13 Successful Solo Acts Who Surprisingly Started Out in a Group
Sometimes, you're better off on your own.
Everyone knows that Beyoncé first found fame in Destiny’s Child and that Justin Timberlake got his start with *NSYNC. However, some artists’ first dips into the music industry have flown further under the radar. Did you know, for instance, that Usher was briefly in a band before he embarked on a solo career? And so was Britney Spears? If you’re ready for some shocking blasts from the past, check out these 13 successful solo acts who started out performing in groups.
Britney Spears may be a household name now, but before her “…Baby One More Time” days, she was just another member of the girl group Innosense. Though the group—managed by Justin Timberlake’s mom, Lynn Harless—was active from 1997 to 2003, Spears ultimately left the same year they were formed to launch her solo career. She is, however, featured in an old video with her former bandmates, in case you want to get a glimpse of what a non-solo Spears looks like.
Years before she stole hearts with rock and roll hits like “Back to Black” and “Valerie,” Amy Winehouse was actually exploring hip hop with the group Sweet ‘n’ Sour. According to Rolling Stone, Winehouse once referred to the duo—which consisted of her and her childhood friend Juliette Ashby—as “the little, white, Jewish Salt-N-Pepa.”
We all know that Fergie was once a part of the successful group The Black Eyed Peas. However, did you know that before then, she was also in the ’90s girl group Wild Orchid? The group formed after all of its members starred on the Disney Channel show Kids Incorporated together in the late ’80s. As part of Wild Orchid, Fergie helped put out two successful albums and even opened for Cher—but in 2001, she ultimately left to join The Black Eyes Peas.
Believe it or not, Usher actually started out in the R&B quintet NuBeginnings. The group only released one album together in 1991—though later it was rereleased under the title NuBeginning Featuring Usher Raymond IV, making it clear who the step-out star of the group was.
Pink has been flying solo for so long that it may be hard to believe she originally started out in a group. At the age of 16, the singer helped form the R&B girl group Choice, and they were signed by famed producer L.A. Reid in 1995. Before Pink left to do her own thing, Choice did manage to release one successful song together called “Key to My Heart,” which was featured on the Kazaam movie soundtrack.
Missy Elliott may “Work It” on stage as a massive solo artist, but the rapper originally started her career in the R&B group Sista. They released one album together in 1994, but it bombed and no other efforts ever came from the group again. Despite having found success on her own, Elliott has paid homage to her original girl group roots on Twitter.
Kehlani is a relatively new face in the music industry. However, with hits like “Honey” and “Ring” featuring superstar Cardi B, it’s clear she’s here to stay. Before she found solo fame, Kehlani was the frontwoman for PopLyfe, the teen band that finished in fourth place on the sixth season of America’s Got Talent in 2011.
“Happy” singer Pharrell Williams might be known nowadays for producing some catchy tunes. But he got his start producing hits with the group N.E.R.D; he was part of The Neptunes, a production duo with Chad Hugo. Despite becoming a star in his own right, Williams still finds time to work with the artists that helped him get established. Since 2001, N.E.R.D. has released five albums together, the most recent of which is No One Ever Really Dies.
Billy Joel has gifted the world with many classics—but before his successful solo days, he was performing as part of The Hassles. Though the ’60s rock group released two full-length albums, neither came close to reaching the same success that Joel found solo.
Hayley Kiyoko might be a relatively new name in the music industry, but through her friendship with superstar Taylor Swift and with hits like “Girls Like Girls” and “Curious,” the young LGBTQ singer is certainly paving her own way. But this isn’t Kiyoko’s first time in the limelight. The singer originally found fame in 2007 with the five-piece girl group The Stunners, but ultimately they fizzled out in 2011.
Before Ne-Yo was creating show-stopping hits like “So Sick” and “Miss Independent,” he was performing in the R&B Group Envy under the stage name GoGo. Unfortunately, Envy didn’t find much success—especially thanks to a less-than-stellar 1997 performance at the famed Apollo in New York. But it appears the now-solo singer is still up for tweeting about his old days in the group and taking a trip down memory lane.
Rick Astley’s 1987 single “Never Gonna Give You Up” skyrocketed to fame thanks to the “rickrolling” meme. And while many folks of all ages now know Astley’s name because of this, what they may not know is that the singer started out in a group. Actually, he was performing as a drummer in the soul band FBI. After FBI performed a showcase for producer Pete Waterman, he hand-picked Astley out of the group and signed him as a solo artist.
Heartthrob Jesse McCartney grew a massive fan base in 2004 with the release of his hit single “Beautiful Soul”—but before then, he was just one member of the early 2000s boy band Dream Street. And despite breaking up in 2002, Dream Street actually found a bit fame in their own right; back in the day, they opened for Aaron Carter on tour and even performed on All My Children. Oh, and good news if you’ve been longing for more Dream Street: McCartney recently told the International Business Times that the idea of a reunion has been “kicked around tons.” And for more musical messages that may have evaded you, check out 20 Popular Songs With Secret Messages.
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