At this point, we can’t imagine anyone other than Rihanna singing “Umbrella.” But what if we told you another über-famous pop star almost got her hands on the iconic 2007 bop? Turns out, Hollywood isn’t as big as we thought, and there are dozens of songs that were written for and almost given to other singers.
Though it’s hard to imagine songs such as The Pussycat Dolls’ “Don’t Cha” and Lady Gaga’s “Telephone,” sung by anyone other than the artists who currently sing them, truth is, those tunes went through a handful of other singers before they landed on the artists who made them the hits that they’ve become. Find out the surprising singers who almost sang your favorite hits ahead.
Singer: Maren Morris
Almost sung by: Demi Lovato and Camila Cabello
Before country singer Maren Morris signed on to sing the lead vocals on Zedd’s “The Middle,” the song was pitched to dozens of successful female artists. In an interview with Variety, the production team behind “The Middle” revealed that their first choice for the song was Demi Lovato who, after recording a demo for the track, turned it down for her 2017 single “Sorry Not Sorry.” Then, the song was pitched to other artists, including Camila Cabello, who was the team’s second choice for the song. When Cabello turned it down so as not to distract from the success of her 2017 single “Havana,” the song was bounced around to other artists—including Julia Michaels, Carly Rae Jepsen, Tove Lo, Bebe Rexha, Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui, and more—before it eventually reached Morris, who cut a demo of the song and earned the right to be its lead vocalist.
Almost sung by: Katy Perry and Rihanna
Any Beyoncé fan knows that “Pretty Hurts” is an iconic song from the singer’s fifth album Beyoncé. But Queen Bey wasn’t the first choice. In an interview with ABC, Sia, who wrote “Pretty Hurts,” revealed that she first sent the song to Katy Perry. After Perry failed to respond, Sia sent it to Bey’s and Rihanna’s teams. And though Rihanna and her team liked the song, Bey ended up edging them out after she put down money to buy the track before Rih had the chance to.
“I wrote it on the sofa three years ago for Katy Perry, sent it to Katy Perry, and she never heard it,” Sia said. “Then I sent to Beyonce’s people and Rihanna’s people, and Rihanna heard it and she had it on hold for eight months and her management forgot to secure it by paying for the track, and Beyonce just slid into home base and threw the money down, and it was a really awkward situation.”
“We Can’t Stop”
Singer: Miley Cyrus
Almost sung by: Rihanna
“We Can’t Stop” was Miley Cyrus’s big comeback to music after Disney Channel, but the song almost went to Rihanna. In an interview with MTV, the song’s producer, Mike WiLL Made-It, revealed that the song was written for Rihanna. Rihanna eventually turned “We Can’t Stop” down for another of the producer’s songs, “Pour It Up,” which gave Cyrus a chance to record it.
“When I originally worked on ‘We Can’t Stop,’ we had did it for Rihanna. The idea was more towards Rihanna,” Mike WiLL Made-It said. “Rihanna, she heard ‘Pour It Up’ right away, and she didn’t even hear ‘We Can’t Stop.’”
“All About That Bass”
Singer: Meghan Trainor
Almost sung by: Beyoncé
“All About That Bass” was Meghan Trainor’s first No. 1 hit and breakout song. But it almost didn’t happen. In an interview with The Guardian, Trainor, who wrote the song, revealed that she wrote the song with Beyoncé in mind and pitched it to her. After Bey failed to respond, Trainor kept the song for herself and it became the push she needed to jump-start her music career.
“I’ll bet some of them didn’t even know the song was being pitched to them,” Trainor said. “Some artists get thousands of songs pitched and they never know, so Beyoncé herself probably never heard it.”
Almost sung by: Britney Spears
Yes. Rihanna’s “Umbrella” was almost sung by none other than Britney Spears. In an interview with MTV, the song’s producer Tricky Stewart revealed that the song was meant to be Spears’s big return following her 2007 public mental health battle. After Spears turned it down (“Her current state was a little bizarre, you know? It wasn’t meant to be,” Stewart said), the song was pitched to Mary J. Blige before eventually landing with Rihanna.
Almost sung by: Camila Cabello
The Chainsmokers’ “Closer” became a No. 1 hit after Halsey signed on to sing the song’s lead vocals. But she wasn’t the Chainsmokers’ only choice. In a radio interview, Camila Cabello revealed that she recorded a demo for the song. The interviewer even played a clip of Cabello’s demo, showing what the song would sound like with her raspy vocals. In the end, Cabello couldn’t do it because of her commitment to her girl group, Fifth Harmony.
“I loved the song,” Cabello said. “But I had to turn it down because I was with the group at the time, and we were about to put an album out. I always tried to do my solo stuff off cycle, so that was super on, and so I had to say no, and then that was the number one song in the world.”
Singer: Charli XCX
Almost sung by: Hilary Duff
“Boom Clap” is what put Charli XCX on the music map as a recording artist, but she almost didn’t sing the song. In an interview with V magazine, Charli, who wrote the song, revealed that she sent the track to Hilary Duff’s team, who turned it down before Duff even had a chance to listen to it. The experience led Charli to take matters into her own hands and record the song herself.
“We sent the song to her people, and I don’t think she ever heard it. But they were like, ‘This song isn’t cool enough for Hilary.’ And we were really sad about that! So I was like, ‘Fuck it. I’m going to sing it,’” Charli said. “Hilary Duff heard it and she tweeted me, ‘Hey, I really like your song! I wish I’d known that I could’ve had it.’ And I was like, ‘Too late, Hilary. Too late.’”
Singer: Kelly Clarkson
Almost sung by: Avril Lavigne
Before giving “Breakaway” to Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne, the song’s writer, considered keeping the song for herself. In an interview with Songwriter Universe, one of the song’s other writers, Bridget Benetate, revealed that Lavigne connected with the song, until she realized that she wouldn’t be the right one to record it.
“Avril talked about her life and what things were important to her—she was the inspiration for the song. Matthew began creating the melody and track, and I started working on the lyrics. I remember staying in bed for three days, writing 25 versions of the lyric. I love being in bed and writing lyrics and having my dog Jet and my kitty Dash on the bed. Anyway, we finally finished the lyric, then we completed the demo,” Benetate said.
“…Baby One More Time”
Singer: Britney Spears
Almost sung by: TLC
“…Baby One More Time” and Britney Spears are synonymous. But the song was actually almost sung by girl group TLC. In an interview with MTV, T-Boz, one of TLC’s members, revealed that she thought that the song could be popular, but it wasn’t right for TLC’s brand.
“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!”
Singer: Lady Gaga
Almost sung by: Britney Spears
“Telephone” made history when Lady Gaga chose Beyoncé to sing the song with her as a duet. But before Gaga even had a chance to choose Queen Bey, the song was initially pitched to Britney Spears. Around 2010, a demo leaked of Spears singing “Telephone.” And though the song, for the most part, sounds like the same track that Gaga recorded, it definitely has a different spin with Spears’s signature nasally voice.
Singer: The Pussycat Dolls
Almost sung by: Paris Hilton
Though she’s a fan-favorite DJ, Paris Hilton hasn’t had her big break in music. However, she came close when the production team behind “Don’t Cha,” the Pussycat Dolls’ smash 2005 song, pitched it to her. In an interview, Hilton revealed that she heard the song, but was on the fence because it wasn’t fully produced yet. Now that she has heard it in full, she admits that she would definitely change her mind.
“I think I did hear the song, but not in the format we all came to know and love. If I’d heard that, of course I’d have jumped at the chance,” Hilton said.
“We Found Love”
Almost sung by: Leona Lewis
Leona Lewis became somewhat of a one-hit wonder after her 2007 debut “Bleeding Love,” but the British singer might’ve had another hit years later when she recorded “We Found Love,” Calvin Harris’s dance-pop song that eventually went to Rihanna. In an interview with NME, Lewis revealed that she recorded a demo of the track and considered it as a single. After she failed to commit to the song, Harris eventually passed it to Rihanna who made it a hit.
“I worked with Calvin and we recorded ‘We Found Love’. But he went touring with Rihanna, and she ended up releasing it. I didn’t commit to it because I wanted ‘Trouble’ to be my first single, so I think that was another reason they went with Rihanna. It was the same version and production, but mine’s better,” Lewis said.