15 Musicians We Wish Would Make A Comeback

The word "comeback" means different things to different people, but for us, it refers to a return to form or a recapturing of one's prior glory. Cambridge Dictionary is pretty much on the same page, defining the term as "an attempt to become famous, powerful, or important again after a period of being much less famous." This is important because we do not want to indicate that the musicians on our list have not been making music in the years since their careers peaked. Many (but not all) of them have been active, but not at the same level they used to be. And that is why we are calling for their comebacks.

There are legitimate reasons for a singer to step away from the game for a bit, like family obligations or illness, or even a global pandemic. The risk, of course, is that you will lose relevancy when you go years or even decades without producing an album, but we understand that celebrities are also human. For some of the musicians on our list, we think it was that time gap that shrunk their sales, while for others, we don't have a clear explanation beyond the fickle tastes of consumers. And while a couple of the singers on our list are totally fine with their smaller audience — and a few have stopped making new music altogether — we think each of these folks deserves another shot at superstardom. 

Ashanti has a ton of Grammy nominations, but none since 2004

Ashanti is still around, in that she hits red carpets and performs her old hits in small venues, but she is nowhere near where many predicted she would be at this point in her career. We wish Ashanti — who re-recorded her debut album in 2021 to "collect my coins" (via The Breakfast Club) — would create some new music that hits as hard as her early stuff. The singer did release two songs in 2022, and she has guested on others' tracks over the years (most notably Lil Wayne's "Start This Sh*t Off Right" and DaBaby's "Nasty"), but we are still waiting on that long-promised comeback album. Her last album, "Braveheart," came out in 2014 and barely made a blip.

Ashanti first rose to fame in the early aughts, after Irv Gotti signed her to Murder Inc., and she guested on Fat Joe's "What's Luv?" and Ja Rule's "Always on Time." Her first solo single, "Foolish," spent 10 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and she followed it up with two more hit songs, "Happy" and "Baby," all from her self-titled debut album. Ashanti scored five Grammy nominations, one win that first year on the scene, and another three the following year for her second album "Chapter II." Her musical success has waned as the years have progressed, and it is about time for that to change.

Jesse McCartney's performances on The Masked Singer wowed us

In 2020, Jesse McCartney wowed us when he appeared on Season 3 of "The Masked Singer," where he dressed as "The Turtle" and made it all the way to second place before losing the crown to "Real Housewives of Atlanta" star Kandi Burruss. And while we won't get into whether he was robbed or not (he was), what we can say for certain is McCartney has an incredible voice that deserves to be on the radio. The singer is still in the prime of his life, and we could easily see him collaborating with someone like Lil Nas X, Post Malone, or another popular musician. He has never stopped making music, but it has been over a decade since McCartney had a hit song.

McCartney was a child when he started singing professionally, first as a member of the band Dream Street and then solo. He also acted during this period — his most prominent role was on the WB series "Summerland" — but it was his music that got him the most attention. He had a string of moderate hits as a teenager, starting with "Beautiful Soul" in 2004, which peaked at No. 16 on Billboard's Hot 100. His highest charting song was 2008's "Leavin'," but he had another six songs enter the top 100, including "She's No You" and "Shake." 

After the release of "Better with You" in 2018, some thought McCartney was having a comeback moment when he dropped the 2021 album "New Stage," but we are still waiting for him to score another hit single.

Nelly Furtado put out a new single in 2023 after years of no music

Nelly Furtado has been getting press in 2023, and we are here for it. The Canadian singer did her first photoshoot in six years when she graced the cover of Fault Magazine, and the associated interview provided insight into where she is in life and music. Amongst other things, she discussed being diagnosed with ADHD, how frequently her songs are remixed, and trying to get back to "the roots of what (she) does." Furtado also acknowledged her music trending on TikTok — something she was alerted to by her child since she was not on the app at the time. "When it comes to my legacy, it has only started to connect in the last few years because of TikTok," she said.

And indeed, Furtado's older songs, like "Say It Right" and "Promiscuous," have found a whole new audience thanks to social media — and she is even making dance videos on the app, which she told Vogue was a way to deal with her ADHD. Thankfully, Furtado has gone back to the studio after years away. She released the song "Eat Your Man" in June 2023 and is working on a new album, her first since 2017's "The Ride." Furtado has taken extended breaks from music before — five years went by between "The Spirit Indestructible" and "The Ride" — but we always miss her when she's away. Her biggest hits, which include "Give It To Me" and "I'm Like a Bird," are classics — and we are ready for more.

After a surprise 2022 performance, fans asked Ashlee Simpson to get back to music

In July 2023, Jessica Simpson told Bustle that she was contemplating a return to music after years of focusing on her business ventures. That is cool, but we truly hope the melodious itch rubs off on younger sister Ashlee Simpson, who has also been out of the game for a long time. Unfortunately, Simpson is often remembered for her lip-syncing snafu on "Saturday Night Live" because she had some truly catchy songs and a distinct voice that could be used with the right creative team. Her biggest hits came from her first two albums and include "Pieces of Me," "Boyfriend," and "L.O.V.E." — all of which hold up today. Simpson has not released an album since 2008's "Bittersweet World," which gave us the underrated banger "Outta My Head (Ay Ya Ya)."

While we are sure she is busy in her personal life, Simpson hasn't done anything recently in music, even though fans demanded new material after she performed a surprise duet with Demi Lovato in 2022. In 2018, Vice wrote an article about the singer having a "second coming," and they suggested she might use her reality show "Ashlee + Evan" as a catalyst for a musical comeback, but nothing materialized. And sure, her songs — like "Lala" — never really said much, but that is all the more reason to hear what she has to say now.

Now is the time for Aqua to capitalize on the Barbie craze

We know that the band Aqua is not The Beatles — or even Matchbox 20 — but hear us out. With the world in a tizzy over the "Barbie" movie and how the brand has permeated all facets of cultures, now is the perfect time for Aqua to make a comeback. Their song "Barbie Girl" is iconic, but we have always felt they could do more. The band had a second hit song that is oft-forgotten, called "Lollipop (Candyman)," which hit No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1997 and spent 17 weeks on the chart ("Barbie Girl" made it to No. 7 a handful of months prior). And who could forget the infectious "Doctor Jones," which was popular overseas and was an earworm if we have ever heard one. These other two songs showed that the band did not need the Barbie gimmick to make fun Euro-pop.

Aqua's popularity in 1997 has never been re-established, but the band attempted to find relevancy again when they reunited in 2016 to celebrate their 20th anniversary. It was their second reunion — the first was in 2007, so they seem to have a thing for marking decades — and the Danish group went on a small tour across their native country. They have lost one member since their early days (guitarist Clause Norreen), but the other three look and sound the same as they always have in all of the YouTube videos we have seen from 2023 performances.

Jewel is cool with her low profile, but we want more for her

Jesse McCartney is not the only singer whose appearance on "The Masked Singer" prompted our desire for their return to popularity. From Chris Daughtry to David Archuleta, we wish the show had pushed its celebrity contestants further into the mainstream — especially the winning contestants like Jewel, T-Pain, and Leanne Rimes. Jewel, in particular, deserves to reclaim her rightful place atop the charts, although we think we may want it more than she does. In a 2022 interview on "Sherri," the singer said she was overwhelmed by her early fame and that she is now at the level of notoriety that is best for her mental health.

Jewel was a huge sensation in her heyday — a star whose debut album "Pieces of You" went 12x Platinum and spawned memorable hits like "You Were Meant For Me" and "Foolish Games." She had other hit songs in subsequent outings, like "Hands" and "Intuition," but Jewel has never recaptured those early heights (perhaps by choice). She has not had a song chart on the Billboard Hot 100 since 2008's "Stronger Woman," despite releasing more than half a dozen albums since then, and that is a bummer. Hers is a voice that should be heard by younger generations, who have become far too accustomed to autotune and gimmicks over artistry and sincerity. The fact that this folksy queen does not even have a Grammy (she has four nominations) is a travesty.

TLC said their fifth album was the last, but they can change their minds

It is a fact that TLC will never replicate the magic they used to have — how could they after the tragic death of member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes in 2002? They certainly tried though, even running a Kickstarter campaign in 2017 to fund their fifth and final album, but the music they put out was a pale imitation of their early stuff. We know that the group's two remaining members, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, have more in them, and if Jay-Z and Garth Brooks can come out of retirement, so can TLC.

Four of TLC's biggest songs, including "Waterfalls" and "Unpretty," reached No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 and they have charted 16 songs on there in total, but only two since 2000 and none since they were featured on J. Cole's "Crooked Smile" in 2013. Now is as good a time as ever for the girl group to make a comeback, considering they re-recorded versions of three of their hits in early 2023 and helped put out the Lifetime documentary "TLC Forever" in June 2023. They also went on a summer tour with a handful of other 90s artists, so we are making an official call for new music. Maybe they can't give us another "No Scrubs" or "Creep," but they can at least give us something on par with "Girl Talk."

Lisa Loeb should not be labeled a one-hit wonder

Lisa Loeb is often included on lists of one-hit wonders, but it is a travesty that someone so talented — a Grammy winner, we should add — be put in the same category as Crazy Town. Technically, it is not even true since the iconic hit "Stay (I Missed You)" is not Loeb's only song to chart. "I Do" and "Do You Sleep?" were top 20 hits on Billboard's Hot 100, and they are quite good. Loeb is also an important figure in music as the first unsigned artist to hit No. 1, thanks to "Stay (I Missed You)" being featured on the "Reality Bites" soundtrack — something that happened because of her neighbor Ethan Hawke, who was in the movie. It also helped that the song had a memorable video in which Loeb walked around a bare apartment, maintaining eye contact with the camera — in her signature cat-eye glasses.

While "Stay (I Missed You)" is an amazing song that deserves its place in music history, we are sad that it is the only thing many remember about Loeb. Though she has taken large breaks between albums, the singer has continued to make music over the years. In addition to her music for adults, Loeb has also made six kids' albums, created theme songs, and even done some acting. She also has an eyewear line, and at one point, had a reality television series called "#1 Single," which focused on her dating life.

In 2023, Natalie Merchant put out her first album in nine years

Natalie Merchant began her career as a member of the band 10,000 Maniacs, which had a number of hits including "These Are Days" and "Candy Everybody Wants." Though they may not have been the biggest group, their albums sold over a million copies including 1992's "Our Time in Eden" and their 1993 "MTV Unplugged" record. As the lead vocalist (at the time), Natalie Merchant was a huge part of the band's success — and she proved she could do it alone after leaving the band in 1993, at the height of their success, due to creative issues. Merchant launched a very successful solo career with 1995's "Tigerlily," which sold 5 million albums. Her follow-up album "Ophelia" did okay, but Merchant has never again reached those heights.

Merchant's first solo outing spawned three hit songs, with "Carnival" reaching the top 10 on Billboard's Hot 100 and "Wonder" and "Jealousy" both cracking the top 25. She has since released seven more albums, but there has been a lack of hits, even on a smaller scale. Merchant is totally fine with that, as she told the New Yorker, but we think her unique voice and alternative sound deserve a wider audience. She spent the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic writing her latest album, "Keep Your Courage," and has gotten back to performing after a spinal surgery that put her ability to sing in jeopardy. There is no one out there today like Merchant — and we wish today's youth knew what they were missing.

Missy Elliott is a legend, and we need a full-length album ASAP

Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott is a rap legend, and we do not use that term lightly. From her songwriting to her rapping skills, Elliott was always at the front of the pack. There is a reason why she is in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, an MTV VMAs Video Vanguard Award recipient, and will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in November 2023 (in her first year of eligibility). She has been lauded for the path she created for female rappers to break into the mainstream. Oh, and she has been nominated for 22 Grammys, winning four. The fact she has not made a full-length album since 2005 is basically a crime.

Elliott's long absence from the music industry was at one point due to Graves' disease, but when she said she felt good in 2011, we anticipated a comeback. We also thought Elliott was making a comeback in 2015 when she put out the single "WTF (Where They From)," but then we did not get another song for two more years. She gave us the five-track EP "Iconology" in 2019, but it was not enough. Thankfully, the superstar is said to be working on an album sometime soon — and we cannot wait. We just know Elliott is going to give us jams that are up there with "Work It," "Get Ur Freak On," "One Minute Man," and the rest of her catalog of hits.

Will Vanessa Carlton ever live up to her A Thousand Miles promise?

We cannot dispute that Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles" is a classic song. After all, you don't have your song featured in a major scene in a blockbuster comedy (in this case, "White Chicks") if it is not already iconic. When she burst onto the scene in 2002, Carlton was somewhat of an antithesis to the likes of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. She was known for playing the piano and for her folksy vibe, and she was always refreshingly earnest at a time when pop stars were told not to be. As noted in a Marie Claire profile, Carlton has frequently discussed topics like mental health, sexual orientation, and sexual harassment in both interviews and on stage.

"A Thousand Miles" peaked at No. 5 on Billboard's Hot 100 and earned the singer three Grammy Award nominations, including for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. And though Carlton had a few other moderate hits, like "Ordinary Day" and "White Houses," many have reduced her to one-hit wonder status. There have also been talks of her "comeback" for years — the San Francisco Examiner, for example, said it was happening with her fourth album, 2011's "Rabbits on the Run," while E! News declared her 2015 album "Liberman" her return to fame. Neither hit it big, so a true comeback is TBD, but at least the singer is still making music. Her last album, "Love Is An Art," was released in 2020 to minimal fanfare but was critically well-received.

We want Michelle Branch back in the news for her music, not her personal life

Back in the early 2000s, female pop stars were often pitted against each other in the media. And in this case, people were either Team Vanessa Carlton or Team Michelle Branch. But if we are going to make an actual comparison, Branch is by far the winner. She has charted more songs, stayed popular for longer, and even has a Grammy, which she earned for her Santana collaboration "Game of Love" (she has been nominated four times total). Branch has never gotten the respect she deserves, despite having some great hits and consistently challenging herself as an artist.

Branch's first single was the catchy "Everywhere," followed by "All You Wanted" and "Goodbye To You," all of which helped her first major label album, "The Spirit Room," go multiplatinum. She put out another solo album two years later, which also went platinum. She then briefly formed a duo called The Wreckers, and we waited 14 years for another solo album. That 2017 album, "Hopeless Romantic," was solid, but it barely made a dent, selling only 5,000 copies in its first week (via Billboard). Branch made an unfortunate return to the front page of the news after a 2022 domestic violence arrest (the charges were dropped), which coincided with the release of her latest album, "The Trouble With Fever."

Enrique Iglesias wants to stop making albums, but he deserves a strong final outing

Enrique Iglesias is a world-class talent, but he is over the idea of putting out new albums. He said this in 2021, after putting out "Final (Vol. 1)" but made it clear there was still a "Final (Vol. 2)" coming. He announced this in an Instagram chat with Ricky Martin and Sebastián Yatra, two artists he was about to go on tour with. But if "Vol. 2" is indeed his last hurrah, then we would love to see the singer hit the heights he reached with his early music. His last album did not live up to his early ones, like "Enrique" or "Escape," or even crack his top 10 in terms of sales.

Iglesias has had 25 songs make the Billboard Hot 100, with two of them — "Bailamos" and "Be With You" — hitting No. 1. He needs a higher-profile final record, with at least one song that hits like the songs "Hero" or "I Like It." Then again, it is not like Iglesias plans to stop making music altogether. "I'm gonna keep on writing songs but that doesn't mean I need to be putting out albums every so often," he said on Instagram. Iglesias had already somewhat moved away from the album model, having released several songs in the seven years between 2014's "Sex and Love" and "Final (Vol. 1)" (with some of those singles ending up on the latter album).

We thought Leona Lewis was going to be a massive star after her first album

Leona Lewis seemed like she would be huge when her debut album "Spirit" first released. After winning Season 3 of "The X Factor UK," the hit single "Bleeding Love" catapulted Lewis to worldwide fame. It spent 39 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 1 for four of them, and helped her record sell millions of copies. She had four other songs make that same chart in 2008 and 2009, including the lead single from her second album, "Echo," but after that, she faded. She released a couple more albums and had minor success in her native Britain, but Lewis has not had a hit in the United States since 2009 or a new album since 2015.

While we want Lewis to have a comeback, it may not be in the cards just yet. While there was a potential comeback Christmas album in 2021, nothing materialized aside from a duet with Ne-Yo ("Christmas, With Love") and a re-released version of her previous Christmas record from 2013. According to The Mirror, Lewis and her husband now own a vegan coffee shop called Coffee and Plants, which is located in Pasadena, California. She has expressed a desire to open another location, which might be what is keeping her too busy for the studio. We honestly would not even care so much if her voice were not so darn good, but Lewis is an incredible singer, and a voice like that should not be wasted.

OutKast won't be making a comeback album, but we can still dream

Many of the musical acts on this list are still making music, so their comebacks are possible, even if unlikely. For all we know, a Michelle Branch or Vanessa Carlton song could hit tomorrow and become a TikTok trend. Some other artists we have highlighted have not made music in a long time but are still open to it. Then there's OutKast, a group that probably won't regain their past popularity — because we are pretty confident the band broke up for good. André 3000 left the door open in 2019 when he admitted he wanted to make new music but was creatively blocked, yet nothing came of it. Two years later, the other half of the duo, Big Boi, told REVOLT that people should "ask Jesus" for new music. "Ask and you shall receive," he said. We guess he got busy.

More recently, OutKast collaborator Sleepy Brown told TMZ that there will never be another album. That seems credible since they have not released so much as a song in over 15 years. Still, we cannot help but fantasize about the return of the guys who gave us classics like "Hey Ya!" and "Ms. Jackson," both No. 1 hits. The best we can probably hope for is some compelling solo work from Big Boi or André 3000. But even then, neither one can recapture the delightfulness of OutKast as a whole.