music 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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David Bowie was a huge Elvis Presley fan. The Thin White Duke reportedly wrote the song "Golden Years" for Elvis. One story is that Bowie asked his then-wife Angie to ask the King of Rock n' Roll if he wanted to record the song, but she was too nervous to deliver the request. There is also a story that Bowie did, in fact, ask Elvis to record the song, but the King turned him down and then died two years later.

It worked out for Bowie in the end. He recorded the song himself and put the tune on his 1975 album Station to Station. "Golden Years" reached Top 10 status in both the United States and around the world. It remains one of Bowie's most iconic songs.

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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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Producer Giorgio Moroder asked Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac to help him write and perform the song "Call Me." However, at the time, Nicks was signed with Modern Records and contractually unable to work with Moroder. The producer then asked Debbie Harry to write the lyrics and melody to "Call Me." Moroder had already penned a rough instrumental track.

In just a quick couple hours, they finished the song. It would appear as the theme song in the 1980 Richard Gere movie American Gigolo. The track was written from the perspective of the protagonist, a male prostitute. "Call Me" would go on to hit No. 1 for six consecutive weeks on the Hot Billboard 100 and become Blondie's biggest hit. It was also the top-selling single of the year in the United States in 1980.

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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."