Everyone loves a good comeback story, and pop culture is full of them. But while actors can easily bounce back from a flop film or short-lived TV series, recording artists tend to find it much harder to reverse directions once they start sliding down fame’s slippery slope. Here however, are three divine divas who managed to not only buck the odds, but to crush them underfoot with their comebacks of the highest order.
The Rise: In 1987, Kylie Minogue, then starring on the Australian soap opera Neighbours, launched her pop music career. From 1987 to 1995 she managed to send over 20 singles into the Top 20 of the UK music charts, including her worldwide hit “The Loco-Motion”, which became a smash in North America, reaching #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The Fall: After fulfilling her contract with PWL Records, Minogue wanted to move to a less-controlling label, one that would allow her to branch out in a new direction and hopefully help her be taken more seriously as an artist. She signed with Deconstruction and released two albums with them. The second set, Impossible Princess, has since become a fan favourite, but upon its release it was noted mainly for being Minogue’s first big “miss”. The lead single from the album, “Some Kind of Bliss” not only became her lowest-charting lead single, but it became her lowest charting single ever, missing the UK Top 20 completely (peaking at #22). Her follow-up singles, “Did It Again” and “Breathe” faired slightly better – both peaked at #14 – but the message was clear, radio didn’t care much for “serious” Kylie and without radio support, a UK artist is pretty much in a sinking ship (at least back in the pre-YouTube/iTunes age). It seemed that Kylie’s days of big hits were behind her, and Deconstruction dropped her from the label.
The Comeback: Minogue managed to pick herself up, dust herself off and get herself signed to a new label, Parlophone. However, there was one caveat – they wanted “fun” Kylie back. Her resulting Parlophone debut, 2000’s Light Years, featured a confident, bold, disco-tinged sound. Lead single “Spinning Around” was quickly embraced by Minogue fans old and new and debuted at #1 in the UK. Her comeback then became a full-fledged career resurgence with her next album, Fever. That set included the smash single “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”, which not only hit #1 in dozens of countries around the world, but also returned Minogue to the top U.S. charts, landing her in the Billboard Top 10 for the first time in almost 15 years.
The Rise: From 1990 to 2000, Mariah Carey dominated the airwaves and sales charts, releasing a non-stop barrage of hits (15 of which topped the Billboard Hot 100), including “One Sweet Day”, her 1995 duet with Boyz II Men that spent a record-breaking 16 weeks at #1.
The Fall: After signing with Virgin in 2000 for a highly publicized $100 million contract, her first product was the soundtrack to her motion picture debut. Glitter became a double debacle, the film flopped at the box office and the soundtrack under-performed on the charts. Virgin quickly cut their losses and bought out Carey’s contract. She then signed to Island Records but her first album for them, Charmbracelet, did little to reverse her fortunes. Poorly received by critics and avoided by radio, the set’s lead single, “Through The Rain” only managed to limp to #81 on the Billboard Hot 100. Two follow-up singles, including a cover of Def Leppard’s “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” failed to make the Hot 100 at all.
The Comeback: Island Records stuck by Carey though, and she went to work with a number of different songwriters and producers for her next album, 2005’s The Emancipation of Mimi. Things got off to a promising start with lead single “It’s Like That” charting at #14, but no one could have expected what happened next. Her follow-up single, “We Belong Together” was heralded as a return to form for the songstress and not only did it bring her back to the #1 spot on the Hot 100, it stayed there for 14 weeks, making it her biggest solo hit ever. It was such a massive hit that Billboard eventually crowned it “Song of The Decade”. Carey kept the momentum going, sending third single from the set, “Shake It Off” to #2 and then the fourth single (from a re-released deluxe version of Mimi), “Don’t Forget About Us” once again brought her back to the Hot 100’s penthouse position.
The Rise: Pink burst on the music scene with her tough-girl swagger in 2000 and in short order released two hit albums along with a handful of Top 10 hits like “Most Girls”, “Don’t Let Me Get Me” and her #1 collaboration with Christina Aguilera, L’il Kim and Mya, “Lady Marmalade”
The Fall: Experimenting with a rawer, rock-tinged sound, Pink’s third album, 2003’s Try This, didn’t catch on with radio or music buyers. Only one of the set’s three singles, lead release “Trouble” (which would eventually nab her a Grammy for best female rock performance), managed to make any chart impact, peaking at a lowly #68 on the Hot 100. This only furthered the notion Pink was already on her way out – which was sparked earlier that year when “Feel Good Time”, her contribution to the soundtrack to Charlie’s Angel’s Full Throttle stalled at #60 (which was especially harsh since the soundtrack to the first Charlie’s Angels had produced a #1 smash hit in the form of “Independent Women” by Destiny’s Child).
The Comeback: Never to take anything lying down, Pink resurfaced in 2006 with her fourth set, the knowingly titled I’m Not Dead. Lead single “Stupid Girls” climbed to #13, bringing her back to the Top 20 for the first time in 4 years, and subsequent releases “Who Knew” and “U + Ur Hand” broke into the Top 10, both peaking at #9. And just as Kylie Minogue before her, Pink proved with her next release that she wasn’t just having a comeback, she was having a career resurgence. After embarking on a massive world tour, she released Funhouse in 2008 and lead single “So What” became her first solo #1 hit. She’s since topped the charts two more times – with “Raise Your Glass” in 2010 and with her duet with Nate Ruess, “Just Give Me A Reason” in 2013.