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12 Mega Hit Songs Written for Other Artists

Rachel M. Johnson is a lover of all things pop culture. She's been writing about music and entertainment online for years.

These iconic songs weren't meant to be sung by the people who made them popular.

These iconic songs weren't meant to be sung by the people who made them popular.

12 Artists Who Turned Down Hit Songs

It is not uncommon in the music world for singers to turn down potential songs. In fact, many of these rejected songs go on to become smash hits for other performers. Let's take a look at 12 mega hit songs intended for other artists.

Hit Songs Written for Other Artists

  1. "Telephone" by Lady Gaga was turned down by Britney Spears.
  2. "Rock Your Body" by Justin Timberlake was turned down by Michael Jackson.
  3. "Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson was turned down by Pink.
  4. "...Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears was turned down by TLC.
  5. "Umbrella" by Rihanna was turned down by Britney Spears.
  6. "Call Me" by Blondie was turned down by Stevie Nicks.
  7. "Don't Cha" by The Pussycat Dolls was turned down by Paris Hilton.
  8. "How Will I Know" by Whitney Houston was turned down by Janet Jackson.
  9. "Hero" by Mariah Carey was turned down by Gloria Estefan.
  10. "I'm a Slave 4 U" by Britney Spears was turned down by Janet Jackson.
  11. "SOS" by Rihanna was turned down by Christina Milian.
  12. "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith was turned down by Céline Dion.

1. "Telephone" by Lady Gaga (Turned Down by Britney Spears)

Album: The Fame Monster

Release Year: 2009

Lady Gaga's 2010 smash hit single, "Telephone," featured superstar Beyoncé and topped the charts in the U.K., Ireland, and Canada, while peaking at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Gaga originally wrote the song for Britney Spears' sixth studio album, Circus (2008), but Spears rejected it. In response, Gaga once said, "I wrote it for her [Spears] a long time ago and she didn't use it for her album. It's fine because I love the song and I get to perform it now." "Telephone" was positively received by critics and sold 7.4 million digital copies worldwide, making it one of Gaga's bestselling singles.


2. "Rock Your Body" by Justin Timberlake (Turned Down by Michael Jackson)

Album: Justified

Release Year: 2002

"Rock Your Body" was made famous by Justin Timberlake on his debut album Justified (2002). The singer co-wrote the song with producers The Neptunes (consisting of Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams) and it was intended to be featured on Michael Jackson's tenth studio album, Invincible (2001). The "King of Pop" ultimately passed on the single, so Timberlake opted to keep "Rock Your Body" for himself. The song peaked at #5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and was certified 2x platinum in Australia, and gold in both the U.K. and U.S. Critics also noted the single as a standout track, with many compliments given to its musical elements and overall sound.


3. "Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson (Turned Down by Pink)

Album: Breakaway

Release Year: 2004

Kelly Clarkson's 2004 pop power ballad "Since U Been Gone" has become a beloved staple for the singer, and helped propel her sophomore album Breakaway (2004) to the top of the charts. Writer, Max Martin, originally wrote the song with Pink in mind, but she ended up turning it down. It was then offered to Hilary Duff, who also ended up passing because she could not reach the song's higher notes. "Since U Been Gone" was a commercial and critical success, reaching the top 5 in multiple countries including the US, Australia, the UK, the Netherlands and Ireland. It was certified platinum and won the Grammy Award for Best Female Vocal Performance in 2006.


4. "...Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears (Turned Down by TLC)

Album: ...Baby One More Time

Release Year: 1998

Arguably one of the biggest and most successful pop songs of all time, Britney Spears' debut single "...Baby One More Time" took the world by storm and became an overnight sensation. The single was off Spears' first album of the same name, and went on to reach number one in at least 18 countries in 1998 and sold over 10 million copies. It has become one of the bestselling singles of all time. "...Baby One More Time" was originally offered to the R&B group TLC for their album Fan Mail (1999), but they didn't feel it fit their sound. In a 2013 interview, members Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas had said, "Do I think it's TLC? I'm not saying 'hit me baby.' No disrespect to Britney. It's good for her. But was I going to say 'hit me baby one more time'? Hell no!"


5. "Umbrella" by Rihanna (Turned Down by Britney Spears)

Album: Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded

Release Year: 2008

Barbadian songstress Rihanna rose to the top of the charts with her 2007 mega-hit "Umbrella," the lead single from her third studio album Good Girl Gone Bad (2007). Before it went on to earn the singer a Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, it was offered to fellow artist Britney Spears, who was working on her fifth album Blackout (2007). The writers sent a demo to Spears' management, but before she could hear the track her management rejected it, claiming they had enough songs for the record. Rihanna soared to the top of the charts with the single, and it was certified 5x platinum in Australia, 6x platinum in the US and 8x platinum in Spain. "Umbrella" was one of the most played songs of the 2000s decade, and is among Rihanna's most famous singles.


6. "Call Me" by Blondie (Turned Down by Stevie Nicks)

Album: American Gigolo

Release Year: 1980

American new wave band Blondie is fronted by lead singer Debbie Harry, and the group first found much success in the '70s and '80s. Their massive 1980 hit single "Call Me" was number one for six consecutive weeks on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and served as the theme to the 1980 film American Gigolo. Disco producer Giorgio Moroder initially asked Fleetwood Mac's lead songstress Stevie Nicks to help write and deliver the lyrics for the song, but due to contractual issues and obligations Nicks was unable to collaborate. Debbie Harry stepped in, and the song went on to became a beloved staple for the band.


7. "Don't Cha" by The Pussycat Dolls (Turned Down by Paris Hilton)

Album: PCD

Release Year: 2005

American girl group The Pussycat Dolls first burst onto the music scene with their catchy debut single "Don't Cha," off their 2005 debut album PCD. The saucy single was first presented to hotel heiress Paris Hilton, who was not impressed by the song's composition at the time and ultimately passed. Singer Tori Alamaze actually sang the track first in 2004, but when she was dropped by her record label it was rerecorded by The Pussycat Dolls. "Don't Cha" was a commercial success, peaking at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100, and it reached number one in fifteen different countries. The single helped reinvent the girl group and made them an overnight success.


8. "How Will I Know" by Whitney Houston (Turned Down by Janet Jackson)

Album: Whitney Houston

Release Year: 1985

The late legendary songstress Whitney Houston was known for her powerhouse voice, and the single "How Will I Know" showcased her star-potential. The song was released on her eponymous debut studio album, peaking at number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks, as well as reaching the top-ten in the U.K., Sweden, Norway, and Ireland. Before it helped propel her career, "How Will I Know" was written and first offered to fellow artist Janet Jackson. Jackson's management ended up passing on the single, feeling it was too weak in comparison to her other material.


9. "Hero" by Mariah Carey (Turned Down by Gloria Estefan)

Album: Music Box

Release Year: 1993

Known as the "Songbird Supreme," due to her five-octave vocal range, the iconic Mariah Carey is known for providing smash-hit songs for decades. In 1993, she released the inspirational power ballad "Hero" on her third studio album, Music Box. Carey's vocal performance was praised, and the single became her eighth chart topper on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. It was also certified platinum twice in the U.S., and reached the top five in multiple countries. Carey, along with co-writer Walter Afanasieff, intended to pen the song for the film Hero, starring Geena Davis and Dustin Hoffman. Fellow singer Gloria Estefan was supposed to sing the track, but did not feel it fit her style. Carey ended up wanting to record the song for her album instead, and not the film.


10. "I'm a Slave 4 U" by Britney Spears (Turned Down by Janet Jackson)

Album: Britney

Release Year: 2001

Britney Spears' "I'm A Slave 4 U" is a song from her third studio album, Britney (2001) and represented a more mature sound compared to her past singles. Both the video and song helped shed Spears' "girl next door" image, with much attention focused on the steamy music video. The album achieved commercial success, peaking in the top-ten of almost every country it charted on. However, it peaked at number 27 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Regardless, it dominated the radio. "I'm A Slave 4 U" was written by producers The Neptunes, and was originally intended for Janet Jackson's seventh studio ablum, All For You (2001). Though she recorded a demo version, Jackson ended up passing and the single was given to Spears instead.

11. "SOS" by Rihanna (Turned Down by Christina Milian)

Album: A Girl Like Me

Release Year: 2006

Superstar Rihanna is no stranger to hit songs, and her 2006 dance-pop single "SOS" is no exception. Featured on her second studio album, A Girl Like Me (2006), the single topped the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart for three consecutive weeks and was also certified platinum. It spent eight consecutive weeks at number one in both Europe and Australia, and was well received by critics. However, the Barbadian beauty was not the first choice to record the song. Fellow artist Christina Millian was offered "SOS" for her third studio album, So Amazin' (2006), but she turned it down. Rihanna was then given the song instead.


12. "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith (Turned Down by Céline Dion)

Album: I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing

Release Year: 1998

Both Aerosmith and Céline Dion are no strangers to chart-topping success, having dozens of hit singles between them both. Aerosmith performed the rock ballad "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" for the 1998 disaster film Armageddon. The single debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and stayed there for four weeks. It also sold over a million copies in the U.K., and was certified double platinum in Australia. Before Aerosmith and Steven Tyler put their signature touch on the song, it was originally written for powerhouse singer Céline Dion to perform. Ultimately, Aerosmith nabbed the song and gave it a rock edge that was well received.

© 2019 Rachel M Johnson