Lead singers who went solo

We look at lead vocalists who tasted chart success without their bandmates.

As Brandon Flowers puts solo stuff on hold while he makes a sixth Killers album, and Bjork returns, we look at other lead singers who left their bands behind. Are you really better off alone?

Let's kick off with Brandon:

Brandon Flowers

He had a killer career with, um, the Killers, but leading man Brandon Flowers did pretty well on his own too. Since the Killers' third chart-topper, Brandon has flipped between the two aspects of his career, scoring two Number 1s of his own – 2010's Flamingo and 2015's The Desired Effect.

Following the band's fifth straight chart-topper Wonderful Wonderful in 2017, Brandon has said he'll be going straight into another Killers album rather than a solo set, despite the fact the other two members of the band have given up touring.

Killers' chart record: 13 Top 40 singles, 5 Number 1 albums

Brandon Flowers' chart record: 1 Top 40 single, 2 Number 1 albums


No sooner had Icelandic folk group Sugarcubes – not to be confused with Sugababes, not that anyone ever would – had their first UK hit, with the very aptly named Hit in 1992 than lead singer Björk was off on her own.

It proved to be a wise move: within a year she landed a debut Top 40 hit with Human Behaviour and six Top 10 albums were coming her way. Altogether she's spent 89 weeks in the Official Albums Chart Top 40.

Sugarcubes' chart record: 1 Top 40 single, 1 Top 40 album 

Bjork's chart record: 20 Top 40 singles, 6 Top 10 albums

Fergie and will.i.am

Both Fergie and will.i.am spent some time straying from and returning to the Black Eyed Peas' fold over the years, with Fergie finally calling it a day in 2017.

Of the two, Will has enjoyed the most chart success, with five chart-toppers, including Scream & Shout, with Britney in 2012 and OMG with Usher two years earlier. Fergie's highest peak was Big Girls Don't Cry (Personal), hitting Number 2 in 2007.

Black Eyed Peas' chart record (including Fergie and will.i.am in lineup): 5 Number 1 singles, 4 Top 10 albums

Fergie's solo chart record: 5 Top 40 singles, 1 Top 40 album

will.iam's solo chart record: 5 Number 1s, 1 Top 40 album

Gwen Stefani

As lead singer of No Doubt, Gwen Stefani seemed like a solo star just waiting to happen. But she kept everybody waiting. Scoring her first Number 1 with No Doubt in the UK in 1996 with Don't Speak, it was five years before Gwen even featured on a track by herself, landing a Top 10 hit with Eve on Let Me Blow Ya Mind.

Gwen's solo career didn't kick off until 2004, with impressive debut Love Angel Music Baby. Its lead single pretty much said what we'd all been thinking for the last EIGHT years – What You Waiting For?

After second solo outing The Sweet Escape, Gwen finally returned to the No Doubt fold in 2012, but soon gave solo stardom another shot with two more albums released in the space of two years, including festive set You Make it Feel Like Christmas 

No Doubt's chart record: 11 Top 40 singles including one Number 1, 4 Top 40 albums

Gwen's chart record: 7 Top 10 singles, 3 Top 40 albums

Annie Lennox

Eurythmics has early '80s synthpop all sewn up before evolving into a slightly rockier proposition as the decade progressed. While Annie had nipped off to complete solo projects every now and again – she scored a Top 40 hit with Al Green in 1988 – in 1992 she too the plunge with first solo album Diva.

Eurythmics reformed a couple of times – most recently in 2005 for an all-new single I've Got A Life to promote a greatest hits – but Annie has kept on releasing solo material, scoring six Top 10 albums.

Eurythmics chart record: Nine Top 10 singles including a Number 1, 3 Number 1 albums

Annie Lennox's chart record: Four Top 10 singles, 2 Number 1 albums.

Lauryn Hill

The voice of the Fugees, Lauryn Hill racked up two chart-topping singles with the band within three months of each other in 1996, including  the million-selling Killing Me Softly..

Taking a break from bandmates Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel – who also tried their hand at solo success – Lauryn released debut solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in 1998. The critically acclaimed set peaked at Number 2 and spent 46 weeks in the Top 40.

Fugees' chart record: Four Top 10 singles, including 2 Number 1s, and 1 Top 10 album

Lauryn's chart record: Five Top 40s, 1 Top 10 album

Pharrell Williams

We're going to go out on a limb here and say Pharrell was right to go it alone from N*E*R*D. He's scored three million-selling singles, including the bestselling song of the 21st century, and pretty much within a year

That's not to say he didn't have his moments as part of N*E*R*D either – Top 5 hit She Wants To Move, whose video features none other than Alesha Dixon shaking it for all she's worth on a podium, is an unforgettable pop moment.

Pharrell's first top 10 hit with a solo credit was on Britney's Boys, reaching Number 7 in 2002, but he did reunite with N*E*R*D in 2017, going Top 40 with Lemon feat. Rihanna.

N*E*R*D's chart record: Six Top 40 singles, 3 Top 40 albums

Pharrell's chart record: 19 Top 40 singles, including 4 Number 1s; 1 Number 1 album


Way, way before he was the rainforests' best friend and hanging out with Shaggy, Sting was the lead singer of a band – The Police to be exact. They had a pile of hits from 1978, including five chart-toppers, but that didn't stop Sting laying down a solo hit or two.

His first solo hit was Spread A Little Happiness in 1982 but he had to wait until 1994 before he landed a Top 10, and even then he shared billing with Bryan Adams and Rod Stewart (another lead singer who struck out on his own).

The Police's chart record: 18 Top 40s, including 5 Number 1s; 6 Number 1 albums

Sting's solo chart record: 24 Top 40 singles, 3 Number 1 albums

Freddie Mercury

He may have been the king of Queen, but Freddie didn't do too badly by himself. While he never left the band that made him a star, he did like to wear the solo hat – or should we say crown – a few times, landing three Top 10 solo albums all of his own.

With Queen, of course, Freddie has the ultimate honour of being part of the biggest selling album of ALL TIME, with Greatest Hits.

Queen's chart record (with Freddie on vocals): 50 Top 40s, including 6 Number 1 singles; 9 Number 1 albums

Freddie's solo chart record: 9 Top 40 singles, including 1 Number 1 

Debbie Harry

After years of people thinking her name actually was Blondie, you can forgive Debbie Harry for wanting to find her own identity.

After Blondie enjoyed what we all assumed would be their last hit in 1982, Debbie – or Deborah, depending on who was asking – scored her only solo Top 10, French Kissin' in the USA in 1986.

After a few more modest hits, Debbie and Blondie (two entirely separate acts, remember) decided they were better together and returned in 1999 with monster Number 1 Maria – they've been together ever since and are still releasing hit albums.

Blondie's chart record: 19 Top 40 singles, including 6 Number 1s; 2 Number 1 albums

Debbie Harry's chart record: 4 Top 40 singles, 5 Top 40 albums 

Gary Barlow

When Take That split for the first time in February 1996 following Robbie Williams' departure, Gary Barlow had his solo career locked and ready to go. He was at Number 1 with Forever Love the same summer!

In 1999, Gary put that solo career on hold but, after renewed success with take That from 2006, he had another go and returned with a duet with his old frenemy Robbie Williams, on Shame, before going on to release a solo album in 2013 called Since I Saw You Last.

Take That's chart record: LOADS. 28 Top 40 singles, including 12 Number 1s; 7 Number 1 albums

Gary Barlow's chart record: Nine Top 40 singles, including 3 Number 1s; 2 Number 1 albums

Lionel Richie

Very much well established as a solo artist, Lionel started out as just one of the boys, sharing lead vocals with funk and soul band the Commodores until 1983.

He'd first flirted with having hits by himself on romantic duet Endless Love with Diana Ross in 1981, scoring the first of his 8 Top 10s. Without Lionel, the Commodores scored a huge hit with Marvin Gaye/Jackie Wilson tribute track Nightshift, but they'd only appear in the UK Top 40 once more… and that was a rerelease of a song that featured Lionel on lead vocals.

Lionel has just one chart-topper on his own – the iconic ballad Hello.

Commodores' chart record (with Lionel): Ten Top 40 singles, including one Number 

Lionel Richie's solo chart record: Twenty Top 40 singles, including one Number 1; 3 Number 1 albums

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