Successful ex-boyband members: who is top of the charts?

Successful former boyband members (clockwise from top left): Michael Jackson, Ronan Keating, Robbie Williams and Justin Timberlake
All eyes on me: (clockwise from top left) Michael Jackson, Ronan Keating, Robbie Williams and Justin Timberlake

Should I stay or should I go? Here are seven big names who made the decision to leave the groups that made them famous – and it paid off big time.

Being a member of a wildly successful boyband is no guarantee of solo superstardom (just ask JC Chasez of *NSYNC fame). Yet for some brave souls, rather than relative obscurity and prayers for reunion gigs, taking that leap of faith led to riches beyond their wildest dreams. It’s highly unlikely that the seven artists listed below ever regretted their decision to ditch their group obligations for solo ventures.

Robbie Williams

Having had to pay £1.5million to break his contract with Take That, Williams needed solo success more than most – and he got it. His 2002 £80million recording contract with EMI is one of the biggest in music history and a whopping twelve of his solo albums have all reached number one in the UK.

Let me entertain you: Robbie Williams has enjoyed much solo success Credit: Getty

Plus, he’s one of only three artists ever to receive the prestigious BRITs Icon Award, the other two recipients being Sir Elton John and David Bowie.  

Mastercard®, sponsor of this year’s BRITs, brought Robbie face to face with one of his greatest fans, to discover how music has changed their life. Watch the video at

George Michael

The late great George Michael sold a colossal 100 million records worldwide as a solo star – on top of the 25 million he sold as part of pop duo Wham! from 1981 to 1986.

Freedom: George Michael went solo in 1987 Credit: Getty

The award-winning singer-songwriter managed to negotiate the route from teen idol to adult artist in such a charismatic way he was beloved around the world.

Zayn Malik

Many people had their nails out in preparation for Zayn’s first solo single after he left One Direction at the peak of their popularity. Yet his debut single, Pillowtalk, went straight in at number one in both the UK and US charts and his career continues to go from strength-to-strength.

New direction: Zayn Malik Credit: Getty

He’s collaborated with Chris Brown, Snakehips and MIA, plus his new song with Taylor Swift, I don’t Wanna Live Forever, is part of the soundtrack for upcoming blockbuster Fifty Shades Darker. With both One Direction and Zayn nominated for Best British Music Video at this year’s BRITs, he’s sure to be a big talking point on the night.

Michael Jackson

Michael and his four brothers – Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon – made history as The Jackson Five in the 1970s when their first four singles hit number one on the Billboard chart. Yet, Michael’s solo career made him the biggest star on the planet.

Beat it: Michael Jackson parted ways with his brothers Credit: REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

Landmark moments include his album Thriller becoming one of the bestselling albums of all time, winning eight Grammys in one night in 1984 and becoming the first celebrity ever to have two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (one for his role in The Jacksons – previously The Jackson Five).

Justin Timberlake

*NSYNC’s 2000 album No Strings Attached sold more than 11 million copies in the US, making them the biggest boyband in the world at the time.

I guess I’ll be leaving: former *NSYNC member Justin Timberlake Credit: REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

Yet Justin shook off his squeaky clean Mickey Mouse Club image when he premiered his debut album Justified in 2002, with its grown-up RnB sound. (Songwriter Pharrell Williams had originally pitched the tracks to Michael Jackson). Timberlake’s next three solo albums would all reach number one in the US and top five in the UK.

Nick Jonas

The youngest sibling in the Disney-created Jonas Brothers band, Nick has been credited with “pulling a Beyoncé” in successfully breaking free of a big name singing trio.

Ain’t going backwards: Nick Jonas now performs as a solo singer Credit: REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

After the band split in 2013, Nick launched his debut eponymous album in 2014 with single Jealous reaching number two in the US, before he secured parts in TV shows Kingdom and Scream Queens to critical acclaim.

Ronan Keating

The classically handsome frontman of Irish band Boyzone left the group in 1999 and achieved international success when his track When You Say Nothing At All featured in hit film Notting Hill.

Time to make a change: Irish pop star Ronan Keating Credit: REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

He rode this popularity for ten albums, achieving sales of more than 20 million records and securing judging gigs on the Australian versions of both The X Factor and The Voice.

The priceless side of music

In this series, brought to you by Mastercard, you will discover what makes British music priceless – and how that brilliance is celebrated at the incredible BRIT Awards.

2017 is the 19th year of Mastercard’s headline sponsorship of The BRIT Awards. Whether it’s walking the red carpet with their idols, accessing sold-out tickets or going to an intimate gig, Mastercard helps cardholders live the priceless side of music. Mastercard also continues its sponsorship of the much sought-after British Album of the Year award.