songs 18 Hugely Popular Songs That Were Originally Written For Someone Else  

Ann Casano
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List Rules Vote up the songs with the most surprising originally intended singers.

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if a song is going to be a hit, especially in an industry where songs are regularly written in the hopes that a major musician will want to sing them. It can be a real gamble. Songs intended for other artists are often passed up and taken to the next willing singer. For a few of these singers who passed up hit songs, it's sad to consider just how very different their careers would have been if they'd had those mega hits on their resumes.

Some of these popular songs written for different singers were penned by other popular artists. Ed Sheeran has done this, as has Prince, though sometimes a songwriter realizes they have a hit on their hands and keeps it for themselves instead. A few times a song was passed on to singers in an entirely different genre of music, which may account for why it ended up working so well. 

Some of these hit songs intended musicians just sound like a crazy mismatch. Imagine Celine Dion singing Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing" or Shawnna singing Kayne West’s “Gold Digger.” Here are even more hit songs originally written for other artists that are guaranteed to boggle your mind.

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In the late 1990s, Aerosmith was supposed to write a power ballad for the Armageddon soundtrack, a film starring Steven Tyler's daughter Liv. However, the band had just been out promoting their Nine Lives album and were pretty burnt out. Label executives brought in a few drafts of songs written by other songwriters, one of them was from power ballad writing queen Diane Warren called "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." The song had been originally marked for someone else (no one was saying whom) as a female piano ballad, but Aerosmith made a demo, and the label loved it.

Even if music executives were not willing to share who the song was originally written for, Diane Warren did rather spill the beans in a 2016 interview. Warren got the idea for the song after hearing a story from an interview with Barbra Streisand's husband, who said that he did not like to go to sleep because he missed his wife. Warren originally had a female voice in mind but loved Tyler's take on her song:

"...when I wrote it I thought it would end up being like Celine Dion or somebody like that, you know, back in the day...but it's so much cooler to hear someone like Steven Tyler - this gruff, macho rock star, this amazing tough guy - for him to say that lyric, it just brought a whole other dimension to it. I don't think it would have been the same hit, or the same standard, if it wasn't for someone like Steven Tyler doing that song."

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Britney Spears quickly catapulted from sweet innocent Mouseketeer to sexy popstar with the 1998 smash hit "...Baby One More Time." However, songwriters Max Martin and Rami Yocoub originally wrote the song for the musical trio TLC. They both thought the tune would gel with the whole 1990s TLC vibe.

Turns out the songwriters were wrong. But even though, "...Baby One More Time" went on to be a massive hit for Spears, T-Boz of TLC doesn't regret passing on the song.

"I was like, I like the song but do I think it's a hit? Do I think it's TLC? I'm not saying 'hit me baby.' No disrespect to Britney," T-Boz said. "It's good for her. But was I going to say 'hit me baby one more time'? Hell no!"

"That's not even my subject of conversation, so you know, it worked for her, I'm happy for her, I like Britney," T-Boz explained. "Every song isn't good for each artist, and when you're a real artist you know what you believe in and what you really want to sing. So, I'm clear that it was a hit, but I'm also clear that it wasn't for TLC."

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Shape Of You - Rihanna

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On paper, it seems that a song originally written for Rihanna would not work for a singer-songwriter type like Ed Sheeran. But an odd thing happened while Sheeran was writing "Shape of You." Half-way through the writing process, he knew that the song would not suit Rihanna, but would fit his own musical style.

Sheeran explained how the turn came about during an interview with BBC Radio1 Breakfast:

"...we were writing this song and I was like, 'this would really work for Rihanna.' 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?' And then we sort of decided halfway through that we were just going to make it for me."

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"Umbrella" was written by Terius Nash and Christopher Stewart. In 2007, they brought the song to Britney Spears, who at the time was in desperate need of a hit, to record on her "comeback" album Blackout. Spears rejected the song and Rihanna snatched it up. The song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became the song of the summer in 2007. So many listeners downloaded the track that it caused iTunes to crash. It also brought Rihanna from pop star to superstar. 

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