Beyoncé, Camilla Cabello, Harry Styles, Justin Timberlake — the list of famous solo artists who rose to stardom in hyper-successful musical groups is endless. I’m not complaining, obvi, because what would the music industry be if it weren’t for legendary acts like Destiny’s Child and NSYNC influencing the next generation of chart-topping groups such as Fifth Harmony and One Direction? But not *all* musicians who started out in bands found success with said bands. Your fave might actually be on the list of famous singers who were in groups that, well… flopped (for lack of a better word). That’s why this list of singers who were in bands before going solo will surprise you. Chances are, you’ve never heard of these long-forgotten groups.
For various reasons — from bad management and sus contracts, to conflicts between members and underwhelming output — rising music groups often disband before truly basking in the limelight. It’s the effort that counts, though, and sometimes, even without their band ever having a real breakthrough moment, singers have to go their own way to do their own thing.
In fact, every once in a while, a former band member skyrockets to such huge solo successes that the idea of them ever having been in a group years ago sounds unfathomable. But it *does* happen, so prepare to be shook AF by this list.
Before “Girls Like Girls” pop singer Hayley Kiyoko earned her rep as the Lesbian Jesus, she was in a band — and no, I’m not talking about Lemonade Mouth (although nothing’s more nostalgic than DCOM musicals). Four years before her Disney Channel days, Kiyoko was in a pop and R&B-oriented girl group called the Stunners.
The band’s five female members were supposedly all friends before landing a record deal. They later dropped their first and only project, a self-titled EP that included two singles: “We Got It,” which made it to no. 14 on Billboard’s U.S. dance chart; and “Dancin’ Around the Truth,” which included a feature from the 2000s-era hip-hop duo New Boyz.
The craziest thing about Kiyoko’s time as a Stunner, though, was that she was bandmates with — wait for it — the one and only “2 On” singer, Tinashe.
OK, OK, you can pick your jaw up off the ground now — yes, Tinashe and Hayley Kiyoko were in the same girl group (which also included Allie Gonino, Kelsey Sanders, and Marisol Esparza in its lineup). Believe me, I was surprised AF, too.
But the shock value of the Stunners doesn’t stop at its membership. The band was together from 2007 to 2011 — which is a pretty long time for a not-so-big pop group. And they were an opening act on Justin Beiber’s 2010 My World tour! The Stunners were in their late teens and early 20s at the time, and Tinashe was only 18 when they ultimately disbanded.
Now, if only we could get Hayley and Tinashe on a track together in 2021. PLS!
If you grew up during the Y2K age of pop, Jesse McCartney was probably one of your fattest crushes. The blonde babe’s 2003 smash “Beautiful Soul” definitely takes the cake as one of the best throwback songs for karaoke, while 2008’s “Leavin’” became an instant No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 40 chart. (Real ones know how much of an underrated bop “Good Life” was, even if it *was* just a song on Disney Channel’s Stuck in the Suburbs soundtrack.)
Due to his transitioning from teen pop to urban pop, McCartney’s music career was often likened to Justin Timberlake’s. However, the similarities between the two male pop stars don’t stop there — like Timberlake, a group effort kicked off McCartney’s singing career. In 1999, he and four other tween boys joined Dream Street, a boy band founded by music producers Louis Baldonieri and Brian Lukow.
The band achieved moderate success: Their most popular single, “It Happens Every Time,” charted on Billboard’s physical single sales chart, and the group released two albums.
But in 2002, the group disbanded after their parents sued Baldonieri and Lukow for allegedly exposing their sons to alcohol and pornography. The Dream Street boys were in their early teens at the time, while McCartney, in particular, was 14 years old.
During her teen pop years, Britney Spears was definitely one of those artists you could imagine in a girl group, but didn’t *really* need it, y’know? She was already the whole package on her own. Not only could she sing and dance, but she gave off major sweetheart energy. It’s no surprise her debut and sophomore albums — …Baby One More Time (1999) and Oops… I Did It Again (2000) — went diamond and topped album charts all over the world.
Despite Brit earning herself recognition as one of the biggest pop stars ever, she wasn’t always in her own lane. Before the release of …Baby One More Time, Spears was briefly in a little-known girl group called Innosense.
The Spice Girls-inspired teen act — founded by Justin Timberlake’s mom, Lynn Harless, and Lou Pearlman — were together from 1997 to 2003. But Spears, in particular, was only in the group in 1997, choosing to leave after one year to pursue her solo endeavors.
It goes without saying Spears’ decision was so worth it, especially because Innosense only released one album, So Together (it never charted on the Billboard 200). However, there never seemed to be any hard feelings between Spears and her former bandmates. She actually let Innosense open for her on her Oops… I Did It Again tour, which is so sweet!
When you think of boss babe musicians who have always killed the game despite the boys’ club-vibe of the music industry, Fergie is probably one of the first people that come to mind — it also helps that she was, of course, the only woman in the otherwise all-male Black Eyed Peas. Her role in the Peas propelled her to pop queen status, and the hip-hop group delivered some of everyone’s favorite Y2K bops, from “Where Is The Love?” to “I Got a Feeling.”
But, you may not know that even before holding down the Black Eyed Peas (and way before releasing her wildly successful 2006 debut album, The Duchess), Miss Fergie Ferg was already working her way to stardom in a girl group called Wild Orchid starting in 1990.
Today, although Wild Orchid is relatively unknown compared to the legendary Black Eyes Peas, the pop and R&B-soul trio had numerous charting hits and three albums during Fergie’s time in the band. Their biggest hit, “Talk to Me,” peaked at No. 48 on the Billboard Hot 100. Even today, they’re hailed as one of the most memorable girl groups despite Fergie’s departure in 2001.
Pink may be one of today’s best-selling and most established pop queens, but before the Missundaztood sonsgtress was known for anthems like “Just Like a Pill” and “So What,” she was a 16-year-old singing soulful pop as part of a girl group trio called Choice. The group, established in 1995, caught famed record exec L.A. Reid’s attention, and they inked a deal and recorded an album shortly after.
Sadly, the album never saw the light of day, and the group disbanded in 1998 upon Pink’s decision to go solo. The good news is the one song from Choice’s album that was released, “Key to My Heart,” absolutely SLAPS. Choice would have been the ‘90s R&B girl group we didn’t know we needed!
Remember *way* back in 2011, when R&B star Kehlani was on season six of America’s Got Talent with five other teens in a band called Poplyfe? And Piers Morgan, who was a judge on the show at the time, told Kehlani, “You’ve got real talent, but I don’t think you need the group,” after Poplyfe’s final performance? Well, if you don’t remember, now you do. You’re welcome!
O.G. Kehlani fans likely remember Poplyfe. They finished in fourth place on AGT, after all. But, unlike other female musicians who spent time in girl groups before going solo, the It Was Good Until It Wasn’t singer was the only girl in Poplyfe. While Kehlani was the lead singer in the band, the other group members, aged 13 to 18, played instruments. The band even toured with Zendaya during the Euphoria actor’s Disney Channel days as a teen pop singer.
Unfortunately, all that glittered wasn’t gold. Despite being hailed as the band’s strongest talent, Kehlani supposedly had to leave Poplyfe due to managerial and contract-related issues. 10 years later, though, Kehlani is one of the biggest names in R&B. Everything happens for a reason!