10 Hit Songs that Were Written for Another Artist
How well do you know your favorite song? I don’t mean the lyrics and melody. How well do you really know your favorite song? Meaning the history behind your favorite song. Ever listen to your favorite song and wonder the history behind it? Do you wonder who wrote it? How about the story behind it? Have you ever wondered, if the song was initially written for another artist? With the way pop and r&b hits are created in the music business, you’d be surprised by the story behind a lot of hit songs. Here are 10 mega hit songs that were originally written other artists.
10) Where my girls at? – 702
To start off our list of hit songs that were originally written for other artists, Where my girls at?, comes in at number 10. Where my girls are?, is an r&b hit song that was recorded by r&b female trio 702 and written by Missy Elliot. However, this mega hit was originally written for TLC and was intended to be on the mega hit album, FanMail. Unfortunately, TLC turned the song down. The song went on to become a huge hit for the group 702 and is actually there biggest hit to date. The single was certified gold and topped many charts. It went to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also went to #1 on the Rhythmic Top 40 Chart. While topping these charts and many others it ended up staying on the charts altogether for over 30 weeks. I think it’s safe to say how much of a hit Where my girls at? truly was. It even came in at #46 for Billboard’s list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.
9) Save the best for last – Vanessa Williams
One of the most popular r&b hit songs of the 90’s was Save the best for last by Vanessa Williams. This was not only a huge r&b hit, it was a top pop song and Vanessa Williams biggest hit to date. However, you’d be surprised to learn many vocalists actually turned this ballad down. Originally written for Whitney Houston, the legendary songstress turned it down. It was also turned down by fellow vocalists Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. When it finally landed on the lap of Vanessa Williams, she recorded it and it become a huge hit. It quickly went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Save the best for last become Williams biggest hit to date and is now her signature song. It was named Song of the Year in 1992 by ASCAP and nominated for Song of the Year at the 1993 Grammys. Many may have turned it down initially but it’s safe to say it sealed its place in music history.
Irreplaceable – Beyonce
2006 mega hit song Irreplaceable which was written by Ne-Yo and recorded by Beyonce was actually written for Shania Twain. When Ne-Yo wrote the song he wanted it to be a mainstream crossover song for a country female singer with an r&b vibe to it. He initially had Shania Twain or Faith Hill in mind. However, Beyonce ended up hearing and loving it. Not long afterwards she recorded it for her B’day album and the rest is history. The song instantly became a huge hit that gained international success. The hit song shot to #1 on the Billboard Charts and remained there for 10 consecutive weeks. It was also the biggest single from Beyonce’s B’day album. One of the most biggest factors that led to the success of this song is its universal appeal. Irreplaceable topped the charts in multiple different countries. The single went double platinum alone, making it one of Beyonce’s and Ne-Yo’s biggest songs to date.
7) Love shoulda brought your home – Toni Braxton
Coming in at #7 on our list of hit songs originally written for other artists is Love shoulda brought you home by Toni Braxton. This 90’s hit and now all-time classic was written by legendary songwriter and singer Babyface, and recorded by legendary vocalist Toni Braxton. But it was originally written for another legend, Anita Baker. Love shoulda brought you home was always meant to be on the classic Eddie Murphy film Boomerang. However, Anita Baker was selected to record the song. Toni Braxton was meant to simply demo the song for her. This was highly due to both of the vocalists sounding a lot alike. When the song was complete Anita Baker had to pass on it due to her busy schedule, but she suggested the demo singer keep the song for herself. Toni Braxton went on to record the song and it became a smash hit. It was her debut solo single and topped both the pop and r&b Billboard charts. Not only was it a huge U.S hit, it gained international success as well. With many more hits to come, Love shoulda brought you home definitely started the process of making Braxton a chart-topping, successful singer.
6) Baby one more time
Debut single for pop singer Britney Spears, Baby one more time was actually written for TLC. Just like many other hit songs that were turned down by other artists, this one comes in at #6 on our countdown. Written by Max Martin, and offered to TLC, the group turned it down stating “the lyrics were too immature.” However, it went on to become a huge hit for Spears and introduced her to the public. The song was such a hit that it went to #1 in over 18 countries and sold millions of copies as a single alone. The success of the single helped make her debut album a huge success. Baby one more time is also considered one of Spears most popular songs to date along with other chart topping hit songs.
5) S.O.S – Rihanna
Another hit song that was originally written for another r&b singer is S.O.S by Rihanna. This upbeat r&b cross over hit was recorded by Rihanna, but written for Christina Milian. S.O.S was released in early 2006 and quickly became a pop/r&b hit song. Not only did the record generate commercial success it helped bring Rihanna mainstream success becoming her 1st #1 hit on the charts. The single was certified platinum and also went to #1 in several overseas countries such as Europe and Australia. Some sources say Christina Milian turned the record down. Some say the decision was changed for someone else to record it without her permission. It ended up being a fun, playful hit for Rihanna with many more hit songs to follow
4) P.Y.T – Michael Jackson
#4 on our list of hit songs that were originally written for other singers is P.Y.T by Michael Jackson. This classic, top pop song was initially written for singer James Ingram. Although Ingram ended up not singing this hit song he actually helped write it along with producer and musician Quincy Jones. The song was passed onto the King of Pop and recorded for his classic Thriller album. P.Y.T quickly became a hit song, released in 1983 and made it to #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts. This made the single the 6th top 10 hit from the Thriller album on the charts. Not only was P.Y.T a top hit in the U.S., it also topped the U.K and Belgium charts. Now considered one of the many classic hits from Michael Jackson, P.Y.T has been performed by several artists. It’s also been sampled by many artists including Monica, Kanye West and many more. The success of this single as well as many other hits helped sealed Jackson’s throne as the King of Pop.
3) This will be – Natalie Cole
R&B classic This will be by Natalie Cole was actually written for the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin. However, Franklin turned it down. Written by Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy, and released in 1975 it instantly became a huge hit. This will be became one of Natalie Cole’s biggest hits to date and is arguably her signature song. It topped several charts including the R&B, Pop and dance charts. The song allowed Natalie Cole to win several grammys for the record including Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best New Artist. Not only was This will be a chart topping hit during it’s heyday. It also has a lasting legacy and is still celebrated. The hit song was featured in several movies including The parent trap, A cinderella story and Taxi. It’s also a signature song synonymous with romance and falling in love signature. This will be may have been one of Natalie Cole’s 1st hit songs but it certainly wasn’t her last. She went on to become a legend.
2) How will I know – Whitney Houston
When listening to the 80’s pop/ r&b classic How will I know sung by the legendary Whitney Houston, it’s hard to picture anyone else singing the song. But did you know this mega hit was originally written for fellow legend Janet Jackson. How will I know was written by George Merrill, Shannon Rubicam and Narada Michael Walden, intended for Janet Jackson. However, Janet and her management weren’t too crazy about the song. They felt like it was “weak in comparison” to her other material at the time. Initially disappointed by Janet’s decision, songwriter George Merrill’s publisher ended up playing the demo for Arista records and they knew it would be perfect for Whitney. She went on to record it for her debut album and the rest is history. Shooting straight to #1 on the Billboard Charts once it was released, How will I know became a huge hit. It topped the dance, pop and r&b charts. It also went on to achieve worldwide success topping the charts in countless countries including United Kingdom, Sweden and Ireland. The song went on to win awards, be performed at multiple concerts and noted performances and even featured in commercials and movies.
1) Umbrella – Rihanna
One of the biggest modern day hits that gained international success is Umbrella by superstar Rihanna. Released in 2007 and instantly becoming a modern day classic, this R&B/Pop single was originally written for Britney Spears. Umbrella was meant to be Spears major comeback hit but it was reported that she turned it down. Rihanna heard the demo for it shortly afterwards and fell in love with it. She recorded the song for her Good girl gone bad album and released it as a single. The moment it premiered it was a favorite among many and huge hit. Umbrella went to #1 on the Billboard Pop and R&B charts while also becoming an international mega hit. It topped the charts in multiple countries including Canada, Germany, Australia and Spain. It was the single that literally shot Rihanna into superstar status. Umbrella is still considered Rihanna’s most successful hit song this very day. It may have been initially turned down but it ended up being the perfect hit record for her.
As people often say “every song has a story.” Sometimes, it’s the story behind the song that makes the song all the more interesting. In this case knowing so many hit songs were turned down and dismissed by artists, yet went on to become huge hits makes the story interesting. Classic hit songs being turned down and later on picked up by other artists have gone in the music industry for decades. These songs aren’t the only ones it happened with. There are literally too many scenarios to name all. However, these 10 mentioned are so of the most popular songs this occurred with. Next time you’re working on a song as a r&b singer or professional songwriter and it doesn’t go as planned, think of these songs that were initially turned down.