The Biggest Solo Artists To Come From Boy Bands

There's no nostalgia blast quite like remembering growing up with your favorite boy bands. Long gone are the days when "I Want It That Way" was playing on every Sony Walkman and the latest edition of Tiger Beat magazine was a must. From The Jackson 5 to the Backstreet Boys, boy bands are a pop culture staple. But some things aren't meant to last forever, and boy bands often burn bright before burning out. And from those ashes? Every now and again, a pop superstar rises like a phoenix. Would we have had the hit "Cry Me A River" if Justin Timberlake never split from *NSYNC? Or "Livin' La Vida Loca" if Ricky Martin didn't part ways with Menudo? The world may never know.

While the best boy bands in music history may differ in style or genre, one thing remains true: each group attracted a devoted fanbase that keeps their music alive. Iconic synchronized choreography and denim-on-denim looks will forever live on in our nostalgia, thanks to the many teen heartthrobs we grew up idolizing. While many members of famous boy bands have gone on to start families, embark on other careers, or live a more normal life, others have taken their talent to new heights with impressive solo careers. We're taking a trip down memory lane to look at the biggest artists to come from boy bands. 

Justin Timberlake said bye bye bye

It was "Bye Bye Bye" for Justin Timberlake when he walked away from the boy band *NSYNC. In 2002, a year after they released "Celebrity," the group announced their indefinite hiatus. That same year, Timberlake released the chart-topping hit "Like I Love You," took the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards as a solo artist, and dropped his debut album, "Justified." His post-*NSYNC career was clearly underway, but he was not ready to officially bid his group adieu — not publicly, at least.

In 2002, Timberlake told the New York Post that he still planned to make more music with the guys of *NSYNC. "There's no reason my solo career and *NSYNC can't co-exist in the same universe. *NSYNC is in no danger," Timberlake said at the time. "The break we're on was a conscious move." Alas, JT not only stuck with his solo music career, but pursued an acting career. 

While the band never officially disbanded, Lance Bass made it clear in his 2007 book "Out of Sync" where the group stood. "We're definitely broken up. It's not a hiatus. Justin made it clear that he wouldn't be interested in discussing another album any time soon," he wrote. While new music doesn't seem likely, *NSYNC has come together over the years, even getting together to receive their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2018. Alas, when the group reunited for Ariana Grande's Coachella set in 2019, scheduling conflicts prevented Timberlake from participating. Can't win 'em all.

Harry Styles followed his own direction

Harry Styles rose to the ranks of the music industry by first coming onto the scene with the beloved former boy band One Direction. The group came to be after its five members auditioned on "The X-Factor" as individual artists. Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, and Styles didn't make the cut on their own as solo competitors, but Simon Cowell sensed they could have major potential as a boy band. 

Hit tracks like "Steal My Girl" and "What Makes You Beautiful" cemented the British group as an instant success. But things started to dismantle after their final album "Made in the A.M." was released without Zayn Malik, and soon after Styles launched his solo career. His debut single, "Sign of the Times," showcased a new chapter and sound for the former teeny bopper, and cemented his status as a serious artist with an indie-rock feel. He's since released three huge albums, headlined wickedly successful tours, and become a movie star. Say what you will about Simon Cowell, but the guy sure knows a star when he sees one.

While the 1D chapter of his life sure seems to be closed, Styles cherishes the experience. "I think the typical thing is to come out of a band like that and almost feel like you have to apologize for being in it," he told Vogue in 2020. "But I loved my time in it."

Zayn Malik followed his own direction first

Harry Styles wasn't the first member of One Direction to launch a successful solo career. Zayn Malik made a name for himself as a solo artist after his shocking departure from 1D in 2015. Malik left the band before the release of their final album "Made in the A.M.", announcing the decision in an official statement. "My life with One Direction has been more than I could ever have imagined. But, after five years, I feel like it is now the right time for me to leave the band. I'd like to apologise to the fans if I've let anyone down, but I have to do what feels right in my heart," Malik wrote via the official "One Direction" Facebook page

Not long after splitting from the band, Malik released the hit track "Pillowtalk," which earned him the AMA for New Artist of the Year. The song, which was a significantly mature pivot for the former boy bander, debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. He went on to release his debut solo album, "Mind of Mine," in 2016 and collaborated with Taylor Swift for the hit track "I Don't Wanna Live Forever."

The "Pillowtalk" artist came out with two additional albums on the heels of his debut going multi-platinum. In late 2022, he released a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Angel," a lovely rendition of the classic that showcases the former 1D member's undeniable vocals.

Michael Jackson went solo and became pop royalty

Michael Jackson was named the King of Pop for good reason. Long before he earned that title, he was a member of his family's Motown group The Jackson 5. Throughout the late '60s and early '70s, the band of five brothers ruled the charts with hits like "I Want You Back" and "I'll Be There," and all the while, young MJ's star continued to rise. 

Looking back on his life as a child star, Jackson said in Interview, "I always enjoyed the feeling of being on stage—the magic that comes. When I hit the stage it's like all of a sudden a magic from somewhere just comes and the spirit just hits you and you just lose control of yourself."

At age 13, Jackson launched his solo career, but he stayed with his family's band until 1984. By that point, he was one of the biggest music artists on the planet, having already put out several smash singles, including "Thriller," "Beat It," and "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough." There were even more hits after that, as well as a long list of trailblazing music videos, the moonwalk, and a number of controversies and legal troubles. The "Man In the Mirror" singer was set to embark on his sold-out final tour in 2009, but he died after suffering cardiac arrest caused by propofol.

Nick Jonas' solo career began burnin' up

The Jonas Brothers have been through many ups and downs over the years. They wove their way into preteen hearts everywhere after forming a group in 2005 and launching to fame with the help of Disney Channel. Nick, Kevin, and Joe Jonas went on to tour with the likes of Kelly Clarkson, The Cheetah Girls, and The Backstreet Boys with hits like "Year 3000" and "S.O.S." 

The boy band officially broke up in 2013 ahead of their tour. "There is a deep rift within the band," a Jonas Brothers spokesperson told People at the time. "There was a big disagreement over their music direction." Nick ultimately decided to go his own way, and he formed his own band, Nick Jonas and the Administration, following his split with his brothers. He ultimately achieved success when he released music under his own name, dropping the chart-topping single "Jealous" and earning a spot in the Hot 100 eight separate times.

But Nick might be better going back to his brothers, as his third studio album "Spaceman" was met with less than rave reviews. It was a far cry from the hit single "Close" which premiered on his second studio album. After a six-year break, Nick joined his brothers again in 2019 to reunite with their successful comeback single "Sucker." While it's no doubt Nick has had several hits on his own in the past, sometimes three Jonases are better than one.

Nick Carter is always a Backstreet Boy

When Nick Carter was still a tween, he joined the Backstreet Boys. The group remains to date the best-selling boy band in history with eight successful studio albums. While enjoying immense success off the heels of Backstreet Boys, Carter decided to embark on his own solo projects. In 2002 he released his debut solo album "Now or Never" with Jive Records, earning him the No. 17 spot on the Billboard 200. The album also went gold in the United States, Canada, and Japan. 

Even after Carter began pursuing his own solo ventures, the Backstreet Boys remained on pause. Band member AJ McLean's interview with Australian radio hosts Kyle and Jackie O (via the Daily Mail) the band never actually broke up, despite the rumors surrounding a split. "'I know a couple of people in the media and the entertainment world thought we broke-up and we just got back together, but truth be told, we have never broken up...not once, not ever in 25 years," he said."

As per People, Carter admits he has nothing but love for his boy band despite releasing his solo single "80's Movie" in 2020. "I'm always going to be a Backstreet Boy and I'm always going to be doing music with the guys. Right now I have time to explore as an individual and really do music as a solo artist. It's a balance of the two." As per their website, the Backstreet Boys are back together for their 2023 DNA World Tour. 

Joey McIntyre was ready to be the solo kid on the block

New Kids on the Block has a heartwarming rags-to-riches story. NKOTB came together when five boys from a humble Boston neighborhood were discovered by Maurice Starr, a producer who originally helped the boy band New Edition take off. Their sophomore album, "Hangin Tough" proved to be a major success, earning platinum certification. After selling over 80 million records worldwide, the band disbanded in 1994 after the departure of member Jonathan Knight. 

But the youngest member of NKOTB, Joey McIntyre went on to achieve plenty of success all on his own. He decided to venture off into solo artist territory, something he was forced to fund on his own without the backing of his former boy band connections. He went on to release eight albums of his own that sold more than a million records around the world. He also made his Broadway debut, performing in "Wicked" and "Waitress." The "Stay The Same" singer also competed on the first season of "Dancing with the Stars" and starred in films like "The Fantasticks" and "Tony n' Tina's Wedding" all while raising three kids with his wife, Barrett Williams. 

Despite his solo success, McIntyre carries NKOTB with him everywhere he goes. As he told Boston magazine in 2021, "I want to be remembered as the guy who sang lead on New Kids on the Block's first hit record, and continued to sing the hell out of it until the day he died."

Nick Lachey and 98 Degrees stay on ice

Nick Lachey became famous for being the lead singer of the boy band 98 Degrees. The four-member pop boy group turned lots of heads and captured plenty of hearts from the late '90s to early 2000s. The group released plenty of chart-topping hits like "I Do (Cherish You)" and "Because of You." What's more, Lachey famously wed Jessica Simpson in 2002. Before their marriage came to an end, they starred in their own reality show, "Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica."

As 98 Degrees fizzled out, Lachey went on to achieve his own success as a solo act. His breakup album "What's Left of Me" was a hit, earning him a top ten spot on the Hot 100 charts. Most recently, he's gotten into the presenter game, hosting series "The Sing-Off" and "Love Is Blind." And, of course, he won "The Masked Singer" in 2021.

Over the years, 98 Degrees has reunited a number of times. In 2016, Lachey got back together with his former bandmates to tour with O-Town, Dream, and Ryan Cabrera. "We would love to do new music and continue to have hits on the radio," Lachey told The Washington Post at the time. "But if that day never comes where we're what people perceive as a relevant 'now' band competing with the One Directions of the world, that's fine. Because we've had a fantastic career and we love the fact that we're able to still come here nearly 20 years later and still perform for our fans."

Omarion was the breakout star of B2K

Omarion catapulted to fame as the standout star of the boy band B2K. The band, which stood as an acronym for "Boys of the New Millennium" was formed by four members, three of which were already in a band called Melodic before inviting Omarion to join. "Life has shaped it where the fellas [the first three] were already linked up together and certain family members know certain family members... This is meant to be," he told Vibe in 2019. 

The group achieved mainstream success with the single "Uh Huh." Next up was the group's debut album "B2K," which earned them the second spot on the Billboard Hot 200. The album eventually was certified gold, imprinting itself on the hearts of pop fans everywhere. The group disbanded in 2004 over management issues, but Omarion was determined to seek out a solo career.

As noted by All Music, the "Post to Be" singer launched his career the following year under Epic with his debut album "O," which topped the Billboard 200 and R&B charts and earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary R&B Album. His next album, "21," also earned him top spots on the charts with the hit single "Ice Box." He reunited with his bandmates in 2019 on tour and subsequently released the single "Can You Hear Me" featuring T-Pain the following year. What's more, he's continued to tour as a solo artist and even appeared on "The Masked Singer" alongside Nick Lachey. He placed fourth overall. 

Paul McCartney spread his wings

Dubbed the first boy band by The Hollywood Reporter, The Beatles paved the way for countless artists. The quartet first came onto the scene in the 1960s. The group went through a few lineup changes early on, but eventually the roster we all know and love — John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr — was set. The band became a worldwide sensation, and Beatlemania took over. While being music superstars with overzealous fans was fun at first, the members of the group soon reached their limit with, ya know, the mania. "It was like, OK, it would be quite nice to be able to hear the song we're playing," McCartney recalled on NPR's "Fresh Air." "And we couldn't because it was just a million seagulls screaming."

After the band disbanded in 1970, McCartney released his solo debut "McCartney" in 1970 and "Ram" the following year. Then, he went on to form Wings, a rock band that released megahits like "Band On the Run" and the theme song for "Live and Let Die." Even though his musical output has slowed, McCartney has yet to stop hitting the road. In 2022, he went on his ninth world tour as a solo artist.

McCartney is widely recognized as a legend of rock and beyond, and he was even knighted in 1997 by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to music.

Ricky Martin is livin' la vida solo

Menduo, a boy band established in Puerto Rico by Edgardo Díaz, has gone through many lineup changes over the decades. The outfit is one of the biggest Latin American boy bands in music history, and the group has achieved global success thanks to singles like "A Volar" and "Hold Me." Ricky Martin joined the group in the '80s and he stayed on the roster until he "aged out." And then, he launched his solo career. 

Martin debuted his solo album "Ricky Martin" in 1988, followed by his sophomore album "Me Amaras." He went on to sing in the Spanish version of the Disney film "Hercules," perform at the 1998 World Cup, and win a Grammy for Best Latin Pop Performance in 1999 for his hit single "Vuelve." He subsequently released his first English single "Livin' La Vida Loca" with instant success, and his debut English language album rose to number one on the Billboard Hot 100. He's continued to make music in English and Spanish, and he's gone on to nab a number of acting gigs — including his Emmy-nominated portrayal of Antonio D'Amico in "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story."

Looking back on his career and everything he's achieved, Martin told Allure in 2022, "I started music when I was 12 years old. I started in the industry in 1984 and I'm still here, I knock on wood, healthy. Still inspired. Still with this need to keep learning."