Harry Styles’ latest release Fine Line was a reminder that this former boy band member has really taken his solo career by storm. However, some former boy band members’ solo careers really tanked. Maybe they just didn’t have it in them without their fellow dudes. But some solo careers—like Styles’—have really skyrocketed. Even fewer became even more successful than the band or group itself. So let’s look at those in the latter camp. Here’s a list of the top 10 former boy band solo albums, ranked.
Former New Kids On The Block member Jordan Knight decided to experiment off the block in 1999. He released his self-titled album at the end of the decade, and the first track “Give it To You” became an instant hit and even went gold. Knight co-wrote and produced the album with pop star Robin Thicke who, at the time, didn’t really have much clout. All in all, it’s a pretty decent pop album and gives us a taste of an older, spicier version of one of the New Kids On The Block.
From “I like it when your body goes bump bump bump” to being a Grammy-nominated artist, former B2K frontman Omarion killed the charts after leaving the group. In 2005, his solo debut album O reached the top of the Billboard 200 chart and was nominated for Best Contemporary R&B Album at the 2006 Grammys. Usher seemed to steal most of the limelight in the early 2000s with Confessions, but Omarion is equally as talented in delivering essential, seductive R&B tracks that hit charts and went platinum.
Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin was actually on the music scene well before American boy bands like Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC. Martin was part of the Latin American boy band Menudo at just 12-years-old, and he’s been in the music business ever since. After separating from the group at 17, Martin went solo and released a handful of albums, but his most influential might be his self-titled fifth studio album. Ricky Martin was the first album he recorded in both Spanish and English, which gained him fame across borders. The hit single “Livin’ la Vida Loca” spent five weeks at number one on the Billboard 100 and sold more than eight million copies, making the track one of the best selling singles of all time.
The self-titled debut album from previous One Direction member Harry Styles turned this teenage boy band member into the next Mick Jagger sex symbol. Styles went from singing cheesy little love songs like “What Makes You Beautiful” to delivering rock ‘n’ roll energy and lyrics like, “I think she said, ‘I’m having your baby, it’s none of your business’” and “Played with myself, where were you? / Fell back to sleep, I got drunk by noon.” Besides the obviously mature lyrics from Styles, the album is a truly musical effort, full of analog instruments, not just artificial beats. When the album was released in 2017, the world really got an idea of how the awkward teen who was discovered on The X Factor could really create some damn good music.
Britney Spears’ and Justin Timberlake’s matching denim red carpet look will forever be a monumental moment in pop culture history, but the break-up song may be just as iconic. Timberlake’s first solo album apart from *NSYNC, Justified, featured arguably his most well-known hit single, “Cry Me A River.” It’s definitely a cheesy, cliché, early-2000s breakup song, but it showed us JT can do it all. He can sing ballads from the heart, yet also deliver one of the most beloved dance songs to this day, “Rock Your Body.” With several other hits like “Señorita” and “Like I Love You,” Timberlake’s debut solo album didn’t disappoint and even earned him several Grammy nominations.
Michael Jackson still had his cute little afro on the cover of his fifth solo studio album Off The Wall, but he was far from his boy band days with the Jackson 5. The first three songs on the 1979 album are enough to rank it in the top five. “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” could get anyone to bust out some disco moves, “Rock with You” is a classic, sexy love song and “Workin’ Day and Night” is seriously off-the-wall good.
Justin Timberlake dropped his second solo album in 2006 and blessed us all with sounds we wished he would serenade us with. Previously a member of ’90s boy band *NSYNC, Timberlake went his separate way after their break up in 2002. Shedding his iconic curly blonde ’do, Timberlake came back on the scene a few years later looking not like a little boy anymore—but like a man who was ready to bring sexy back. With singles like “Summer Love,” “LoveStoned / I Think She Knows,” “What Goes Around…/...Comes Around,” “My Love” and of course “SexyBack,” the whole album is filled with early-2000s club bangers, thanks in no small part to Timbaland’s production sensibilities. We can’t argue enough that this will always and forever be Timberlake at his sexiest.
Decades before Billie Ellish said she was the “bad guy,” the original bad guy was the one and only Michael Jackson. The King Of Pop showed us his edgy side when he released his seventh studio album, Bad, in 1987. Like any other boy band member, Jackson needed the world to know he wasn’t that little innocent child anymore. Featured on the album cover in all black leather, Jackson opens the record with the iconic track “Bad.” However, he’s not all bad boy. Bad also features classic pop hit “The Way You Make Me Feel” and perhaps the most emotional track of his career “Man in the Mirror,” about looking to yourself for improvement and making positive changes from within.
The Beatles basically invented the concept of a boy band. Sure, they weren’t the stereotypical pop boy band, but they paved the way for all to come. To add every Beatles members’ solo albums would most definitely take over this whole list, but in narrowing it down, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass takes the cake. Released in 1970, All Things Must Pass showed the world that the quietest Beatle didn’t need other members to prove he could rock on his own. The incredible “My Sweet Lord” was obviously the most popular song off the album, but deeper, slower tracks like “Behind That Locked Door” and “I’d Have You Anytime” are just as sweet.
The King Of Pop’s sixth studio album was released on Epic Records, and even to describe Thriller as an epic album would be an understatement. Thriller was released in 1982, and it comes out on top of our ranking because it’s the world’s best selling album in music history. With hit after hit, the entire album is a masterpiece. Whether it’s the Halloween anthem “Thriller,” legendary dance hit “Billie Jean” or the upbeat love song “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” Thriller is the dance album that’s still played almost 40 years later.