11 songs that you never knew were written for other artists

It turns out that Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Since U Been Gone’ was meant to go to another pop punk princess

Certain songs are impossible to separate from their singers: Britney Spears’ ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’, Simple Mind’s ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ and Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’ are all examples that spring to mind. What’s that? They were all offered to other people? Never mind.

Songwriters often write with artists in mind, but there’s no guarantee that songs will end up with their predicted singers. And if the examples on this list show us anything, it’s that the right artist can make a song feel like it could never have been recorded by anyone else. Here are 11 songs that you might not have known were actually written for other artists.

‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’

Britney Spears - ...Baby One More Time (Official Video)

The debut single of one Ms Britney Spears almost passed her by entirely. ‘…Baby One More Time’ wasn’t written for the then-unknown starlet, but for 90s girl group TLC. Max Martin and Rami Yacoub thought the track fitted the group’s image, but TLC entirely disagreed, taking issue with the song’s refrain.

When the track began to circulate in search of another home, Simon Cowell, who was managing boyband 5ive at the time, made a bid for it. Cowell called Martin up to beg for the track, reportedly offering to buy him a Mercedes in exchange for it. But by that time the track was already promised to Britney, and the rest is history.

‘My Way’

Frank Sinatra - My Way (Live At Madison Square Garden, New York City / 1974 / 2019 Edit)

There’s a long history behind ‘My Way’. Based on the song ‘Comme d’habitude’ or ‘As Usual’ by French singer Claude Francois, the track was originally translated into English by none other than David Bowie. Bowie rewrote the lyrics over Francois’ original melody and produced an informal recording of the track. However, his version of ‘My Way’ was rejected.

The song was eventually retranslated by Paul Anka, who gave the track to Frank Sinatra. Anka’s record company were apparently annoyed that he didn’t keep the song for himself, but Anka was insistent: Sinatra had to be the one to sing ‘My Way’.

‘Hungry Heart’

Bruce Springsteen - Hungry Heart (Berlin '95 Version)

‘Hungry Heart’ would have been a Ramones song if Bruce Springsteen had kept his word. When Joey Ramone approached Springsteen and asked him to write a track for the Ramones, Springsteen set to work on ‘Hungry Heart’. However, he liked the end result a great deal and debated keeping it for himself. It was his manager, Jon Landeau, that convinced him to do so, by pointing out that Springsteen had a habit of giving away every upbeat track that he wrote.


Rihanna - Umbrella (Orange Version) (Official Music Video) ft. JAY-Z

When ‘Umbrella’ was written, Terius Nash and Christopher Stewart originally offered the song to Britney Spears. However, Spears’ team explained that the pop star already had a long list of tracks to record and she simply didn’t have capacity for ‘Umbrella’.

After sending the track to both Mary J. Blige and the CEO of Def Jam Island, a bidding war ensued. Def Jam ultimately won, securing the track for their up-and-coming artist, Rihanna.


Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers - Insider ft. Stevie Nicks

Tom Petty has claimed that he wrote ‘Insider’ in 10-15 minutes, and it seems that Stevie Nicks may have been the source of this inspiration. When Nicks joined Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers onstage during their 2006 tour, Petty introduced the song by telling the audience that he wrote it for Stevie. However, after he finished writing the track, Petty reportedly couldn’t bring himself to give it away. Nicks did end up featuring on the track and as an apology, Petty wrote ‘Stop Dragging My Heart Around’ for her. The two enjoyed working together so much that Nicks even offered to leave Fleetwood Mac and join The Heartbreakers.

‘Don’t You Forget About Me’

Simple Minds - Don't You (Forget About Me)

Technically, Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff did pen ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ with Simple Minds in, well, mind. However, the band passed, feeling they should focus on recording material that they themselves had written. The song was then offered to Bryan Ferry, who agreed that the song sounded like a hit, but didn’t feel the timing was right as he was hard at work on his album, Boys And Girls.

Billy Idol went on to pass on the track as well, as did Cy Cumin, lead singer of the Fixx. The song found its way back to Simple Minds, and after persuasion from Forsey and their label, the band recorded the track.


Pharrell Williams - Happy (Video)

According to Pharrell Willaims, Ce Lo Green was the first to record ‘Happy’. Green was taken with the track, but his team felt he should focus on his album and vetoed the release of his version. Williams ended up recording the track himself, although he later admitted to Howard Stern that Green’s recording “burns my version”.

‘Since U Been Gone’

Kelly Clarkson - Since U Been Gone (VIDEO)

Kelly Clarkson’s hit was originally intended for another pop punk princess: P!nk. When she turned the track down it went to Disney alum Hillary Duff, with Duff’s management ultimately passing on the basis that the song didn’t suit Duff’s voice.

Max Martin and Dr Luke were unsure about passing the track onto an American Idol star, but producer Clive Davis convinced them that Clarkson was the right choice. As we now know, he was spot on.

‘All About That Bass’

Meghan Trainor - All About That Bass (Official Video)

At the time of writing ‘All About That Bass’, Meghan Trainor was making a living pitching songs to other artists. ‘All About That Bass’ was shipped around to singers that Trainor felt fit the song’s image, with Beyoncé and Adele being two of them. However, with limited options, Trainor eventually opted to record the track herself.

‘Golden Years’

Golden Years (2002 Remaster)

There’s some controversy surrounding this one. Some biographers claim that the song was written for Elvis, as both he and David Bowie were signed to RCA Records at the time and Bowie was keen to collaborate. However, Elvis turned the track down and nothing ever came to fruition. Meanwhile, Bowie’s wife, Angie, claimed the track was actually written for her. Whatever the real story, ‘Golden Years’ will always be remembered as a Bowie track.


Beyoncé - Irreplaceable

Songwriter Ne-Yo originally wrote ‘Irreplaceable’ as a country song, intending to sell it to Shania Twain or Faith Hill. He wasn’t convinced that the tune would suit Beyoncé’s voice and it didn’t seem to make sense on B’Day, which was supposed to be a club album. However, after producer Swizz Beats declared that Beyoncé would be ‘crazy’ not to scoop up the track, tweaks were made to turn ‘Irreplaceable’ into a Beyoncé track.