The group went through many ups and downs, and eventually all departed to work on solo projects. Ice Cube and Dr. Dre were both extremely successful as solo artists, but it was Dr. Dre’s debut album The Chronic that dominated. He went on to help launch the careers of a long list of successful artists including Eminem, 50 Cent, and Kendrick Lamar, as well as found Beats by Dre, and he’s now worth over $700 million.
5. Lauryn Hill
The Fugees were a multi-platinum, Grammy-winning hip-hop trio popular in the 90’s. They released two albums, and their second, The Score, included the hit single “Killing Me Softly”. They disbanded in 1997, and although members Wyclef Jean and Pras both went on to fairly successful careers of their own, it was Lauryn Hill who made the biggest impact as a solo artist. Her album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was a huge sensation that helped earn her nominations in ten different categories at the 1999 Grammy Awards. She won Album of the Year and Best New Artist. Although she only released one solo album, it’s still considered an iconic addition to the hip-hop genre.
4. Robbie Williams
Robbie Williams started his music career as a member of the UK boy band Take That. He left the band in 1995 to pursue a solo career, but returned in 2010 for one more album before departing again. During his time as a solo artist, William released seven studio albums all of which reached number one in the UK. He is currently the best-selling male solo artist in the UK, and he has won a record seventeen Brit Awards. His first single “Millennium” from his second solo album I’ve Been Expecting You became his first number one hit in the UK as a solo artist and also made him a household name in the U.S and Canada.
When it comes to music, it doesn’t get much more successful than Beyonce. As we all know, she got her start as a member of the R&B girl group Destiny’s Child. Their first successful album was the 1999 album The Writing’s On The Wall, which included number one singles “Bills, Bills, Bills” and “Say My Name”. As a trio, they released three more albums and they’ve been ranked one of the greatest musical trios of all time.
During a hiatus Beyonce released her solo album Dangerously In Love, which earned her five Grammy nominations. She released three more albums before dropping a surprise self-titled “visual album” on iTunes in December of 2013 which became the fastest selling album in iTunes history. To date, she has won a total of 20 Grammy awards.
2. Nick Jonas
You probably know Nick Jonas as the youngest member of The Jonas Brothers, a boy band that got their start on the Disney Channel. They released four albums together and were nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist. They decided to go on hiatus in 2010, but it wasn’t until 2014 when Nick released his second studio album as a solo artist that people started to take notice. The singles “Chains” and “Jealous” were both big hits thanks to what Jonas called a “Lionel Richie vibe”.
In addition to his solo music career, Nick has also done some acting work, including a lead role on the DirectTV series Kingdom, and a recurring role on FOX’s Scream Queens. Although the Jonas Brothers have considered a reunion, it seems like youngest brother Nick has too much going on to go back to the boy band thing.
1. Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson started out as a member of the Jackson 5, a band that included him and his four older brothers. In 1970, they hit it big with singles like “I Want You Back”, “ABC”, and “The Love You Save”. Michael was only 13 when he launched his solo career while still performing with his band. But it wasn’t until 1982 with the release of his album, Thriller, that Jackson solidified his status as the King of Pop.
Songs like “Billy Jean”, “Thriller”, and “Beat It” helped earn him eight Grammy Awards. He went on to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, and win five more Grammy’s and countless other awards. He’s also been awarded by the Guinness Book of World Records 31 times thanks to all the albums sold worldwide. His music has influenced hundreds if not thousands of musicians, and even though he passed away in 2009, his legacy lives on.