Okay, hands up: who here has ever felt personally victimized by a musician who left their band to go solo? One Direction fans, I see you. More often than not, the departure of a member spells the beginning of the end of their former band. Nothing’s ever quite the same without the original lineup, and it’s not long before the remaining members go their separate ways too. The Spice Girls, Take That, The Pussycat Dolls… They all met the same upsetting end.
While we really, really wish we could resent these newly solo artists for breaking up a beautiful thing, it’s not always easy. More often than not, their new music actually turns out to be pretty great! Maybe leaving the band was the best thing after all! Some of these breakaway acts become so successful in their own right that you begin to forget they were ever part of a group at all. If you’re looking for a roundup of the best and brightest former band members of recent days, we’ve got you covered.
18. Beyoncé of Destiny’s Child
Beyoncé is basically the queen of successfully crafting a solo career outside of a musical group. I mean, she’s basically the queen full stop. While Destiny’s Child did give us some total bangers – “Bootylicious” and “Say My Name” spring to mind – their music pales in comparison to B’s solo offerings. Just think: if Destiny’s Child hadn’t split, we’d never have been blessed with the “Single Ladies” dance. We’d never have heard Mrs. Carter totally slate her cheating husband Jay-Z in Lemonade. The world would be a far worse place without “I am Sasha Fierce,” “4,” and the self-titled visual album. Beyoncé is the example that all wannabe solo artists should follow. She’s totally nailed it.
17. Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child
Despite being in Beyoncé’s shadow somewhat, the other members of Destiny’s Child have also done pretty well for themselves. Kelly Rowland has sold over 40 million records as a solo artist, which is certainly nothing to turn your nose up at. She’s released four successful albums, headlined three popular tours, and even enjoyed stints as a judge on The X Factor’s UK and US versions! Her music is critically acclaimed for its lyrical and emotional honesty. Things are only looking up for Rowland: she’s now a coach on The Voice Australia and has appeared on the show’s US version too. She’s also relishing being a mom: she has an adorable son, Titan, with husband Tim Weatherspoon. Also, “Motivation”? It’s seven years old and still one of the sexiest songs of all time.
16. Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child
Out of the three main former Destiny’s Child girls, Michelle Williams is the one who often gets the least love. She kind of gets forgotten about a lot of the time, which really isn’t fair – she’s had a pretty great solo career, too! Williams is particularly big in the gospel scene and has a number of hit albums in the genre. She even performed some of her gospel tunes for the Obamas at the White House back in 2015! Alongside this, Williams is the only former Destiny’s Child member to perform on Broadway: she’s starred in productions of Aida, The Color Purple, and Chicago. She’s got a new album release on the horizon and is a popular TV personality. Justice for Michelle! She’s nailed her solo career, too!
15. Justin Timberlake of *NSYNC
Justin Timberlake has become such a huge name in his own right that it’s easy to forget he was in *NSYNC! He’s by far the most successful out of the band’s five former members. When the band took a “temporary hiatus” (read: permanent split) in 2002, JT began his solo endeavors. Since then, he’s released several multi-platinum albums that have spawned dozens of hit singles. Who doesn’t start singing “SexyBack” when they’re a bit tipsy or listen to “Cry Me A River” when they’ve been dumped? Timberlake has won ten Grammy Awards and four Emmys for his solo efforts and has even forged a moderately successful acting career. His next album, Man of the Woods, is coming out next month. There’s just no stopping this guy!
14. Robbie Williams of Take That
British pop star Robbie Williams has made the big decision to go solo not once but TWICE during the course of his career. He first left his band, Take That, in 1995 after falling out with his management and fellow members. It turned out to be a shrewd career choice: all but one of his eleven solo studio albums have hit number one in the UK Charts. He’s had seven number one singles and has received a record 18 Brit Awards, winning Best British Male four times. However, in 2009 Robbie decided that he did like his former bandmates after all. He rejoined Take That for a few years, leaving again in 2012 under slightly more amicable circumstances. Williams is still churning out albums on a practically yearly basis and is sure to continue doing so for years to come.
13. Zayn Malik of One Direction
Oh, Zayn. We’re happy for you, we really are, but why did you have to trigger One Direction’s eventual decline? If it wasn’t for you leaving, the band might still be together! We trusted you, Zayn! We believed in you! Still, Mr. Malik has done pretty well for himself since leaving the band. His debut studio album Mind of Mine was a huge success, as was its first single “Pillowtalk.” The song debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart which made Malik the first UK artist to debut at number one with their first single. Impressive stuff! Zayn also released the hit duet “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” with Taylor Swift at the end of 2016. He’s reportedly working on his second album while also being blissfully in love with model Gigi Hadid. The guy is living the dream.
12. Harry Styles of One Direction
Out of all of 1D’s ex-members, Harry Styles has to be the best-known. Since the band split hiatus, he’s made a name for himself as both a solo musician and an actor. Styles’s self-titled debut album was a hit among both fans and critics, with lead single “Sign of the Times” becoming a quick classic. He’s currently embarking on a concert tour in which he performs both his solo work and covers of old One Direction classics. Acting-wise, Harry made his film debut in Christopher Nolan’s war movie Dunkirk. To the surprise of many movie critics, he was actually pretty good! The guy’s got a lot going for him. Aside from anything else, he became the subject of an entire Taylor Swift album – 1989 – back in 2014. It’s an impressive feat.
11. Niall Horan of One Direction
Alongside Zayn and Harry, Niall Horan is the other 1D member who’s seen significant success as a solo artist. Clearly, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne have been too busy being dads to spend time on their music! Horan released his first solo single, “This Town,” pretty soon after his former band announced their “hiatus.” However, it took him until late 2017 to release Flicker, his first full album. The record went straight to the top of the Billboard charts and spawned a number of hit singles. It’s got a more folky sound than the solo efforts of Horan’s former band mates, perhaps due to the singer’s Irish roots. Either way, it’s been a hit amongst the 1D fanbase and beyond.
10. Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas
Former Black Eyed Peas star Fergie didn’t officially leave the band until last year – will.i.am finally confirmed as much back in June. However, she didn’t record with the band for over five years prior to that, instead choosing to focus on her solo career. Her first solo album, The Duchess was super popular upon its release back in 2006. Her singles “Fergalicious,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and “Glamorous” were all big hits. While 2017’s follow up record Double Dutchess wasn’t quite as successful, it still had its high points: the duet with Nicki Minaj, for one! Now that Fergie’s back on the music scene, we can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. A breakup song about ex-husband Josh Duhamel, perhaps?
9. Gwen Stefani of No Doubt
Despite getting her start in popular ska band No Doubt, Gwen Stefani has managed to carve out a formidable solo pop career. After No Doubt first disbanded back in 2004, Stefani went straight back into the recording studio to produce her first solo record, Love. Angel. Music. Baby. Not only was it a pretty great album in general, it also gave us the absolute gem that is “Hollaback Girl,” for which all ’90s kids will be eternally grateful. Stefani has released two more solo albums since then, both of which have been loved by fans and critics alike. She’s won one solo Grammy (and two more with No Doubt), and even made the transition into TV. Her long stint on The Voice gave her a boost both professionally and romantically – it’s where she met current partner Blake Shelton! They’re an unlikely but cute couple.
8. Pink of Choice
Pink’s stint in R&B; group Choice was so short-lived that most people don’t even realize it happened. After the band recorded their first album, music mogul L.A. Reid decided that they weren’t really going to go anywhere. He gave Pink the choice of either going solo or going home. Unsurprisingly, she chose the first option. In the end, it was the best thing for her: Pink has been a phenomenally successful solo artist. She’s currently on her seventh studio album and has sold 40 million albums and 50 million singles worldwide. With three Grammys and a whole host of other awards under her belt, she’s probably pretty glad she agreed to leave Choice behind!
7. Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers
Rumors that The Jonas Brothers might be reuniting have got the music world in quite a frenzy. However, even if it turns out they’re not getting back together after all, the brothers have their own individual careers to fall back on. Joe Jonas is most definitely living his best life at the moment. He recently got engaged to Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner after an adorable year-long romance. He’s also doing pretty well career-wise. Jonas is currently the lead singer of the band DNCE, whose debut single “Cake By The Ocean” was one of the most popular songs of 2016. The group is currently working on album number two – although they may have to take a break if The Jonas Brothers really do reform!
6. Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers
Joe isn’t the only Jonas Brother who’s had a successful solo career. His little brother, Nick has also done pretty well for himself! For one, he’s undergone a major glow-up in the last few years, going from a dorky teen to a full-blown hunk. On top of that, Jonas has seen success with his solo musical endeavors. He’s released no less than two self-titled albums – Nicholas Jonas and Nick Jonas – along with the slightly more creatively titled Last Year Was Complicated. His singles “Jealous” and “Levels” topped the US dance charts, while his duet with Nicki Minaj – “Bom Bidi Bom” – made it onto the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack. Jonas has been focussing more on his acting career in recent times, recently starring in the Jumanji remake. He’s a busy guy!
5. Cheryl of Girls Aloud
You might know Cheryl either by her mononym or by her two previous married names, Cheryl Cole and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini. One Direction fans will also know her as Liam Payne’s baby mama! The two X Factor stars, one a former judge and one a former contestant, are now happily dating. On the career front, Cheryl did pretty well for herself after her band, Girls Aloud, split back in 2009. She became a judge on The X Factor almost immediately – the girl doesn’t waste time. Cheryl then recorded her first solo album, 3 Words, which quickly went platinum. Since then, she’s put out three more hit records and was thinking of releasing a fifth in 2016. However, motherhood has put that plan on hold.
4. will.i.am of the black eyed peas
While will.i.am is still technically a member of the Black Eyed Peas, he’s devoted most of his time and energy to his solo career in recent years. His third and fourth solo albums, Songs About Girls and #willpower, really put him on the map as a top-quality solo artist. The latter album’s hit single “Feelin’ Myself” – a collaboration with Miley Cyrus, French Montana, and Wiz Khalifa – was one of the biggest songs of 2013. Alongside his solo work and numerous production credits, will.i.am has also forged a career on TV. He’s been a judge on The Voice UK since its very first season back in 2012. He’s stuck with the show through low ratings and a network change! Now that’s commitment.
3. Nicole Scherzinger of The Pussycat Dolls
Former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger has really come into her own since the band split in 2009. She’s released two hit solo albums since 2010, although it’s her acting career that’s really taken off. She’s appeared in numerous musicals, receiving critical acclaim for her performance in Cats on London’s West End. Scherzinger recently starred in the hit Disney movie Moana and was pretty much the only good thing about the recent Dirty Dancing remake. She’s also made the classic pop star move of being a judge in both the UK and US versions of X Factor. Scherzinger is certainly a woman of many talents!
2. Pharrell of N*E*R*D
Pharrell is another one of those artists who was in a band without anyone really realizing. Since 1999, he’s been the lead singer and drummer of the rock-funk-hip-hop band N*E*R*D! Who knew? Pharrell is definitely far more well known for his solo efforts. He released his first album back in 2006, but it wasn’t until his second album dropped in 2014 that he really saw mainstream success. Let’s face it – he has “Happy” to thank for that. In the eight-year gap between his albums, Pharrell mostly focused on his production and songwriting work. He’s earned an incredible ten Grammy awards over the years! He’s also a two-time Academy Award nominee. Basically, he’s an incredibly successful guy.
1. Camila Cabello of Fifth Harmony
Fifth Harmony fans were devastated when Camila Cabello left the band in 2016 to focus on her solo career. However, it’s definitely been a good step for the singer. Cabello first announced an album named The Hurting. The Healing. The Loving. back in May 2017, a record that was slated to be released near the end of that year. However, Cabello’s first single “Havana” was so successful that she decided to rewrite a lot of her album’s songs. It was finally released under the new title Camila this year. It’s a Latin-pop fusion record that’s already become a hit. We’re glad to see that turning Fifth Harmony into Fourth Harmony paid off!