After years of fighting for fame and glory in the cutthroat world of music, there comes a time where you ditch your bandmates and attempt a solo career. Some artists are so good at it, many have forgotten their origin band. Others…well, let’s just say they were back with the band in no time. This is only a handful of musicians who have gone solo. I know I’ve left a ton out, so let me know which ones in the comments along with whose your favorite solo act.
“Hollaback Girl” – Gwen Stefani
When Gwen Stefani took a break from No Doubt to do her own thing in 2004, many fans were both excited and disappointed. She spent most of the 90s establishing herself as the quirky, alternative chick who really dug ska music, but her solo material didn’t have any of those elements. With help from the Neptunes, Stefani crafted a debut album full of catchy jams you love to hate and hate to love. Since then, her solo career has been just as successful as her time with No Doubt. Hopefully, she’ll keep delivering the hits on her upcoming LP.
“This City” – Patrick Stump
Though Stump was much loved for his unintelligible vocals in Fall Out Boy, people didn’t know how to feel when he broke out from the band in 2011. Instead of the pop-punk Fall Out Boy were known for, Stump went for more of a pop and R&B infused sound that didn’t sit well with fans. Though the single “This City” did fairly well on the charts, the album didn’t meet up to expectations. Stump became so frustrated in his solo career he posted a lengthy rant on his website where he admited he wasn’t prepared for the hatred he received for his music. He went on to say “The reality is that for a certain number of people, all I’ve ever done, all I ever will do, and all I ever had the capacity to do worth a damn was a record I began recording when I was 18 years old.” Guess we shouldn’t expect a second effort from him.
“Look at Me” – Geri Halliwell
If you thought Directioners overreacted to Zayn leaving One Direction, then you don’t remember the uproar when Geri Halliwell AKA Ginger Spice left the Spice Girls in 1998. Fans were beyond upset and held a grudge against the former Spice Girl for years to come. In 1999 she launched her solo career and while she’s had some decent success it couldn’t compare to the work she did with her former group. Halliwell made headlines in 2013 when her single “Half of Me” only sold 281 copies. Ouch. I picked this song because it’s the only one I remember by her. And yes, I was mad at her for a bit too.
“Lonely No More” – Rob Thomas
Before his solo career, Thomas was known as the one guy from Matchbox Twenty. While the band did find moderate success with singles like “Bent” and “3 AM,” Thomas’ power proved to be even greater without the band. His debut …Something to Be came out in 2005 and produced the mega-hit single “Lonely No More.” It allowed Thomas to gain a whole new audience since it was more pop oriented than his alt rock roots. After another album in 2009, he threw Matchbox Twenty a bone and got them back together for the LP North in 2012. Problem is at that point people stopped caring. Thomas has another solo effort out this year.
“Crazy Train” – Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy already made a name for himself as part of the legendary Black Sabbath. But when the band kicked him out in 1979, the Prince of Darkness was left in the dust. Thanks to the help of his manager/wife Sharon Osbourne, it wasn’t long after that he launched his solo career, which is still going strong today. Now, he has songs that are just as well known and loved as those he created with Black Sabbath. He’s had plenty of classics like “Bark at the Moon” and “No More Tears,” but this remains one of his best.
“I’m Shakin'” – Jack White
Though it’s hard to forget the work he’s done with The White Stripes, Jack White has been making a name for himself as a solo artist since 2012. Without the expectations of the White Stripes or The Dead Weather or The Raconteurs, White was able to go beyond the Blues sound he loves and cherish and delve into country and folk territories. Of course he hasn’t given up on his wild and other worldly guitar solos he became known for. This was one of my favorites from Blunderbuss.
“Sexyback” – Justin Timberlake
Many boy band members have tried and failed to go solo. It’s no doubt that Justin is the most successful one of the bunch. Timberlake has a knack for making the silliest songs catchy as hell. Tracks like “TKO” and “Cabert” are nowhere near his finest material, yet you can’t help but groove to it when you hear it. His songs are catchy, fun, and definitely want to make you dance. Though he now wears many hats, including comedian, designer, and actor, the world will still go wild whenever he releases his latest jam.
“No more I Love Yous” – Annie Lennox
This sultry Brit already captivated audiences in the 80s with The Eurythmics. When the band went on hiatus in the early 90s, Lennox kept making music by herself and proved to kick ass at it. Since her 1992 solo debut, she has released four more albums all with ballads so beautiful they make you weep. Earlier this year, she stole the spotlight from Hozier at the Grammy’s with her intense rendition of “I Put a Spell On You.” This cover of the Lover Speaks hit is a classic and so chilling it trumps the original.
“I Want Your Sex” – George Michael
No one would’ve guessed the singer from Wham! in those all too revealing shorts, would end up being a sex symbol of the late 80s. Michael already had hit singles, like “Careless Whisper” during his time in the band, but when they split in 1986, he took his music in a bold, sexual direction that was seen as controversial at the time. This song caused an uproar with its sexual content and steamy music video, which seems pretty tame by today’s standards. Just shows how things have changed since the MTV days.
“Every Little Step” – Bobby Brown
The bad boy of New Edition broke out on his own with this 1989 single. Even though the video is laughable, especially when Brown sports those biker shorts, it’s hard not love this song. It has since gone down as Brown’s most notable single, even though he had other hits like “My Prerogative” and “Don’t be Cruel.” Though he’s released several LPs since then, none have been as successful as his sophomore effort.
“Never be the Same Again” – Melanie C
After the Spice Girls said goodbye, each of the members tried their hand at going solo, but Melanie C AKA Sporty Spice has been the most successful of the bunch. Her debut Northern Star came out in 1999 and featured this hit single, which has the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. She seems to be doing well on her own and released her sixth LP Stages in 2012. Spice Girl fans will be happy to know that album found her working with Baby Spice once again. Once a Spice Girl, always a Spice Girl.
“Forgot About Dre” – Dr. Dre feat. Eminem
When you think of Dr. Dre now, you think of his insanely overrated headphones that had a hand in making him the richest rapper in the genre. But back in the 90s, he helped to usher in a new era of hip-hop with the help of Eazy-E and Ice Cube in the group N.W.A. Bold, aggressive, brash, and fearless, N.W.A. became notorious and scared the shit out of parents in America. After a dispute with some of the members, Dre released his iconic solo LP The Chronic in 1992. Considered one of the best albums of all time, it featured hit singles like “Nuthin’ but a G Thang,” “Let Me Ride,” and “Fuck Wit Dre.” Though he released a follow up in 2001, fans have been waiting for The Chronic 2, which we should probably give up on at this point.
“11th Dimension” – Julian Casablancas
Julian Casablanca’s sleepy vocals were first heard with The Strokes, which took the world by force in the early 00’s. During the band’s hiatus, Casablancas ventured out on his own and released his critical hit solo album Phrazes for the Young in 2009. It seemed the singer would continue doing his own thing, until the band reformed in 2012 for the release of The Comedown Machine. Casablancas released his second solo effort Tyranny last year proving those sleepy vocals are too good to resist.
“Compulsion” – Martin Gore
Known as the primary songwriter of Depeche Mode, the sweet voiced Gore released his first solo effort in 1989 with a follow up in 2003. Though both releases are filled with cover version of songs that influenced Gore throughout the years, his soft voice along with slight touches of synth and electronic breathes new life into the songs. This track originally performed by Crow, finds Gore using a lot of the same tricks he used for DM’s music, making it irresistibly catchy. Frontman Dave Gahan also released some solo LPs, but they’re not as strong as Gore’s output.
“Into a Swan” – Siouxsie Sioux
Siouxsie Sioux won dark hearts over in the 80s with The Banshees, with their blend of goth, dark wave, new wave, and rock. After the band called in quits in 1995, Sioux took a break from music and didn’t release her solo LP, Mantaray, until 2007. A lot of the music is a departure from what the singer did earlier in her career. The songs delve into hard and even glam rock. The album was a success and she’s had fans clamoring for more ever since. In an Mojo interview from last year, Sioux mention plans for her second solo LP in 2015. Fingers crossed!
“In the Closet” – Michael Jackson
Jackson first made hearts swell as a part of the Jackson 5, who he tried to stay faithful to well into his solo career. He eventually left them behind for good and went on to gain legendary status thanks to his songs and out of this world dancing. This song from his 1991 LP Dangerous, made people wonder about the King of Pop’s sexuality even more. Though not as amazing as songs like “Billie Jean” or “Beat It,” it’s still an underrated gem from the late performer.