By Marc Alexander

I remember when Bobby Brown went solo. I wondered why? I was younger and didn’t understand the potential advantages of being alone in the spotlight: sucking in all the fame, the applause, the romance and last, but most, the money. To me, New Edition always looked like they were having a blast in every video and every interview I saw and I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to trade that to be alone.

Of course I didn’t know about the behind the scenes machinations, the in-fighting, the mismanagement and all the other reasons that might have been pushing brother Brown to his decision, but it still seemed like he would be missing out on fun and excitement that he wouldn’t be able to generate by himself.    It’s the same in a relationship: it’s good to be an individual, good to have your solos and be able to freestyle every so often to express your you-ness, but choosing to go solo just for the sake of getting all the shine often times doesn’t work out the way you want it.

Going solo actually works out well sometimes. Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Tina Turner,Curtis Mayfield, Michael Jackson and Busta Rhymes are glittering and shiny examples of artists who left their duos or groups behind and went on to enjoy Hall-of-Fame solo careers. Their talents allowed them to leave the comfort and the confines of the group and eclipse that success so much so that we almost forget what group they were with when they started.

Diana Ross and The Supremes perform in 1969

But, what about all the great songs and concerts that never happened because they no longer had the ability to bounce ideas off of others or engage in the creative process with compatriots who were as equally invested as they were?

On the surface, going solo seems very attractive. You get to write all your own songs, schedule performance around your life and only do what you want to do.  But what about being able to fall back and let someone else handle the stress and pressure of being the lead some time?

What about having the ability to present a united front when things become hectic?

When you are out there by yourself there’s nobody to pick up your slack and nobody’s there to finish your solo when your voice gives out. Being part of something greater than yourself actually allows you to take more risks because you have someone who has your back. You can experiment more with your style and see what works for you and what doesn’t and get an honest evaluation on your efforts. When you have the ability to collaborate on whatever you are doing you will undoubtedly think of things that you may not have considered on your own. As the saying goes, two heads are better than one.

Busta Rhymes performs at the Knitting Factory

In the best scenarios, individual artists are about move in and out of the group spotlight at will. The members get and give support organically and nothing they do seems forced.  The same holds true for a relationship. He and you should always grow, create, appreciate and share your talents as individuals. Keep and explore your individuality. Let your solo efforts shine, but remember it takes practice, effort and the ability to listen to someone else if you want  to sing in perfect harmony, as well.  A lot of people make the decision to go solo because they think the proverbial grass will be greener once they get there. Sometimes that’s true, but most times, it isn’t. There’s no “I” in team but there is a “One” in lonely, so think carefully and be honest about what it really means to go solo.


Marc Alexander is a Los Angeles-based writer, photographer and purveyor of urban culture.



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