Here’s a band that is already a huge success in its own right, with hits and platinum albums. And then comes the question, what next? Well, not everyone necessarily likes to share the limelight, and perhaps out of artistic necessity, friction, or simply the promise of a fat contract, they decide to go it solo. And sometimes the success grows even more from there! We do not have to go too far to see the current example of Harry Styles, whose new single “As It Was” spent ten weeks at number one in the US, while his band One Direction never reached No 1 across the pond.
It was a foregone conclusion that Michael Jackson would embark on a solo career after the Jackson 5. Although the 1979 disco album Off the Wall was a huge success, the real breakthrough on the road to pop royalty came with the 1982 album Thriller and he became perhaps the most influential pop artist of his generation.
Take That was a constant presence on the British pop charts in the 1990s (and even during their reunion in the mid-2000s), with virtually every album and every song topping the charts in an almost unprecedented way. But Robbie Williams realised that he could be a viable solo star in his own right, and his catchy hits (“Millennium”, “Rock DJ”) endeared him to audiences worldwide. Before his 2002 release Escapology, he signed a staggering $125 million contract with EMI, which would go down in history as one of the biggest deals in pop music history.
There were female rappers before and after Lauryn Hill, but when the Fugees shot to global fame with 1996’s The Score, Hill was undoubtedly the group’s most transcendent star, singing “Killing Me Softly With His Song” one minute and pushing incredible beats the next. The diversity of her talents was finally showcased on her 1998 Grammy-winning solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the impact of which is still felt today (Drake: “Ex-Factor”, Cardi B: “Be Careful”). But the fame proved too much for Hill, who disappeared from the public eye for a long time and is now mostly seen at festivals.
The music video for No Doubt’s legendary single “Don’t Speak” showed that Gwen Stefani was, in fact, for all intents and purposes, just a solo singer – complete with a band. A solo career was inevitable, especially after her contributions to Moby’s “Southside” and Eve’s “Let Me Blow Ya Mind”. Yet her debut singles got off to a bumpy start, with “What You Waiting For” only 47th, “Rich Girl” barely making the top 10, and only the album’s third single, “Hollaback Girl”, gave Gwen the chart-topping position she craved.
If you’re part of a successful R&B girl group and your manager happens to be your dad, you’re obviously in the spotlight. But as successful as Destiny’s Child was, Beyoncé’s solo career had to happen. And while her superstar romance with Jay-Z and her many collaborations helped propel her solo album Dangerously in Love to multi-platinum success, Beyoncé also tried her hand at acting. After she started releasing ‘visual albums’ with her 2013 surprise release and 2016’s Lemonade, it became clear that Queen Bey was hitting a pretty serious level album after album. And of course, Beyoncé hasn’t forgotten where she came from: she brought back Destiny’s Child at both her Super Bowl performance and the Coachella festival.