In the music world, songs get passed around like a hot potato. Demo songs are sent to one artist, turned down, and recorded by another. Tracks bend gender rules, with Aerosmith snatching a power ballad from Celine Dion and Chris Brown handing over one of his tunes to Rihanna. Here are just 11 of the many songs that made it big after being turned down by other singers.
1. “TELEPHONE” — PERFORMED BY LADY GAGA, MEANT FOR BRITNEY SPEARS
Before Stefani Germanotta was known as Lady Gaga, she was a songwriter, penning songs for The Pussycat Dolls and Britney Spears. Gaga originally wrote "Telephone" to be included in Spears' Circus album, but the track was left on the cutting room floor. A demo with Spears' vocals suposedly exists, but there's doubt that it's actually the "Oops!" songstress. Gaga seized the tune back up and saved it for a rainy day—better known as The Fame Monster.
2. “HOW WILL I KNOW” — PERFORMED BY WHITNEY HOUSTON, MEANT FOR JANET JACKSON
Songwriters George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam wrote this Whitney Houston power ballad with Janet Jackson in mind. A&M Records asked the duo to send this song to Janet's people, but the "Rhythm Nation" singer politely passed. She was in the middle of recording Control, and the track wasn't right for the album's vision. The label held onto the song and eventually gave it to Houston, turning it into one of her signature tunes.
3. “HALO” — PERFORMED BY BEYONCE, MEANT FOR LEONA LEWIS
This one's simple: Leona was too busy to record the track, so Beyonce snatched it up. Behind the scenes, Lewis' mentor Simon Cowell was working diligently to get Ryan Tedder to write the song for her, but the wait was too much for Tedder. Tedder has a different story, though, saying the song was intended for Beyonce all along; he just gave it to Lewis to make Beyonce hurry up with the recording process. His reasoning: If Beyonce thought another A-Lister wanted the single, she'd want it more.
4. “HERO” — PERFORMED BY MARIAH CAREY, MEANT FOR GLORIA ESTEFAN
Carey says this U.S. Billboard No. 1 was originally intended to be used for the 1992 Dustin Hoffman film of the same name, but the film's producers went with Luther Vandross' "Heart of a Hero" instead. While writing the chart-topper, Carey was told the song would be for Gloria Estefan and even said herself that the song didn't match her own style. After playing it for record executives, they insisted that Carey keep it for herself, so she made minor adjustments to give it a more R&B style and sent it to radio stations.
5. “I DON’T WANT TO MISS A THING” — PERFORMED BY AEROSMITH, MEANT FOR CELINE DION
When Liv Tyler got her first major theatrical role in Armageddon, her father, lead singer of Aerosmith, was supposed to author a sentimental song with his band for the film. After being out on the road promoting their album Nine Lives, the band went into the studio and found it difficult to come up with an appropriate song, but the clock was ticking. Then they found a track by acclaimed songwriter Diane Warren, originally intended for Celine Dion.
6. “SINCE U BEEN GONE” — PERFORMED BY KELLY CLARKSON, MEANT FOR PINK FIRST THEN PASSED TO HILARY DUFF
Clarkson may have been the first to win American Idol, but she was third in line for this track after Pink and Hilary Duff both snubbed it.
7. “MISS INDEPENDENT” — PERFORMED BY KELLY CLARKSON, MEANT FOR DESTINY’S CHILD FIRST THEN PASSED TO CHRISTINA AGUILERA
It looks like Clarkson has been accustomed to getting the left-overs from the very beginning. Featured on her first album, this tune was first offered to Destiny's Child and then to Christina Aguilera, who added lyrics but then decided not to use it for her Stripped album. Clarkson wrote the bridge and finished it before recording. Aguilera admits that Clarkson nailed the cobbled-together track.
8. “I’M A SLAVE 4 U” — PERFORMED BY BRITNEY SPEARS, MEANT FOR JANET JACKSON
Spears almost missed out on traipsing around the VMA stage with a python wrapped around her neck. Well, she may have done that, just not to the tune of "Slave." Producers The Neptunes originally conceptualized the song to fit for Janet Jackson's typically sexually-charged direction, but eventually gave it to the girl next door for her upcoming mature album.
9. “TOXIC” — PERFORMED BY BRITNEY SPEARS, MEANT FOR KYLIE MINOGUE
"Toxic" was written by the same person who gave Minogue her well-known "Can't Get You Out of My Head" chart-topper. She's never elaborated much on why she turned down the song, but the tune got Spears her first (and only) Grammy.
10. “UMBRELLA” — PERFORMED BY RIHANNA, MEANT FOR BRITNEY SPEARS FIRST THEN PASSED TO MARY J. BLIGE
In the beginnings of Rihanna's career, she got the scraps (including "S.O.S.," which was turned down by Christina Milian). Spears was finished recording her album, so label executives turned down "Umbrella," sending it over to Mary J. Blige. Blige turned it away, too, so it ended up in the hands of the Barbados-born singer. Rihanna took the song and was awarded a Grammy in 2008.
11. “DISTURBIA” — PERFORMED BY RIHANNA, MEANT FOR CHRIS BROWN
This song was originally intended for the re-release of Chris Brown's Exclusive album—but once Rihanna heard it, it was hers. Brown handed it over, saying it would serve better as a female-oriented song.