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How many artists overshadow their band after going solo?

Not everyone saw Beyoncé coming. Flashback to this 2003 New York Times review of her first solo album:

Maybe this album is merely a misstep, and maybe Beyoncé has yet to record the brilliant solo album that people expected. Or maybe it's proof that she isn't quite as versatile as she seemed. She's a strong and independent singer, no doubt, but maybe she seems strongest and most independent when she's got a posse behind her.

⚠️ Spoiler alert: Beyoncé did alright without her posse. This story will focus on solo careers that emerged from “boy bands” and “girl groups” since the ‘80s using two different framings; popularity and success.

Solo artists with more and less Spotify followers compared to their band

−20M

−10M

−5M

−1M

+1M

+5M

+10M

+20M

Daron Jones
Slim
Q Parker
JC Chasez
Joey Fatone
Justin Timberlake
Ashton Irwin
Abz Love
Jeff Timmons
Nick Lachey
Romeo Santos
Henry Santos
Marc Nelson
Omarion
AJ McLean
Brian Littrell
Howie D
Nick Carter
Christian Burns
Carlos Pena Vega
James Maslow
Kendall Schmidt
Logan Henderson
Teddy Riley
Shawn Stockman
j-hope
RM
SUGA
V
Kevin Thornton
Mark Calderon
Big Mike
Brian Angel
Robert Curry
Willie Taylor
Damon Sharpe
Tony Thompson
Young Rome
Marques Houston
Mr. Dalvin
Jojo Hailey
K-Ci
Joe Jonas
Nick Jonas
Charlie Masso
Miguel Cancel
Ray Acevedo
Ricky Martin
Draco Rosa
Santo August
Dennis Seaton
Kelvin Grant
Bobby Brown
Johnny Gill
Ralph Tresvant
Ricky Bell
Danny Wood
Joey McIntyre
Jordan Knight
Brian Desveaux
Rigo Luna
Harry Styles
Liam Payne
Louis Tomlinson
Niall Horan
ZAYN
Static Major
Smoke E. Digglera
Garfield Bright
Gary 'G' Jenkins
Angel Lopez
Jase4Real
Gary Barlow
Howard Donald
Mark Owen
Robbie Williams
Eric Dill
Max George
Nathan Sykes
Allen McNeil
Steve Russell
Brian McFadden
Markus Feehily
Nicky Byrne
Shane Filan
Beyoncé
Kelly Rowland
Michelle Williams
LeToya Luckett
Farrah Franklin
T-Boz
Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes
Mel B
Melanie C
Emma Bunton
Geri Halliwell
Victoria Beckham
Ally Brooke
Normani
Dinah Jane
Lauren Jauregui
Camila Cabello
JENNIE
Terry Ellis
Maxine Jones
Nicole Scherzinger
Ashley Roberts
Jessica Sutta
Melody Thornton
Susanna Hoffs
Ashley Poole
Melissa Schuman
Diana Ortiz
Meelah
Joi Marshall
Myracle Holloway
Carnie Wilson
Chynna Phillips
Bernadette Cooper
Joyce Irby
Nicci Gilbert
Siobhan Fahey
Gioia Bruno
Kelly Moneymaker
Kandi
Tamika Scott
Shaznay Lewis
Mutya Buena
Siobhan Donaghy
HA:TFELT
SUNMI
HyunA
Yubin
Aubrey O'Day
Dawn Richard
Shannon Bex
D. Woods
Pamela Long

−20M

−10M

−5M

−1M

+1M

+5M

+10M

+20M

Daron Jones
Slim
Q Parker
JC Chasez
Joey Fatone
Justin Timberlake
Ashton Irwin
Abz Love
Jeff Timmons
Nick Lachey
Romeo Santos
Henry Santos
Marc Nelson
Omarion
AJ McLean
Brian Littrell
Howie D
Nick Carter
Christian Burns
Carlos Pena Vega
James Maslow
Kendall Schmidt
Logan Henderson
Teddy Riley
Shawn Stockman
j-hope
RM
SUGA
V
Kevin Thornton
Mark Calderon
Big Mike
Brian Angel
Robert Curry
Willie Taylor
Damon Sharpe
Tony Thompson
Young Rome
Marques Houston
Mr. Dalvin
Jojo Hailey
K-Ci
Joe Jonas
Nick Jonas
Charlie Masso
Miguel Cancel
Ray Acevedo
Ricky Martin
Draco Rosa
Santo August
Dennis Seaton
Kelvin Grant
Bobby Brown
Johnny Gill
Ralph Tresvant
Ricky Bell
Danny Wood
Joey McIntyre
Jordan Knight
Brian Desveaux
Rigo Luna
Harry Styles
Liam Payne
Louis Tomlinson
Niall Horan
ZAYN
Static Major
Smoke E. Digglera
Garfield Bright
Gary 'G' Jenkins
Angel Lopez
Jase4Real
Gary Barlow
Howard Donald
Mark Owen
Robbie Williams
Eric Dill
Max George
Nathan Sykes
Allen McNeil
Steve Russell
Brian McFadden
Markus Feehily
Nicky Byrne
Shane Filan
Beyoncé
Kelly Rowland
Michelle Williams
LeToya Luckett
Farrah Franklin
T-Boz
Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes
Mel B
Melanie C
Emma Bunton
Geri Halliwell
Victoria Beckham
Ally Brooke
Normani
Dinah Jane
Lauren Jauregui
Camila Cabello
JENNIE
Terry Ellis
Maxine Jones
Nicole Scherzinger
Ashley Roberts
Jessica Sutta
Melody Thornton
Susanna Hoffs
Ashley Poole
Melissa Schuman
Diana Ortiz
Meelah
Joi Marshall
Myracle Holloway
Carnie Wilson
Chynna Phillips
Bernadette Cooper
Joyce Irby
Nicci Gilbert
Siobhan Fahey
Gioia Bruno
Kelly Moneymaker
Kandi
Tamika Scott
Shaznay Lewis
Mutya Buena
Siobhan Donaghy
HA:TFELT
SUNMI
HyunA
Yubin
Aubrey O'Day
Dawn Richard
Shannon Bex
D. Woods
Pamela Long

Spotify followers as of February 2021. Square size represents the absolute number of followers.

The number of Spotify followers is a good proxy for musical popularity. Although there is some recency bias, the present day follower count—even that of older artists—points to their longevity and lasting impact.

Another way to size up bands and their members is by looking at their body of work. Using the Billboard Hot 100, we can get a sense of the reception to their music itself.

How many times every band and its members charted on the Billboard Hot 100

View as

Data from Billboard Hot 100, not including artist’s features. Showing earliest date of top charting position. Only includes solo artists who charted.

This chart adds some perspective to the first. A solo act like Harry Styles—who at present has fewer followers than One Direction—is clearly in the midst of his ascent, and is likely to make up some of that ground. But the real takeaway is and always has been Beyoncé. She remains head and shoulders above the rest, with her 51 top 100 hits.

This story was created by Russell Goldenberg. Thanks to Maggie Dickman for data collection and subject matter expertise. Only solo acts were considered (so the duo of K-Ci and JoJo was not included).