The boy-band Black Album: Hear teen pop group members' best solo work
Boy band members go through multiple rites of passage: Finding bras at their feet onstage, rejecting overeager fans, and, for the more confident ones, trying out a solo career.
Justin Timberlake stands out as the most successful boy band member-turned-solo artist, but there are many more where he comes from—his ‘NSync bandmate JC Chasez released Schizophrenic in 2004, and Jesse McCartney went on to have a mildly successful solo career following his Dream Street days. Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter and New Kids on the Block’s Jordan Knight are still trying and teamed up for an album that drops Tuesday.
On the occasion of that release, here’s a playlist modeled off The Black Album—a mix made up of The Beatles’ best solo work compiled by Ethan Hawke’s character in Boyhood—of the best songs from musicians who went on to have solo careers after (or during) their boy-band careers.
1. Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block
“All I Wanna Do,” 1999
“All I Wanna Do” isn’t anything special—sample lyric: “You’re a shining star, that’s what you are”—but it’s uplifting and sweet with a singable chorus that screams 1990s. Bonus points for the comically low note McIntyre hits multiple times.
2. Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys
“Falling in Love Again,” 2011
Sure, the lyrics for “Falling in Love Again” are a bit creepy with Carter’s insistence that “I won’t stop ’til you’re mine,” but the Backstreet Boy favorite still woos with his passionate declarations of love and a dance-ready build-up at song’s end.
3. Jordan Knight of New Kids on the Block
“Give It To You,” 1999
Knight’s debut single is a perfect fit for NSYNC’s Celebrity with its hyper, synth-heavy chorus and pretty verse vocals—that is, until the carnival-like horns come in and transport us from Boy Band Central to Knight’s more experimental ways.
4. Ashley Parker Angel of O-Town
“Let U Go,”* 2006
Angel went rock for “Let U Go,” an impressively catchy track where he sheds his pretty-boy reputation to do some emo-style (emphasis on the “style”) wailing while strumming an electric guitar that ends up sounding like it was ripped straight from a Punk Goes Pop album.
5. Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers
While other former boy banders stuck to familiar sounds when they went solo, the youngest Jonas Brother went against bubblegum pop standards for this sexy, throbbing single.
6. Jesse McCartney of Dream Street
“Beautiful Soul” was McCartney’s first single post-Dream Street, and a decade later, it remains his best: It’s an innocent love song that McCartney tries to toughen up with a bridge where an electric guitar comes in to accompany McCartney’s deepening voice, but overall it’s a mellow song fit for any ABC Family romance montage.
7. Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers
“Just in Love,” 2011
“Just in Love” recalls early Backstreet Boys, but modernized with synths and understated vocals. In other words, it’s the stuff of teenage girls’ dreams.
8. Nick Lachey of 98 Degrees
“Everywhere But Here,” 2006
One of the tracks from Lachey’s album of lullabies (yes, it exists, and yes, it’s fantastic) almost made the cut for this collection, but “Everywhere But Here” is a dramatic, loud song that sounds most like it would fit in on a 98 Degrees album but with more Nick Lachey—and that’s all anyone ever really wanted from 98 Degrees, right?
9. Wanyá Morris of Boyz II Men
Boyz II Men were all about the soulful ballads, but Morris’ 2007 Unreleased is more upbeat, with Morris’ swoon-worthy voice making otherwise unspectacular tracks like “Special” a radio-ready standout.
10. JC Chasez of NSYNC
“Dear Goodbye,” 2004
Chasez’s debut album Schizophrenic is packed with oversexed songs trying too hard to copy other well-known songs, but “Dear Goodbye” is the rare track that sounds like it actually comes from Chasez’s head instead of that of a horny teenage boy who listens to too much ‘80s radio. The ballad shows off Chasez’s pipes—the same ones that made him second-best to Timberlake in ‘NSync—with dreamy instrumentals and stirring lyrics.
11. Justin Timberlake of ‘NSync
Timberlake’s earlier work is mostly a compilation of sex-obsessed tracks, but “Mirrors” is a total departure from songs like “Damn Girl” or “Rock Your Body” without being a total departure from Timberlake’s style. It’s an intimate love song made epic by its eight-minute length that never drags on thanks to highlights like the song’s climax when the instruments drop out to let Timberlake do his thing a cappella to the repetitive, hypnotizing breakdown at the end.
*Ashley Parker Angel’s solo work is not available on Spotify, so the song on this playlist is a karaoke version of Angel’s original “Let U Go.”