Top 16 Artists Gone Solo

For this week's Ranked!, we decided to take a look at people who quit the band and went out on their own. Here are our sixteen favorite artists who went solo:

16. Ryan Adams
15. Lou Reed
14. Van Morrison
13. David Lee Roth
12. Janis Joplin
11. Ben Folds
10. George Michael
9. Justin Timberlake
8. Neil Young
7. Phil Collins
6. Eric Clapton

5. Billy Idol

Once upon a time, there was a punk band called Generation X. They released three albums in their short career and had the notoriety of being the first punk band to perform on Top Of The Pops. From the ashes of Generation X, bassist Tony James started Sigue Sigue Sputnik, whose song "Love Missle F1-11" was featured prominently in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and whose debut album, Flaunt It, was the first (and only, I believe) album to have commercials between songs.

And oh yeah, Generation X singer Billy Idol embarked on a fairly successful solo career.

Seriously. He polished up his punk and made it a little more appealing to the masses and in the process, scored three Top 20 albums, seven Top 40 singles, including three Top 5 singles, one of which went all the way to #1 (possibly the lamest song of his career, a cover of "Mony Mony").--Chag

4. Paul Simon

Sometimes I feel sorry for Art Garfunkel. Here's a guy who, with his partner Paul Simon, put together one of the most successful recording acts of the '60s and '70s. Their harmonies on The Graduate soundtrack and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" were practically the voice of a generation, and their concert in Central Park is one of the definitive live experiences of the last 50 years. He even acted a bit, got some press, and momentarily distracted us from that fro of his.

Now he's a punch line, like John Oates or Andrew Ridgeley. Not because he isn't talented, but because Paul Simon is just that damn good.

I mean come on, is there anyone who really doesn't like Paul Simon? He's a gifted storyteller that appeals to the romantics (see: "Slip Slidin' Away," "Something So Right"), a catchy hook writer that appeals to the dancer in all of us (see: "Me & Julio Down By the Schoolyard," "Late in the Evening") and a global ambassador who effortlessly opens our eyes to musical possibilities (see: "Mother & Child Reunion," all of Graceland). He popped up regularly on Saturday Night Live, appeared in Annie Hall, and put Chevy Chase in his videos back when he was still funny. He was briefly married to Princess Leia before settling down with Edie Brickell, and has been voted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice. Plus the dude is almost 70 and he just released an album that is really, really good.

He even brings his old friend Art out on stage every once in awhile. Some might call that charity, but I call it respect. He remembers his roots and what made him a star in the first place. And when you've been that good for that long no one's gonna begrudge you a little nostalgia. He is, after all, still crazy after all these years.--CroutonBoy

3. Peter Gabriel

Listen. There is no way in hell that I'm going to sit here and lie to you.

I had not one clue that Peter Gabriel was part of Genesis until I was in my early twenties. Apparently, dear fellow lovers of music, he made quite a name for himself there, as much for his use of flamboyant costuming as for his (completely badass, utterly unique) vox stylings. Dig this, kids: His costumes had thematic phases and specific names. I have long been fond of referring to him as "Peter Gabriel, You Freaky Little Monkey!" in a very loving manner; I'm both startled and delighted to find that his earlier stage presence completely merits this descriptor.

I'm glad I never knew his earlier body of work when I first heard him. I was eleven or twelve and "Shock The Monkey" fell against my eardrums and pounded its way down to my chest cavity. I'd heard that kind of beat, just never arranged that way, but I'd never before heard the precise sort of desperate undertone that his voice delivered. He tipped me right over and I began actively seeking his music out.

There are a lot of things I like about Peter Gabriel. I'm a huge fan of his penchant for hammer-down, driving percussion and big arrangements. I love his activist leanings (Gabriel became an outspoken social activist around the time that I was really learning the meaning of the phrase in the scope of my own surroundings). I love that he surprises, but that he delivers when he does so. I love that I can boot up "Mercy Street" or "Solsbury Hill" and they are as fresh and appealing to me as the first day I heard them. He is a brilliant lyricist and his phrasing has such a unique signature.

When I first found Gabriel's cover of The Magnetic Fields' "Book of Love," I swooned, then fawned, then adulated then geeked way, way, out. The teensy music fangirl in my middle shrieked. Don't get me wrong: I don't want to sex up Peter Gabriel. However, if I could take a nasty, ill-behaved tumble with his vocals, I'd shame all the angels in the process of doing so.

If you're not a fan of Peter Gabriel as a solo act I'm at a loss as to why. Look, the man packaged his greatest hits with a disc called 'hit' and one called 'miss'. What's not to love?--Jett Superior

2. Sting

I've always been impressed with the artist known as Sting, for a few reasons. First off, it takes some cojones to be a scrawny little British guy named Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner and say "today you shall call me STING." Second of all, he's in the insanity that is the film called Dune. I kind of love him in that film, all sexy creepy. Third, he's had an unusual and remarkable solo career. I mean, The Police, they did ok. Solo Sting though, he's done a really unusual number of things. His first solo album was very jazz influenced, which wasn't surprising since he started in jazz as a kid. He's done Spanish and Portuguese songs, big band, some readings of Stravinsky and Profiev, Disney tunes, an album of music by John Dowland, a composer in Queen Elizabeth's court, toured with a symphony, and is a playable character in Guitar Hero. That's diversifying your portfolio.--Archphoenix

1. Michael Jackson

Let’s just put it aside, shall we? We all know Michael Jackson was an eccentric, troubled man, a terrible footnote on a remarkable career. Hands down, Michael Jackson is an amazing artist. Early on his talent shone above his brothers, propelling him out of the Jackson 5 and into one of the most stunning solo careers in music history. Michael Jackson was a force, influencing music, dance and fashion. His Thriller album defines a decade and remains his pop culture masterpiece. But if you really want to understand the true pop genius of Michael Jackson, I implore you to listen to Off The Wall. It’s not quite as famous is the album that came after it, but listening to Off the Wall you’ll hear an MJ who is a bit more raw, unpredictable. There is an energy that permeates the entire album that would follow Michael Jackson throughout the rest of his stellar solo work. Say what you will about the man, but the musician that was Michael Jackson was a truly talented phenomenon, that captivated audiences in a way that few have since.--Daddy Geek Boy

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