12 Hit Songs Originally Written for Other Artists
There are some songs that seem to so unequivocally belong to an artist that it's difficult to imagine anyone else singing them instead. Take, for example, Britney Spears' seminal 1999 single, "...Baby One More Time," now synonymous with the pop icon, or Rihanna's swaggering, instantly singable "Umbrella," an '07 anthem that, nearly a decade later, remains a staple in her discography.
But in actuality, both tracks were written with other artists in mind, then shopped around before finally landing with Brit and RiRi. It happens more frequently than those not attuned to the music biz might expect, and has resulted in many a shocking change-up over the years. Below, see other huge hit songs originally penned for other singers.
Sia, "Cheap Thrills" ft. Sean Paul
The entirety of Sia's Grammy-nominated 2016 album, This Is Acting, is comprised of songs she wrote for (and were rejected by) other artists. Among the standouts is the Sean Paul-assisted "Cheap Thrills," which was originally intended for Rihanna.
Britney Spears, "Toxic"
This breathy 2004 club-kindler landed Spears her first and only Grammy, but it could have gone to Kylie Minogue had she not passed on the track.
"I wasn't at all angry when it worked for her," Minogue later said, per Capital FM. "It's like the fish that got away. You just have to accept it."
Lady Gaga, "Telephone" ft. Beyoncé
Gaga originally penned "Telephone" for Britney Spears' 2008 album, Circus, but after Spears recorded a demo, she decided it didn't work for her. Gaga ended up saving the song for her own record, 2009's The Fame Monster, and managed to nab a Beyoncé feature to boot.
Pussycat Dolls, "Don't Cha"
Over a decade later, The Pussycat Dolls' breakthrough single remains one of their most enduring, but turns out it almost went to Paris Hilton.
"I think I did hear the song, but not in the format that we all came to know and love," Hilton told Digital Spy in 2006. "If I'd heard that, of course I'd have jumped at the chance."
Though not technically offered to her first, Beyoncé's 2009 ballad may have ended up in the hands of Leona Lewis, had she not been too busy to record the track before Queen B.
"There was this huge scandal that originally 'Halo' was meant to go to Leona. That was never the case," songwriter Ryan Tedder explained on Key 103's In:Demand in 2009. In actuality, he'd sent the song to Beyoncé but hadn't heard back from her, so he started circulating it to other artists.
"What I did was foolishly say to Leona's camp, 'I have it on hold for another A-list artist and I'm pretty sure they'll take it, but if they don't, I just want to know if you like it enough to consider it,'" Tedder continued. "I sent it to them and they flipped on it. They loved it and instantly said they wanted to do it. I was like, 'Wait, wait, wait, no, it's not free yet!'"
Kelly Clarkson, "Since U Been Gone"
Clarkson was third in line to what remains one of her biggest chart hits: Both Pink and Hilary Duff said no to "Since U Been Gone" before it went to the American Idol winner.
Though Rihanna has passed on her fair share of now-famous songs, she's also no stranger to hand-me-downs. The Barbadian star's acclaimed 2007 chart-topper, "Umbrella," was written with Britney Spears in mind, then run by Mary J. Blige, before finally going to RiRi.
Aerosmith, "I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing"
While writing a tune for 1998's Armageddon —which marked the first major theatrical role for frontman Steve Tyler's daughter, Liv — Aerosmith found themselves in a creative rut following an extensive tour. Their deadline looming, they turned to acclaimed songwriter Diane Warren's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," which she later said she'd penned with "Celine Dion or somebody like that" in mind.
Justin Timberlake, "Rock Your Body"
"Rock Your Body," included on Justin Timberlake's 2002 solo debut, Justified, largely helped to establish the tone of his career post-*NSYNC, highlighting the soulful, sexed up melodies that drive much of his discography. However, it nearly went to the crowning jewel of pop, Michael Jackson, who rejected it and a number of other tracks that ultimately appeared on Justified.
Ed Sheeran, "Shape of You"
There are, unsurprisingly, a lot of songs thrown Rihanna's way, but Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" is perhaps one of the most left-field.
"I was like, 'This would really work for Rihanna,'" Sheeran told BBC Radio 1's Breakfast Show last year. "And then I started singing lyrics like 'putting Van the Man on the jukebox' and I was like, 'Well, she’s not really going to sing that, is she?'"
Selena Gomez, "Come and Get It"
Yep, Selena Gomez's "Come & Get It" — her first Top 10-charting single — was yet another RiRi reject.
Britney Spears, "...Baby One More Time"
And for the big finale, Spears' iconic, generation-shaping "....Baby One More Time" was initially floated to TLC. Can you believe?