from Michael Jackson to Harry Styles to BTS’s J-Hope

Is this the beginning of the end for BTS?

In June, the South Korean sensations released a career-spanning anthology, “Proof,” and announced that they would be taking a break while working on solo projects. And on Friday, J-Hope became the first BTS member to drop a solo album with “Jack in the Box.”

The 10-track LP — which, at 22 minutes, clocks in at shorter than some EPs — finds the 28-year-old artist, born Jung Ho-seok, rapping over darker, edgier beats than you might expect from the “Butter” boy band. And just to prove that he’s gone from bubblegum to badass, he even drops the F-bomb on the album-closing “Arson.”

“I burned it all/And I wanted it all,” J-Hope raps over an eerie, almost sinister undercurrent.

Clearly, with the harder hitting hip-hop of “Jack in the Box” — which finds J-Hope switching between English and Korean — he wants to torch his old BTS image.

J-Hope is the first BTS member to drop a solo album with “Jack in the Box.”
J-Hope

But the track that perhaps has the biggest hit potential, “= (Equal Sign),” returns J-Hope to poppier territory, delivering a “come together” message with echoes of the Black Eyed Peas and Justin Timberlake hit “Where Is the Love?” 

Although J-Hope will be making history as the first South Korean artist to headline a major US festival when he rocks Lollapalooza on July 31, the jury is still out on whether he will be able to pull a Timberlake and become a solo superstar.

Here, we look back on the hits (Harry Styles) and misses (Nick Carter) when boy banders have gone solo.

HITS

Michael Jackson

MJ set the template for going from a boy band to a solo idol when he left behind his brothers in the Jackson 5 and ascended to the King of Pop throne with the back to back blockbusters of 1979’s “Off the Wall,” 1982’s “Thriller” and 1987’s “Bad.” And even though child-molestation allegations before and after his 2009 death have tarnished his legacy, nobody has ever ruled the music world like he once did.

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson exploded into the solo stratosphere with his 1979 album “Off the Wall.”
Redferns

Harry Styles

The former One Direction heartthrob still sings the group’s biggest hit, “What Makes You Beautiful,” in his concerts. But after winning a Grammy for his first No. 1 single, 2020’s “Watermelon Sugar,” and now topping the charts — for the ninth week and counting — with “As It Was,” he’s a one-man phenom headlining 15(!) shows at Madison Square Garden starting Aug. 20. 

Harry Styles
Harry Styles will headline 15 shows at Madison Square Garden starting Aug. 20.
WireImage

Justin Timberlake

Although he was recently dragged for bringing dad moves to the “Beat Ya Feet” dance, JT didn’t miss a beat when he said “Bye Bye Bye” to *NSYNC and hello to solo stud-dom with hits such as “Cry Me a River,” “Rock Your Body” and “SexyBack.” We even forgive him for 2018’s “Man of the Woods.” 

Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake never looked back after saying “Bye Bye Bye” to *NSYNC.
Redferns

Bobby Brown

When Brown got kicked out of New Edition, he wanted revenge against his former boy bandmates. And with “Don’t Be Cruel,” his 1988 smash solo album, he sure showed them what he could do by exercising his own prerogative. And although he never came close to that same success again, only releasing two more solo albums, Brown remains the biggest star to come out of NE.

Bobby Brown
Bobby Brown was fueled by revenge in his solo career after being kicked out of New Edition.
Jim Steinfeldt

Ricky Martin

The one true solo sensation to come out of Puerto Rican boy band Menudo, Martin helped lead the Latin-pop crossover movement with his 1999 smash “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” while also producing a string of Spanish language hits over the years. Now, though, Martin is embroiled in a dispute with his 21-year-old nephew, Dennis Yadiel Sanchez, who has accused him of domestic abuse — allegations that the singer has denied.

Ricky Martin
Ricky Martin won a Grammy for his “Vuelve” album in 1999.
AFP via Getty Images

MIXED

Nick Jonas

The youngest Jonas Brother made a sexy solo splash in 2014 with his hit “Jealous,” but since then his biggest success has been back with the JoBros on their 2019 No. 1 single “Sucker.” And he’s also made other relevance-maintaining moves as an actor and a coach on “The Voice.”

Nick Jonas
Nick Jonas gave the other JoBros reason to be “Jealous” with his 2014 solo hit.
Alexander Tamargo

MISSES

Nick Carter

25 years after Backstreet Boys released their debut US album, the boy band has failed to produce a single solo star. Carter seemed most likely to succeed sans BSB with 2002’s “Now or Never,” but that turned out to be the first of three forgettable solo albums. Still, Backstreet is back  — and going strong — on tour this summer, with their “DNA” trek hitting Jones Beach on Saturday.

Nick Carter
Nick Carter wanted it the solo way, but couldn’t find success without Backstreet Boys.
NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via

Nick Lachey

Releasing his debut solo album, “SoulO,” at the exact same time that his reality show with then-wife Jessica Simpson, “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica,” premiered on MTV in 2003, Lachey couldn’t have had a better moment to break out from 98 Degrees. But his solo career quickly went the way of their marriage.

Nick Lachey
Even his “Newlyweds” reality show with then-wife Jessica Simpson couldn’t help Nick Lachey find his solo stride.
WireImage

Jordan Knight

As with Backstreet Boys, it’s surprising that not one member of New Kids on the Block managed to find some respectable measure of solo success. For many, Knight would have been the pick to take that step (by step) to solo stardom, but it was all downhill from his 1999 self-titled debut. Still, he’s hangin’ tough with NKOTB on the Mixtape Tour this summer. 

Jordan Knight
At 52, Jordan Knight is still keeping the boy band alive with New Kids on the Block.
WireImage

Ashley Parker Angel

Remember O-Town? We barely did either. Angel emerged from the guy group formed on MTV’s “Making the Band” and hit No. 12 on the pop charts in 2006 with his debut solo single “Let U Go,” which was produced by hitmakers Max Martin and Dr. Luke. Respectable, yes, but that was the one and only semi-highlight of his solo recording career.

Ashley Parker Angel
Ashley Parker Angel had one moderate hit, “Let U Go,” after O-Town disbanded.
WireImage for Blackground Record

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