The most surprising comebacks

The musical comeback is a rare and mystical thing indeed, with very few artists having the opportunity to strike it hot more than once. Most acts who make a name for themselves usually will come and go all within a very short timespan, less than five years, before they fade into obscurity and are relegated to making albums for the fans they were able to scoop up and hold on to. Few artists last longer, having hit after hit for a decade or an entire career. Even more rare? The comeback.


Cher (from

Sometimes an artist will reach fame, sustain themselves for a few albums and then fade away, only to make a surprising return years or even decades later. Tina Turner is one of those, reaching superstardom following her comeback in 1984 and having a second minor comeback in the late 90s. Tina was outdone, however, by another diva who broke records during her comeback in 1998. Cher is perhaps the comeback queen and Believe may be the biggest comeback hit of all time, earning Cher the record for oldest woman to hit #1. A year later, rock-legend Santana had a comeback that would have been surprising considering his style of music, except he recorded an album with some of the late-90’s biggest names including Rob Thomas and Dave Matthews. Nonetheless, seeing a Woodstock performer like Carlos Santana win ten Grammy Awards in 2000 was quite the newsmaker.

Who are some other surprising comeback performers since then?

Britney Spears – Britney had a period of great difficulty in her highly publicized personal life in the mid-2000s that brought her plenty of ridicule before that all changed and seemed to earn her the unified support of the public. That support gave her her biggest hits since Toxic with Womanizer and Circus and a hit album that was followed by Femme Fetale in 2000 that extended her popularity. In fact, Britney has had more Top 10s and #1 hits from 2008-2011 than she did from 1998-2007.

Enrique Iglesias – Enrique came and went with the Latin pop explosion of 1999 along with Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez and many others. A few years later, he was having flops. In 2010, out of nowhere on the back of Pitbull‘s fame came I Like It and Tonight, both technically bigger hits than his most remembered Bailamos and Hero. I suspect his current hits aren’t as synonymous with his name the way his earlier hits were, much like the one-off comeback hits from Nelly, Jennifer Lopez and Will Smith. Yes, those three very recently had big hits following years of being out of the musical spotlight too.

Train – The band Train has been around since 1999 with their first single Meet Virginia. Album after album, minor hit after minor hit, they changed up their sound enough to give them the biggest digital single of 2010 with Hey Soul Sister. It’s so odd to see a band that had been around, lurking in the mainstream’s consciousness for as long as they have suddenly be able to be as big as they are in such a dance-pop, youth-oriented world of music, led by 43-year-old Pat Monahan.

Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey (from

Mariah Carey – Mariah’s comeback in 2005 was what I would call the most surprising comeback of all time and the one that made me never doubt the ability of anyone to make a comeback (even Celine Dion!). Why? She had reached such a point of uncool in the early 2000s that anything she touched flopped, everything she released sucked, even her name was dated and reeked of embarrassment and an association to lame music. The queen of the pop charts in the 1990s was done. It seemed. In 2005, We Belong Together became one of the biggest hits of the decade and of her career.

The following are several artists who looked poised to make a comeback, but didn’t.

Shania Twain – It’s been well over a decade since her last album and while talks have been ongoing for several years that she was releasing a new album, nothing has surfaced other than a few singles and a duet with Lionel Richie on his current comeback album. The singles she released went nowhere and Shania is no more present on the music scene now than she was last year or five years ago.

Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi Lauper (from

Cyndi Lauper – This is one that personally surprised me. I thought Cyndi was capable of having a Cher-styled comeback with the same epic proportions that made Cher the biggest diva at the turn of the last decade. Exactly ten years later, in 2008, Cyndi had a retro-styled modern dance track with Into The Nightlife that looked to replicate the events of ten years ago and make her Madonna‘s biggest rival. It didn’t even leave the clubs, but it had everything needed to make Cyndi the Diva Queen.

Artists Who Need To Make A Comeback

Missy Elliott – We’ve been hearing about this one for several years yet Block Party seems stuck on the back burner. However, there has been confirmation that next month, Missy will drop TWO singles, continuing her lifelong commitment to Timbaland. They’ve had fire before but I’ll believe in this comeback when I hear it.

Justin Timberlake – It’s been six years. Justin has been doing many other things but pop music has been seriously lacking in the decent male acts since Justin’s last era ended.

Dixie Chicks – We understood their need to take time away from music following the events of March 10, 2003 in Shepherd’s Bush Empire Theatre, London but America has had a Democrate president for nearly four years now and while the Court Yard Hounds have been a pleasant substitute, they’re not the Dixie Chicks. We can’t wait forever, Natalie…but we will try.

Lauryn Hill – Most of us have given up waiting for a proper second studio record from Lauryn if her recent performing outbursts have given any indication to where her priorities lie. It was a nice wait before we knew better.

Amy Winehouse – Unfortunately, this one won’t happen but before her death in 2011, I would have considered an Amy Winehouse album the most anticipated item in music.

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