Collins left Genesis in 1996 to focus on his solo career.  The last studio album with him as the lead singer was 1991's We Can't Dance. He and Gabriel reunited with other Genesis members in 1999 to re-record "The Carpet Crawlers" for Genesis' Turn It On Again: The Hits. Recently, he discussed being open to reuniting with Genesis.  Collins stated he preferred returning if Gabriel took the vocals and he performed as drummer. There are no official plans announced of a reunion.
An early theme in Collins' music, although never specifically mentioned in his albums, involved his then recent divorce. Two songs he wrote on the Genesis album Duke (1980), "Please Don't Ask" and "Misunderstanding", dealt with failed relationships. With the recording of his first solo album, Face Value (1981), Collins attributed his divorce as his main influence. 
Collins' marital frustrations formed the bulk of his first solo album as well as his sophomore effort, Hello, I Must Be Going! (1982). With songs such as "Like China" and "I Don't Care Anymore", Collins' early albums had a dark presence, usually heavy on the drums. Regarding Face Value, he says, "I had a wife, two children, two dogs, and the next day I didn't have anything. So a lot of these songs were written because I was going through these emotional changes."  There were occasional poppier influences - Face Value's "Behind the Lines", for example, was a jazzy remake of a Genesis song he co-wrote. Face Value was a critical and commercial success, and saw Collins' profile increase further. However, despite a UK #1 cover of The Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love", "Hello, I Must Be Going!", Face Value's follow-up, was seen as overall disappointment by many critics, the album failing to capitalise on previous successes, and spawning no other signifiant hits. It did nevertheless reach #2 on the UK album chart, spending well over a year there.
A notable episode in Collins' career took place in 1982, when he produced Something's Going On, a solo album by Anni-Frid Lyngstad (Frida), of ABBA fame. Frida, who had just parted with bandmate and husband Benny Andersson, had been heavily impressed by Collins' solo efforts and the personal, emotional load they conveyed and consequently, she approached Collins with her own solo project. The resulting album, featuring Collins himself on drums, brought the 1982 smash hit "I Know There's Something Going On" (Russ Ballard) and Collins' duet with Frida titled "Here We'll Stay." An edit featuring Frida on all vocals was released as a single.
A turning point in Collins' musical style came when he was asked to compose the title track for the film Against All Odds, a song which he re-worked to become "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" from an original Face Value session out-take entitled 'How Can You Sit There?'. The emotionally charged ballad was an instant classic and shot to #1 in the US but #2 in the UK, unable to get past Lionel Richie's "Hello". It is seen by many critics as the beginning of Collins' move away from his earlier darker and more dramatic material and towards a more pop-friendly, middle of the road, electronic-driven style.
In 1984, Collins garnered attention when he produced Philip Bailey's Chinese Wall album. He performed a duet on one of the album's tracks, "Easy Lover" which went to #2 on the U.S. pop chart and spent 4 weeks at #1 in the UK. Collins worked with the horn section of Bailey's band, Earth, Wind & Fire (later known as the Phenix Horns) throughout the 1980s, both on solo and Genesis tracks. By the end of 1984, Collins participated in Bob Geldof's Band Aid charity project, as well as, playing drums on the Band Aid single "Feed The World (Do They Know Its Christmas)".
In 1985, Collins was invited to perform at Live Aid, Bob Geldof's charity concert, at both Wembley Stadium in England, and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia in the U.S. He accomplished this by performing earlier in the day at Wembley as both a solo artist and alongside Sting, then boarding a Concorde to perform his solo material, and drum for Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton in Philadelphia. Also around this time, Phil worked with Howard Jones on a single. Howard Jones re-recorded his song "No One Is To Blame",off his Dream into Action album, and it featured Phil Collins as drummer, backing vocalist, and producer. He has also played drums on singles for Robert Plant, and Tina Turner on their respective albums. He also produced & played drums on the Eric Clapton album Behind The Sun. His solo success, as well as his concurrent career with Genesis, led to a 1985 cover story in Rolling Stone.
Collins released his most successful album, No Jacket Required, earlier that same year. It contained the hits "Sussudio", "One More Night" and "Take Me Home". The album featured Sting and ex-bandmate Peter Gabriel as backing vocalists. He also recorded the successful song "Separate Lives", a duet with Marilyn Martin, and an American number one, for the movie White Nights. Collins had three American number-one songs in 1985, the most by any artist that year.  No Jacket Required went on to win the Grammy for Album of the Year.
No Jacket Required received criticism that the album was too safe despite its upbeat reviews and commercial success. A positive review by David Fricke of Rolling Stone ended, "After years on the art-rock fringe, Collins has established himself firmly in the middle of the road. Perhaps he should consider testing himself and his new fans' expectations next time around."  "Sussudio" also drew criticism for sounding too similar to Prince's "1999", a charge that Collins did not deny. . Nevertheless, the album went straight to #1 in the US (selling faster than "Thriller") and UK.
In 1989, Collins produced another successful album, ...But Seriously, featuring the anti-homelessness anthem "Another Day in Paradise", with David Crosby on backing vocals. The song went to Number 1 on the Billboard Charts at the end of 1989 and won Collins a Grammy for Record of the Year (1990). In the process it became the last #1 hit of the 1980s. Other songs included "Something Happened on the Way to Heaven", "Do You Remember?" (US release only), and "I Wish ItWould Rain Down" (the latter featuring long-time friend Clapton on guitar). Songs about apartheid and homelessness demonstrated Collins' turn to politically-driven material. This theme recurred on his later albums. A live album, Serious Hits... Live! (1990), followed.
Phil Collins's highest selling album, 1985's No Jacket Required, went on to win the Grammy for Album of the Year.
A particularly negative - and often misunderstood - episode in Collins' relationship with the press and British public came when he was quoted as telling The Sun newspaper in April 1992 on the day of the General Election that he would "leave the country" if a Labour government was elected. However, Collins has repeatedly pointed out that this was not in any way an endorsement of the (at the time) ruling