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25 Hit Songs That Were Written For Other Singers

I tell my clients who are aspiring popstars one thing; it’s all about the song. If you want to make it, you need to write or find and record a great song. While I prefer you learn to write them yourself, many iconic pop songs were originally intended for someone else to perform. Did you know David Bowie’s “The Golden Years” was written with the intention of giving it to Elvis? When I heard that David Bowie died today it was crushing, so I figured this article would make you smile. Here are 25 songs you didn’t know were written with other singers in mind, but for one reason or another went to others, and our ears are better for it.

  1. SONG: “Telephone”
    Turned Down By: Britney Spears
    Made Famous by: Lady Gaga

Gaga wrote “Telephone” for Britney’s “Circus” album, but after the pop superstar decided not to put it on her album, Gaga decided to record it herself with Beyonce and release it on her next album “Fame Monster”. A demo of Spears singing the track leaked in 2010.

 

  1. SONG: “Holiday”
    Turned Down By: Mary Wilson
    Made Famous By: Madonna

The unstoppable “Holiday” was passed around to Phyllis Hyman and then to Supremes founding member Mary Wilson before it came to Madonna, who guided the track to a No. 16 peak on the Hot 100 and gave the upstart singer her first taste of the chart. How would the song have sounded with an R&B backbone? The world will never know.

 

  1. SONG: “Whataya Want From Me”
    Turned Down By: P!nk
    Made Famous By: Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert’s biggest hit to date could have ended up on P!nk’s “Funhouse” album. P!nk co-wrote the song with Max Martin and Shellback before giving it to the “American Idol” runner-up. P!nk eventually recorded her own version of “Whataya Want From Me,” with the exact same arrangement, and placed it on her “Greatest Hits… So Far!!!” compilation in 2010 — but Lambert’s rafter-reaching vocals still score the victory in a side-by-side comparison. 

 

  1. SONG: “…Baby One More Time”
    Turned Down By: TLC
    Made Famous By: Britney Spears

This is one denial that seemed to work out for all parties involved: Max Martin’s pop track was originally offered to TLC for their “Fan Mail” album, but the R&B group rejected the song, which served as Spears’ debut single. Without “…Baby One More Time,” Spears perhaps would not have exploded on to the scene in such a huge way; meanwhile, TLC packed “FanMail” with hits like “No Scrubs” and “Unpretty,” and the album was eventually nominated for album of the year at the Grammy Awards.

 

  1. SONG: “We Can’t Stop”
    Turned Down By: Rihanna
    Made Famous by: Miley Cyrus

Rihanna was going to record the song until she heard “Pour It Up,” which she liked better. “We Can’t Stop” sold 2 million copies and launched Miley into her sexually driven career as a pop star who’s certainly NOT Hannah Montana.

 

  1. SONG: “Happy”
    Turned Down By: Cee Lo Green
    Made Famous By: Pharrell Williams

Pharrell admitted, “[Cee Lo] wanted to do it… and he did do it. He sounded amazing on it. He burns my version! But… how do I say this diplomatically? The powers that be, at the time, did not see it fit for him. Some folks on his team just felt that the priority should be on [Cee Lo’s] album at the time [2012’s Cee Lo’s Magic Moment], so they elected not to do that song.”

 

  1. SONG: “Since U Been Gone”
    Turned Down By: Pink, Hillary Duff
    Made Famous By: Kelly Clarkson

Dr. Luke and Max Martin originally teamed up to give P!nk another hit, and when she turned it down, they reached out to Hillary Duff. But the story goes that Clive Davis convinced the producers to give the song to Clarkson, who turned it into the centerpiece of her “Breakaway” and helped it sell 2.6 million downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

 

  1. SONG: “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love Again”
    Turned Down By: Rihanna
    Made Famous By: Usher

There were about 200 songs allegedly written for Rihanna’s Loud album. Of course, not everything could make the cut, so this one ended up going to Usher.

 

  1. SONG: “Friends in Low Places”
    Previously Recorded By: Mark Chesnutt
    Made Famous By: Garth Brooks

While Brooks claimed in the liner notes of “The Hits” that “Friends in Low Places” was originally held for him, Mark Chesnutt, who enjoyed a run of success in the early 90s, also recorded the song. His version appears on his 1990 debut “Too Cold at Home” — released only a month after Brooks’ “No Fences” — and was the B-side to his 1991 single “Broken Promise Land.” Man feuds are not sexy.

 

  1. SONG: “S.O.S.”
    Turned Down By: Christina Milian
    Made Famous By: Rihanna

In a hits-packed career, “S.O.S.” still stands out for Rihanna: the catchy dance track spent three weeks atop the Hot 100, giving Rihanna her first number one hit. Christina Milian, who passed up the chance to record the track, certainly could have used the smash single.

 

  1. SONG: Skyscraper
    Turned Down By: Jordin Sparks
    Made Famous By: Demi Lovato

Shortly after Demi debuted the track, Jordin released a video saying she had the song before Demi; and had recorded her own demo before it went to Lovato. Jordin gave Demi props for doing a great job before releasing her live version on twitter.

 

  1. SONG: “Gold Digger”
    Turned Down By: Shawnna
    Made Famous By: Kanye West

“Gold Digger” became one of Kanye’s biggest hits to date, but would the Jamie Foxx-assisted “Late Registration” jam have topped the Hot 100 if it had been recorded by Chicago rapstress Shawnna? After she passed on the beat, West rewrote the hook to accommodate a male perspective, and struck, er, gold.

 

  1. SONG: “Call Me”
    Turned Down By: Stevie Nicks
    Made Famous By: Blondie

Disco producer Giorgio Moroder originally asked Fleetwood Mac’s lead songstress to help compose lyrics and deliver vocals for his latest dance song, but when contracts prevented the collaboration from happening, Moroder turned to Debbie Harry, who co-wrote “Call Me.” Nicks scored a huge hit two years later with “Edge of Seventeen,” but could she have guided “Call Me” to its No. 1 spot on the Hot 100, as Blondie did?

 

  1. “Nothin’ On You”
    Turned Down By: Lupe Fiasco
    Made Famous By: B.o.B.

“Nothin’ On You” was originally offered to another Atlantic hip-hop artist, Lupe Fiasco but the label rejected Fiasco’s version of the track, which made the rapper reach a breaking point. “It was less about the bruised ego but more the audacity of it. It was mentally destructive,” he said in an interview after the song’s release. 

 

  1. “Umbrella”
    Turned Down By: Britney Spears
    Made Famous By: Rihanna

Back in 2007, a full-fledged Britney Spears comeback was far from assured, after a series of personal meltdowns prevented the pop superstar from once again reaching greatness. Legend has it that “Umbrella” writer/co-producer The-Dream offered the song to Brit as a way to engineer a return to the throne, but that her management nixed the track, which eventually went to Rihanna and became a No. 1 record. It’s not hard to imagine Spears’ voice on the track, but it does seem kind of funny to after the “umbrella-paparazzi” incident.

 

  1.  SONG: “My Humps”
    ORIGINALLY INTENDED FOR: The Pussycat Dolls
    Made Famous By: The Black Eyed Peas

Will.i.am said he originally wrote the tune for The Pussycat Dolls, but changed his mind and decided to have them record “Beep” instead. He then took “My Humps” for his own music group.

 

  1. SONG: “Boom Clap”
    Turned Down By: Hilary Duff
    Made Famous By: Charli XCX

Charli dished, “I’ve had that song for about a year, I wrote it with Patrick Berger. My number one project as a songwriter is to write for Hilary Duff, so when I heard about this, I was like, ‘F**k! Are you serious?! This is my ‘in!’ I’m going to make a Hilary Duff album!’ So we sent over “Boom Clap,” but they came back and were like, ‘This isn’t cool enough for Hilary.’ I was, like, crushed. I thought I was a cool writer, but maybe I’m not. Hilary didn’t want my song. What a life-ruiner.”

 

  1. SONG: “How Will I Know”
    Turned Down By: Janet Jackson
    Made Famous By: Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston’s No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 stands as one of the artist’s most iconic tracks — but it could have sounded a lot different with Janet Jackson singing. Songwriters George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam approached Janet’s management team with a demo, but she turned it down. Thanks in large part to Clive Davis, Houston was given the track and turned it into the classic it is today.

 

  1. SONG: “Toxic”
    Turned Down By: Kylie Minogue
    Made Famous By: Britney Spears

2004 “Toxic” won Britney her first Grammy and had 2.2 million downloads but the seductive song could have been a sequel to Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” “I listened to a snippet of it in the record company offices and decided against it,” Minogue said in a 2008 interview. “It’s like the fish that got away. You just have to accept it.”

 

  1. SONG: “I’m A Slave 4 U”
    Turned Down By: Janet Jackson
    Made Famous By: Britney Spears

The Neptunes’ slinky pop track was passed on by Janet Jackson. Can you imagine if Britney had never danced with a python at the MTV VMA’s? Cue broken hearts everywhere. This song became the lead single of Britney’s album cementing her image as a sex symbol.

 

  1. SONG: “Don’t Cha”
    Turned Down By: Paris Hilton
    Made Famous By: The Pussycat Dolls

The salacious single was originally offered to both the Sugababes and Paris Hilton before ending up with the Pussycat Dolls, who used the track as the lead single from their 2005 debut album “PCD.” Hilton’s 2006 debut LP “Paris” didn’t do well. Do you even remember it?

 

  1. SONG: “Let’s Get Loud”
    Turned Down By: Gloria Estefan
    Made Famous By: Jennifer Lopez

“Let’s Get Loud” was originally written by Estefan and Kike Santander for the Latin-pop superstar to use for herself, but the song was eventually passed to Lopez, who made it into one of the biggest hits from her 1999 debut “On the 6.” JLo’s album sold 6 million copies according to Wikipedia.

 

  1. SONG: “Disturbia”
    Turned Down By: Chris Brown
    Made Famous by: Rihanna

Months before the 2009 Grammy Awards, Chris Brown co-wrote an electro-pop jam that was considered for the deluxe edition of his “Exclusive” album. Brown decided to record “Forever” instead, and gave “Disturbia” to his girlfriend Rihanna, who turned it into another No. 1 hit on the Hot 100.

 

  1. SONG: “Break Free”
    Turned Down By: Austin Mahone
    Made Famous By: Ariana Grande feat. Zedd

Austin himself revealed to Tiger Beat, “Actually, Ariana’s new song that just came out was supposed to be mine like a year ago. “Break Free,” like, they sent it to me and I was supposed to record it, but I never did.” I love the eloquence of kids.

 

  1. SONG: “Milkshake”
    Turned Down By: Britney Spears
    Made Famous By: Kelis

The Neptunes wrote “Milkshake” for Britney Spears. Briney passed on the song and it was ultimately used as the lead single off Kelis’ third album, Tasty.

 

Article written by Aria Johnson. If you need help with your music career, or figuring out how to make it in the music business, call us at The Golden Voice in Bend, Oregon for Vocal Coaching and Artist Development.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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