By Skinny Legend
It's hard to believe, but as of September 30th this year living legend Britney Spears will have been driving us crazy, loving rock and roll and seeking Amy for exactly twenty years - and what a wild ride it's been. Apart from all the personal crises (think that Justin Timberlake break-up, the whole K-Fed saga and the infamous umbrella incident), Britney has also consistently wowed us with hit single after hit single, from 'Me Against the Music' to 'Make Me'.
But amidst all the brilliant releases (Britney's last single 'Slumber Party' was her forty-first), there was a multitude of songs that didn't quite make the cut. Some of them (like Gaga's 'Telephone') were recorded by Britney before being scrapped at the last minute; while others (like Rihanna's 'Umbrella') were offered to Britney but rejected for recording for one reason or another. While some of these songs would have contributed absolutely nothing to Britney's legacy and are no loss whatsoever, its interesting to see just how many more hits she could have had if she'd played her cards right, especially in the last decade.
In this list we'll be looking at twenty-five such songs which Britney decided to pass on. Keep in mind that in this list we're including only tracks that were officially released by an artist in some capacity jthat we're able to listen to, although other confirmed demos for Britney that are still stashed away in the vault (such as ones written by Timbaland and Justin Timberlake, Sky Ferreira, Dev Hynes and Danja) would undoubtedly be equally amazing.
25. Lady Gaga - Telephone (Feat. Beyoncé)
The story of Britney passing on 'Telephone' is at this point legendary, but just in case you've forgotten about the whole saga we'll give a brief recap here. 'Telephone' was originally written by a pre-fame Gaga alongside a song called 'Quicksand' to be considered for inclusion on Britney's sixth studio album and official comeback, Circus. But while 'Quicksand' was included as a bonus track on the album, 'Telephone' was scrapped due to the presence of another similiarly themed song, the Bloodshy & Avant produced 'Phonography'.
Later, the song was reworked as a duet between the two artists; but conflict arose when Gaga wanted the track to be on the tracklist of her re-release The Fame Monster while Britney's team wanted the song on her greatest hits The Singles Collection. Ultimately, Gaga took the song back and replaced Britney's part on the duet with a new verse by Beyoncé, and the Britney version was never released either as a solo song or as a duet. Thankfully, her version went on to leak in 2010 and we got a fan-made version of the duet soon after.
24. The Pussycat Dolls - When I Grow Up
'When I Grow Up' was the song of the summer back in 2008, and was a huge hit for the newly reformed Pussycat Dolls minus Carmit Bachar. The song was written by Darkchild (who also worked on 'Telephone') and Rock City, but we had no idea it was meant for Britney until a demo sent to her leaked in 2011. When it was originally written for Brit, the lyrics were tailor made to her situation, opening with, "My name is Britney and I don’t care what you say," before continuing "I swear at first that I was flippin'/When they said I looked like Debbie Gibson/And then I tried to dance like Michael Jackson/But people saw me and started laughing."
It's unknown why Brit passed on the song that would go on to be a huge hit, but it's interesting to note that she was originally confirmed to have a short cameo appearance in the music video. Originally, Britney was meant to have a blink and you'll miss it appearance in the traffic jam at the beginning of the video, waving at the Dolls before driving away. Like her version of the song, however, the cameo was scrapped for unknown reasons.
23. Charli XCX - Secret (Shh)
'Secret' is one of Charli XCX's more experimental songs, which is why it may be surprising to hear that it was originally intended for the princess of pop herself. The song's co-writer, Jesse Saint John spilled the tea when discussing another song he wrote for Britney's latest album 'Love Me Down'. "I did [a] song for Charli XCX called 'Secret'' that Karen [Kwak, Britney's A&R] really liked, and for a second she thought it could be for Britney Spears." Sadly, Britney never got around to recording the demo and Charli ended up releasing it on her own EP Vroom Vroom, but it was the strength of 'Secret' that allowed Saint John to pitch 'Love Me Down' in the first place. 'Secret' is actually the second Charli song to be considered by Britney, after she wrote a song specifically for the popstar back in 2013; but we're unsure exactly what that song was, or if it has since been released by anyone other than Brit.
22. Girls Aloud - Graffiti My Soul
If you don't live in the UK, you may not have heard of Girls Aloud. Manufactured on an English television show called Popstars: The Rivals, the group soon became a mainstay of the UK charts for over a decade until their break up in 2013. While its release as the fifth single from their album What Will The Neighbours Say? was scrapped, the song 'Graffiti My Soul' nevertheless became one of their most well known tracks, with group member Cheryl Cole later stating in 2008 that if she'd had the chance to release she song as a single she would have.
Interestingly though, the song was originally written for Britney, who recorded her own version of it for inclusion on In The Zone. "The record company loved it, but Britney's people said 'Where's the chorus? Why are there no repetitive parts?'," said Bryan Higgins, who produced the song as part of Xenomania. While we've never heard even a snippet of Britney's version of the song, we may not be missing out on that much. Whether it's jealousy or honesty, Cole stated that Britney's version was "strange" and that she sang it "in that really strange voice and it freaked me out"; although she later admitted that the source of her nervousness may have come from the fact that the version she heard was unmixed.
21. Enrique Iglesias - Maybe
'Maybe' is a song written by Enrique Iglesias, Steve Morales, Kara DioGuardi and David Siegel which was first released on his Escape album in 2001. The track was later reworked as an uptempo number for the album's reissue and released as the project's fifth single in May of 2002. What's bizarre is that a month prior to the song's single release, Britney started introducing the track under the title 'My Love Was Always There' and performing it live at her Dream Within A Dream Tour shows, even going so far as to say that she wrote the song. 'Maybe' was far from a flop, hitting #12 in the US and #3 in the UK, so it's unknown exactly why Britney thought she could get away with claiming the track as her own.
20. Jennifer Lopez - Brave
'Brave' is the title track of Jennifer Lopez's sixth album, produced by frequent Britney collaborators Bloodshy & Avant and The Clutch. Originally, the song was actually written for Britney's album Blackout, but it was rejected from the final tracklisting before release. That said, I can't say that I'm too disappointed about not hearing Britney's version - while the tracks lyrics stating "I'm not afraid/Because I am brave" definitely fit into Britney's narrative, the song is pretty typically generic R&B and doesn't really offer anything new to the pop music genre like the rest of Blackout did.
19. Momoiro Clover Z - Rock The Boat
Momoiro Clover Z released 'Rock The Boat' on the album Hakkin no Yoake in 2016; but as any true Britney stan will know, the track has been in the works for much longer than that. Britney fans first heard the song in late 2011 as part of the semi-annual Britmas leaks tradition, when it was heard under it's working title 'Dangerous'. Recorded for the Circus album, 'Dangerous' has the same songwriters as bonus track 'Rock Me In' of Greg Kurstin and Coco Morier, and apart from the translated lyrics not much changed at all between it's recording and it's reinterpretation as 'Rock The Boat'.
18. LIZ - When I Rule The World
LIZ has been open about her love for Britney, from her confession that Brit taught her "how to be a popstar" to her obsession over every stan's favourite unreleased track, 'Mona Lisa'. But she got closer to Britney than she ever could have expected with her PC Music-inspired single 'When I Rule The World'. "I heard she wanted 'When I Rule'," she told The Guardian, apparently astounded that Britney even knew who she was. LIZ was ultimately so attached to the song that she had to fight for it to be her own release; and although the track definitely would have fit in with the 'Pretty Girls' vibe and aesthetic, we can't say we're sad that she won.
17. Kelis - Milkshake
Britney fell into step with The Neptunes crew as early as 2001, when they produced Britney stand-outs 'I'm A Slave 4 U' and 'Boys'. Choosing them to produce songs for her next record In The Zone then seemed like a natural choice, and so the group wrote several songs for the project back in 2003 - one of them being a track called 'Milkshake'. Ultimately, the track never made the album and it was sent later that year to an up-and-coming singer named Kelis, who turned it into her biggest hit to date and an endlessly quotable banger.
Although there's no proof that Britney ever recorded a demo of this track, a Brit version of 'Milkshake' would definitely be something to behold, and would work brilliantly on an album next to 'Me Against the Music' and 'Early Mornin''. We can practically hear Britney's breathy vocals all over that iconic chorus already.
16. Leah McFall - Home (Feat. will.i.am)
Leah McFall was a runner-up on the second series of The Voice UK, where she was mentored by the infamous will.i.am - a man who was at the same time taking Britney under his wing on the other side of the pond. That's why it makes total sense for any record will worked on around that time to have been shopped around to both Brit and Leah, as happened with 'Home'. The track is typical will.i.am, complete with nonsensical lyrics, an overused sample and a tacky lyric video, so we can't say we're sad that Britney never jumped on this one; although with that said it would definitely be an improvement over 'It Should Be Easy'.
13. Jordin Sparks - Shy Boy/14. Jordin Sparks - Young and In Love/15. Jordin Sparks - See My Side
It might be hard to imagine winner of the sixth season of American Idol Jordin Sparks and Queen of the Lip Sync Britney Spears being offered the same tracks, but believe it or not it happened back in 2007. 'Shy Boy', 'Young and In Love' & 'See My Side' are a handful of tracks which were originally worked on by production team Bloodshy & Avant for Britney's long-awaited Blackout album; but after they didn't make it onto that album, they were passed on to label-mate Jordin Sparks for her self-titled debut.
'Shy Boy' and 'Young and In Love' aren't much of a loss: they both sound like the typical messy 2007 R&B demo that sprouted up in the wake of Timbaland's success, although undoubtedly they would have been improved by some of Britney's vocal stylings. But 'See My Side', which like 'Piece Of Me' was worked on by pop's fairy godmother Robyn, would have worked nicely alongside 'Why Should I Be Sad?' as a lullaby end to the Blackout album.
12. Jamie Lynn Spears - Follow Me
Remember Jamie Lynn Spears, Britney's little sister who made a name for herself on Nickelodeon show Zoey 101 before being fired for her unexpected teenage pregnancy? Well, she also sang the theme song for that show, titled 'Follow Me', which just so happened to be written by her big sister Brit and frequent collaborators Bloodshy & Avant. Weirdly the song was never officially released in full on any soundtrack album, although we did get an official instrumental as well as dozens of snippets of the song played throughout the show which has allowed fans to compile their own versions of the song. A demo also leaked in 2014, but it wasn't sung by either Britney or Jamie Lynn which makes Britney's writing credits and the original intent for the song a total mystery.
11. Rachel Stevens - Sweet Dreams My LA Ex
A reunion of 'Toxic' producers Bloodshy & Avant and songwriter Cathy Dennis, 'Sweet Dreams My LA Ex' was actually a pretty big hit for English popstar Rachel Stevens back in 2003, hitting #2 in the UK charts and selling 210 000 copies that year. Originally, like 'Everytime', the track was intended to be a response to Justin Timberlake's 'Cry Me A River', which was long rumoured to be about Britney; but when Stevens sang it, it was to break out from her role as a singer in S Club 7. Britney apparently passed on the track because she found the lyrics just a little too obvious, which is a real shame because the western R&B sound in the song would have worked perfectly on In The Zone.
10. f(x) - Chocolate Love/Girls' Generation - Chocolate Love
Another K-Pop convert, 'Chocolate Love' was first heard back in 2009 as a dual release for K-Pop supergroups f(x) and Girls' Generation. The song was used to promote the LG Cyon Chcolate phone in commercials, with f(x) jumping on the 'Electronic Pop Version' and Girls' Generation singing the 'Retro Pop Version'. Also worth noting is that f(x) alone recorded an English version of the song entitled 'Topbillin' Love', which was performed live during their international tour in 2010.
What's interesting is that this version of 'Topbillin' Love' was actually a throwaway track that had been written years before by Karen Poole as a demo for Britney which got rejected. Poole tried her hand at writing to the instrumental after Cathy Dennis's attempt, called at that point 'Phony Lullaby', was also rejected due to it's inclusion of lyrics Britney apparently found objectionable. Britney even tried her hand at writing to this instrumental alongside Michelle Bell, which resulted in the unreleased track 'Take Off', a song which discussed Brit's anti-war and anti-discrimination views. Cathy Dennis would later reclaim the song and morph it's instrumental into 'Sweet Dreams My LA EX', the Rachel Stevens hit mentioned above; but that didn't stop the K-Pop groups from reusing it's demo years later.
9. BoA - Look Who's Talkin'
'Look Who's Talkin'' is a song originally written by Britney alongside Bloodshy & Avant, Henrik Jonback and Michelle Bell in 2003 during the same sessions that produced songs like 'Chaotic' and 'I've Just Begun (Having My Fun)'. Later, it resurfaced on Korean superstar BoA's debut English album, also titled BoA, as the second single from the R&B-pop project. The Britney demo leaked just a little later on as 'Look Who's Talking Now', and features almost exactly the same lyrics and production; although the words are a little more meaningful coming from a popstar who spent a lot of her early life silenced by her record label or management. Britney's version of the song was probably never strong enough to be a single, but it could have worked well as an an additional track for the Chaotic EP.
8. Pitbull & J Balvin - Hey Ma (Feat. Camila Cabello)
'Hey Ma' was released last year for the The Fate of The Furious soundtrack album as a collaboration between Pitbull, J Balvin and Camila Cabello; but if things had gone differently, the song could have had a twist from the Holy Spearit. When it was originally recorded, 'Hey Ma' featured Romeo Santos and Britney in the Balvin and Cabello parts, with Britney cooing "If you touch me right, I might stay the night" over a Latin-inspired beat.
But when the song was pitched for The Fate of The Furious, the producers requested that they be replaced, presumably to appeal to a younger audience and capitalise on the Latin American vibe of the film. While we'd generally cringe at the idea of Pitbull releasing a song with with Britney (or Pitbull releasing any song full stop), we have to admit that 'Hey Ma' featuring Britney is an absolute bop, thanks to the fact that her version was leaked as a Christmas present to the fans. We can only imagine how great this song would have sounded in a mash-up with 'Change Your Mind (No Seas Cortés)' on the Piece of Me shows.
7. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Pulse
'Pulse' was published on the ASCAP registry back during the In The Zone era as a potential candidate for Britney's album, but it didn't end up making the cut there. Instead, it was released in 2010 on the Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark album History of Modern. While we're unsure if anything was changed over that seven year period, we can definitely imagine Britney's vocals on the current version of the track, which has the same breakbeat R&B kind of style she explored on ITZ tracks such as '(I Got That) Boom Boom' and 'Me Against the Music'.
5. Kylie Minogue - Nu-Di-Ty/6. Kylie Minogue - Speakerphone
Britney and Kylie have a long history of working with the same producers and thus swapping tracks, with Kylie even turning down the demo that would go on to be a hit for Britney with 'Toxic'. "I wasn't at all angry when it worked for her," she said of the track. "It's like the fish that got away. You just have to accept it." Let's hope the feeling is mutual, because Kylie took two tracks that Britney worked on for Blackout for her own album X, both of which were produced by longtime collaborators Bloodshy & Avant.
'Nu-Di-Ty' is a quirky, fragmented pop song with a hint of R&B and tropicana which plays out like a more light-hearted version of Britney's own 'Freakshow'. While we don't have a Britney version of the track, she definitely did record one as some of her background vocals can be heard in the final version, and are even clearer when filtered out from the other vocals. Then there's 'Speakerphone', a precursor to 'Telephone' with a dreamy Euro-pop production which was definitely an album highlight. We've never heard anything of the Britney version of this one but it's safe to say she would slay it.
4. Kylie Minogue - Get Outta My Way
'Get Outta My Way' is not just one of Kylie Minogue's best songs: it's one of the best pop songs of this decade full-stop. The perfect slice of dance-pop for the summer season, 'Get Outta My Way' was originally shopped around to several artists including Britney, Alexandra Burke and Pixie Lott, and Wynter Gordon also wrote a song to the Cutfather-produced instrumental. But ultimately it was Kylie who nabbed the song, apparently due to the fact that the other potential candidates were too slow to respond. This is one of the few times where we're happy the song went to it's original artist: Britney's version of the track would probably have worked well on Femme Fatale, but Kylie needed the hit desperately and she put way more energy into the choreography than Brit could have at that point.
3. Nelly - Tilt Ya Head Back (Feat. Christina Aguilera)
The rivalry between Britney and Christina is basically a tale as old as time at this point, so it's no surprise that they'd both be put up for the same part on Nelly's 'Tilt Ya Head Back', which was a moderate hit when it was released back in 2004. Britney actually recorded vocals for this song, some of which were leaked in 2016; but according to producer Dorian Moore, her label nixed the idea of Britney collaborating with Nelly, finding the song "too urban". Janet Jackson was also considered before XTina took the final spot. It's not entirely surprising given that in 2004 Brit was still fighting for creative control with her record label, leading to the Original Doll saga that would begin her downwards spiral in 2007.
2. Selena Gomez - Whiplash
'Whiplash' is definitely not one of Selena's better known songs, and at the end of the day it is just album filler; but for a non-single track, it's surprisingly fun. Alternating between a silly metaphor-ridden chorus and a bouncy rap part spoken with an English accent, 'Whiplash' was highlighted as a standout track from When The Sun Goes Down and was performed on tour alongside a medley of Britney's own hits.
But if things had gone differently, the song may actually have ended up on Brit's comeback vehicle Circus. Britney wrote and recorded the song alongside Coco Morier and Greg Kurstin at the same time as she worked on 'Mmm Papi' and 'Rock Me In', but it failed to make the cut for unknown reasons. So far we haven't heard the demo of the song, which is a shame because I'm dying to know if the English accent was a Selena addition or if it was present in the original version as well. Judging by Englishney's raps in 'Scream & Shout', I wouldn't be surprised if that was something Brit came up with all on her own.
1. Rihanna - Umbrella
What more needs to be said about 'Umbrella', the monster hit which launched Rihanna's career properly and transitioned her from Bajan Princess to Bad Girl? Tricky Stewart, who had previously worked on 'Me Against The Music', wrote the track alongside The-Dream intending for it to be a comeback single for the troubled Spears; but when they sent the track to her label, it was rejected without Britney even hearing the track. After Mary J. Blige passed on it too, the song ended up in Rihanna's lap, at which time she utilised her accent to create that signature "ella ella eh eh eh" chorus which made the song such a hit. It's a credit to Rih that her stamp on the song is so huge that we can't even imagine Britney singing this one.
Which of these songs would you most like to hear Britney's vocals on? Let us know in the comments down below!
Editor's Note: This is an updated version of an article that was originally posted on 04/01/2018.
By Skinny Legend
Watch the video version of this article here!
There are some popstars who seem to simply go from strength to strength, to the point where it seems as though the sky is the limit for the amount of talent and commercial success they can achieve in a lifetime. Some, like Justin Bieber, may have started from a particularly low base in which they repeat the word "baby" two hundred times in succession; while others, like Beyoncé, take the time to break out as solo stars, free from girl group politics or the dark shadows of their husbands empires. But then there are others who, try as they might, never seem to be able to match the success of their very first single. Such is the case for Leona Lewis, the X Factor UK winner who stunned the United Kingdom with her amazing vocals and the world with her debut single 'Bleeding Love', but who has failed to make as huge of an impact with each successive follow up to the song.
Sure, she's had 'Run', the UK #1 which still gives listeners goosebumps every time it's performed live; and 'One More Sleep', the best holiday themed single since 'All I Want For Christmas Is You!'. And there's a plethora of under-appreciated tracks which could have done great on radio, such as the Guetta-esque 'Can't Fight It' or the DJ Poet collaboration 'Catch Me When I Fall'. But nothing has ever captured the imagination of the public quite like 'Bleeding Love', the hit first single which topped charts worldwide and soundtracked the lives of many teens going through their first heartbreaks.
But that's not to say that Leona hasn't had the chance. For over the course of her career, there's been at least nine tracks which we know of that she's turned down which have gone on to be hits for other artists ranging from John Legend to Christina Aguilera. Some of them were timed poorly, while others were victims of internal record label drama; but almost all of them would have sounded brilliant had they been sung by Leona. Read on to find out more!
9. Rihanna - We Found Love (Feat. Calvin Harris)
Like Nicole Scherzinger before her, Leona was also offered 'We Found Love', one of the biggest hits of 2011 and the song which made a bonafide star out of Calvin Harris on the international scene. Leona even recorded her own version of the track, which was finalised and set for release along with the rest of her dance-oriented Glassheart album, and which apparently sounded identical in production to the final released version. However, she wanted to release 'Trouble', her collaboration with Childish Gambino, as the first single from the project; while Harris wanted 'We Found Love' to be the lead. Ultimately, when Harris went on tour with Rihanna she recorded her own version of the song, which she was happy to release as the first single from her own album Talk That Talk, and Leona's finalised version was left to rot on Calvin's enviable external hard drive full of unheard hits.
8. John Legend - All of Me
John Legend's 'All of Me' was the sleeper hit of 2014, spending 59 weeks in the Billboard Hot 100 chart since it's release in August 2013 and going on to become the second best selling song of the year in the US and the third best selling song in the UK. And weirdly enough, the original version of the track was actually a duet between Legend and Lewis. We had no idea about the collaboration until a superfan posted about it online after hearing the original version for themselves. "This version was recorded before the original JL version but Syco and US label couldn't get their shit together and released the solo version," they said, adding, "One of the reasons Leona left Syco, lots of opportunities wasted, Leona picked all her songs for the album but were rejected". Sadly, the duet has never been heard, but we do have this fan-made version of the track which combines Legend's finalised version with a short live cover Leona filmed in her car.
7. Shontelle - Impossible
Shontelle's 'Impossible' was a minor hit when it was first released back in 2010, hitting #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #9 in the UK; but it only really blew up a couple of years later when The X Factor winner James Arthur released his cover version of the song, which went straight to the top of the UK charts. The track could have been an earlier hit for an X Factor contestant if Leona had recorded it back in 2010 though, when it was originally sent to her by her 'Come Alive' and 'My Hands' collaborator Ina Wroldsen. "I don't know what her reasons were - maybe she couldn't relate to it at the time," opined Shontelle when asked about Lewis's refusal to record the track, before going on to thank her for the hit. "I was like, 'Wow! I'm glad you turned it down, because I got to sing it!'"
6. Christina Aguilera - Blank Page
When a snippet of Sia's demo for 'Blank Page' first leaked in 2012, it was labelled as a demo for Leona Lewis; a charge Sia later rebuked on her official Twitter account, where she stated it was intended for another artist entirely. But a version of the song sung by Leona definitely does exist, as it was confirmed before the snippet leaked to be a contender for the final tracklisting of Glassheart. Sadly, Lewis received a mediocre reception to the first single off the album 'Collide', and the entire project was delayed from an expected release date of November 2011 to November 2012. In the meantime, the demo was shopped around to other artists for a quicker release, and Christina jumped on the track to add her trademark touch of strain to the vocals. While we leaked the Sia demo several years ago, we've heard nothing more about the Leona version of the track since it was initially confirmed; and given that it's already been released by someone else, it's unlikely we ever will.
5. Ellie Goulding - Burn
A collaboration of songwriting between frequent Lewis collaborators Ryan Tedder and Greg Kurstin, 'Burn' could have been the perfect track for Leona during the Glassheart era to keep her true to her roots while still progressing her sound further into the dance-pop realm. While she did record a version of the track that went on to leak in 2013, the song ultimately didn't make the cut for her album and was instead passed on to fellow Brit Ellie Goulding. Goulding's version lit up the charts worldwide, hitting #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 in the UK and Scotland; while the lead single from Glassheart, 'Trouble', hit #7 in the UK and failed to chart in the US. Choices.
4. Emeli Sandé - Mountains
It was hardly a hit and was never even released as a single, but 'Mountains', the heartfelt ballad released on Emeli Sandé's debut album Our Version of Events, was originally recorded by Lewis for her Glassheart album. The song was actually written three years before its ultimate release in 2012, but when Sandé began working with Leona for her album on tracks such as 'I To You', she revived it once again for an appearance on Glassheart. Sadly, during the period of delay that the album experienced, Sandé decided to reclaim the track and release it on her own project; one that debuted at #1 on the UK charts and ultimately went double platinum. It's not all bad, though: the same sessions which brought to fruition the Leona version of 'Mountains' also brought us 'Trouble', Leona's lead single, which ended up hitting a pretty decent #7 on the UK charts.
3. Kelly Clarkson - What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)
'What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)' is well known as the comeback single which sent American Idol alum Kelly Clarkson back to the top of the charts, but it could easily have gone to another singing reality show competition winner. According to songwriter Ali Tamposi, the track was initially offered to Lewis before Clarkson's label even knew of it's existence, but the songstress turned it down without a second thought. But before you get too excited about the thought of Leona rocking out to the pop-rock anthem, remember this: the song at this point was in early stages and had a completely different tempo, beat, chord progression and vibe. It wasn't until frequent Sia producer Greg Kurstin stepped in to tailor make the song for Clarkson that it took on the stadium rock quality it now has.
2. Beyoncé - I Was Here
A cult hit from a cult album, 'I Was Here' is a song from Beyoncé's 4 album which, despite never being released as a single, managed to chart in the top twenty in Hungary and Belgium thanks to a well publicised and much viewed music video in support of the United Nations' World Humanitarian Day efforts. And while it may not have been such a hit in Lewis's capable hands, it almost certainly would have tugged at the heartstrings just as well if she had chosen to record it. Diane Warren, who would later go on to work with Lewis on the animal rights charity single '(We All Are) Looking for Home' in 2016, sent the track to both Jay-Z and Simon Cowell back when it was first demoed for consideration by both Bey and Leona. But while Bey jumped at the chance to record the track, halting production on her album just to record the vocals, Cowell's office rejected the song, apparently telling Warren "This song just doesn’t go all the way for us." According to Warren, she responded via e-mail to Cowell with the ultimate comeback saying, "That’s okay. I’m in the studio with the biggest artist on the planet and it kind of went all the way for her. All good."
1. Beyoncé - Halo
Probably the most infamous of all of Leona's unrealised songs, 'Halo' caused a scandal when it's co-writer Ryan Tedder was accused of penning similiar songs for Lewis, Beyoncé and Clarkson all in the space of a few months. Some of this scandal could have been averted, of course, if Leona had snagged 'Halo' when she had the chance. According to Tedder, the song was always intended for Beyoncé as an ode to her marriage with Jay-Z, but it spent a long time on hold while Bey waited to record it in between albums. While she slept on the song, it somehow found its way into the inbox of Syco Entertainment, the record label owned by Simon Cowell which manages Leona; but due to her tight schedule she was unable record the song immediately. By the time Lewis had gotten around to wanting to record the song, Bey had taken it back and released it as the iconic power ballad we all know and love today. Looks like this was a case of bad timing.
Which of these songs do you think Leona would have slayed the most? Would they even have been as successful if she'd released them as singles? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
By Skinny Legend
Over the course of her sixteen year career, Rihanna certainly hasn't had any trouble making hits. Named by Spotify and Apple as the most streamed female artist of all time, Rih's also earned herself 31 top ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100. Furthermore, five of her songs - 'Umbrella', 'We Found Love', 'Stay', 'Work' and Eminem collaboration 'Love The Way You Lie' - rank among the world's best selling songs of all time.
Her distinct vocals, trend-setting sounds and high-profile romances also make her a songwriter's dream, with many artists imagining her voice layered over the top of their latest works. Sadly, as is true for most artists who rely on others for their songwriting, Rih is unable to record each and every track she's sent, and there's a large selection of songs she's turned down which have gone on to be hits at the hands of other artists. Some of these songs were given to newer artists inspired by her, such as Selena Gomez; while yet others reverted back to their original owners, such as Sia. Regardless, it's fascinating to imagine what these songs would sound like if they'd been sung by Rih, and just how many more millions of dollars she could be raking in if she'd accepted them.
1. Selena Gomez - Come & Get It
Ester Dean and Stargate are the dream team of musicians behind a number of Rihanna's dancehall-tinged hits, from 'What's My Name' to 'Rude Boy' - and if they'd had their way, they could have given her another one. Selena Gomez's 'Come & Get It' was submitted for Rih's 2011 album Talk That Talk, but was left off the album possibly due to an over-abundance of up-tempo songs that were already present. While Rihanna's islander vibe would have worked perfectly on 'Come & Get It', we're glad this one went to Selena - after all, without this track she may have been stuck permanently in Disney purgatory, and never have started recording the more adult music we all know and love today.
2. Selena Gomez - Same Old Love
Charli XCX was working overtime for Rihanna in 2015, when she was writing songs for both ANTI and the Rihanna-helmed Dreamworks film Home. While none of their collaborations ended up on either project (although Charli did land one of her own songs, 'Red Balloon', a spot on the Home soundtrack), Rihanna did record at least one Charli co-write - 'Same Old Love'. Rih first teased the song in June of 2014 on Twitter, over a year before the public even know it existed.
It wasn't until Selena released her version as a single in September of 2015 that fans put the pieces together and deduced that Rihanna had recorded her own version of the song, a theory confirmed in 2018 when a snippet of her version leaked online. While Rih would have done a good job on the track, we understand why she scrapped her version - the song's catchy hook and poppy vibe would have sounded completely out of place on 2016's ANTI.
3. Miley Cyrus - We Can't Stop
Selena isn't the only ex-Disney star to swoop in one of Rihanna's rejects. Production duo Rock City had originally written their song 'We Can't Stop' with Rihanna in mind, but they decided against offering it to her after hearing her change in musical direction that began with 'Diamonds'. Feeling that "this could be somebody's first single", the group instead offered the song to record producer Mike Will Made It, who passed it onto Cyrus. While Miley's version of the song is a certified bop and exactly what she needed to release at that point in her career, we can't imagine the song fitting into Rihanna's more introspective Unapologetic album, and we're actually glad she never released this one.
4. The Chainsmokers - Don't Let Me Down (Feat. Daya)
Everyone's least favourite production duo The Chainsmokers have barely been heard from since their chart-topper 'Closer', but they did have a minor hit with 2016's 'Don't Let Me Down'. The final version of the song ended up featuring then 17 year old singer Daya, but before they called her the group had already reached out to Rihanna for some vocals. Her rejection of the song clearly left the duo feeling a little bitter: in an interview, the group's Alex Pall took the chance to throw some shade when he said that he was happy to have Daya on the song "because young unknown artists have this hunger – they're willing to work really hard". We get the feeling Rihanna was already busy work, work, work, work, work, working on a real hit.
5. Usher - DJ Got Us Fallin' In Love (Feat. Pitbull)
Despite multiple collaborations with his off-siders such as Dr. Luke and Cirkut, Rihanna has never actually worked with pop music's GOAT producer Max Martin. Surprisingly, she turned down the chance back in 2010 when Martin sent 'DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love' in her direction as one of the over 200 songs which didn't make the cut for Loud. With some help from Pitbull, the song would later go on to become one of Usher's most successful singles, hitting the top ten in over fifteen countries while it competed with Rih's own collab with Eminem, 'Love The Way You Lie'. Although the song would have worked great in Rihanna's hands, we see why she rejected it; it serves essentially the same purpose as 'Only Girl (In The World)', which was the first song recorded for Loud and which was always intended to be the first single.
6. Drake - Find Your Love
Rihanna and Drake have had major success with the majority of their collaborations, from 'What's My Name' to 'Take Care' to 'Work' - but long before any of these tracks were released, a relatively unknown Drake was already pitching some of his first hits to Rihanna. 'Find Your Love', the second single from Drake's debut album, was originally pitched to Rihanna due to Drake's belief that the song was "extremely vulnerable". "It's actually a huge risk," he would later state. "It almost feels like the song should be performed by a woman. I'm just hoping that men really hear the song and they're honest with themselves. I know a lot of men feel that way." Ultimately, the risk paid off for Drake who had a hit with the song, and whose own vulnerability and sensitivity would later go on to become a point of distinction and mockery in later years.
7. Rita Ora - R.I.P.
Rita Ora has been compared to Rihanna again and again over the course of her career, and it's not hard to see why. With her ethnic beauty, emotive vocals, and career trajectory from Roc Nation-approved R&B to Calvin Harris produced pop, it would be easy to think of Ora as Europe's own answer to the Bajan beauty. It's a comparison made even stronger by the fact that Rita's breakthrough single, 'R.I.P.', was initially written for Rihanna. 'R.I.P.' was another Drake-penned track that originally appeared on his The Gift Without a Curse mixtape with the name 'I'm Ready For You'. Ora's version retained the Nneka and Chase & Status sample of Drake's original song while adding a fresh coat of production paint courtesy of frequent Rihanna collaborators Stargate. Although we're sure that Rih could slay this track, it's a testament to Rita's talent that we can't imagine anyone performing it as well as she does, and we're glad that she got the chance to shine with such a bop for her first release.
8. Justin Bieber - Love Yourself
'Love Yourself' was a hit for Justin Bieber in 2015, but the track had a long journey to the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. It was originally written by Ed Sheeran for his album ÷, and back then it had a very different, R-rated chorus of "If you like the way you look that much/Baby, you should go and fuck yourself". Realising that he didn't have the "swag" to pull off such a line, Sheeran initially considered pitching the song to Rih. "Rihanna could get away with saying 'you should go and f--k yourself,' in my mind anyway," he would later state.
Ed never got around to sending the song Rihanna's way, but when talking to Bieber near the end of his recording for Purpose he realised that Justin would be able to pull off a more G-rated version. "It kind of came at a zeitgeist time for his career, where he had fallen out of grace with the public, and he had this comeback song that was quite grown up," he would later say. Although there's no guarantee Rih would have recorded the song, it would definitely be interesting to see what she could do with the track. Some of her more interesting songs have experimented with acoustic instruments, such as 'FourFiveSeconds' and 'Stay', and 'Love Yourself' (or 'Fuck Yourself') would definitely have been a nice addition to that series.
9. Ed Sheeran - Shape of You
Rihanna must be running through Ed Sheeran's mind a lot, because 'Love Yourself' wasn't the only song he wrote with her in mind. Ed's own hit 'Shape of You' was initially conceived as a duet between Rih and the UK band Rudimental, but a combination of his record label head persuading him to keep the song for himself and his own personalised lyrics made him rethink the decision. "We were writing this song and I was like 'this would really work for Rihanna,'" he would explain later. "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." Although the song's tropical flair would have suited Rihanna well, there's something distinctly masculine about the lyrics of loving someone's body which we just can't imagine her singing. Then again, who is Rihanna to let something like gender stop her?
10. Sia - Cheap Thrills
Upon it's release, 'Shape of You' was compared unfavourably to another tropically-minded song which had been released months earlier: Sia's 'Cheap Thrills'. Like all of the other songs on her This Is Acting album, 'Cheap Thrills' was a song that Sia had originally written for another artist before reclaiming it for herself, and in this case it was once again Rihanna who had turned down the track. Ultimately, this ended up being for the better: the super-poppy 'Cheap Thrills' wouldn't have worked at all on ANTI, but it did go on to become Sia's first #1 in the US and probably paid for her fifth vacation home.
11. Sia - Alive
'Alive' was another This Is Acting cut that had been intended for multiple artists before it's release. Sia co-wrote the song with Adele "in Adele's perspective" for her album 25, but the song was rejected from the album at the last minute. "I said to [Adele], 'Do you mind if I pitch it to, let's say, Rihanna?'", Sia would later recount. "She said, 'Yeah, but can you take my vocal off it because I don't want my vocal floating around out there on a demo?'" Sia ultimately recorded her own take on the song to pitch to Rihanna, where it was rejected for a second time. Despite this, Sia's collaborators encouraged her to keep the song for herself. "Everybody in my life was like, 'You can't give this away to anybody'," she explained, which inspired her to release the song as the first single from her own album. As far as 'Alive' goes, we can take it or leave it: Rihanna would probably have done as good a job as Adele or Sia did on the song, but there's nothing particularly special about the generic self-empowerment lyrics of the song, which is probably the reason why it stalled so low on the charts.
12. Sia - Reaper
'Reaper' was another This Is Acting album track, and the third song on the album that had originally been hand-crafted with Rihanna in mind. 'Reaper' was written by Sia and her frequent collaborator Jesse Shatkin alongside Kanye West and his team of 88-Keys and Dom $olo for ANTI - however, the track was scrapped when the album underwent a last-minute change in direction. 'Reaper' was for the version of ANTI pre-'Work' which also featured 'FourFiveSeconds', 'Bitch Better Have My Money' and 'American Oxygen', which existed back when Kanye was executive producing the album. After a falling out between him and Rih, she retooled the album without their collaborations, making it the hit record we know today. As for our thoughts on the song, Sia summed them up pretty nicely herself when she said, "I don't care about the song. I know in print that will look bad, but what I mean is I'm not emotionally attached to it. I thought it was a fun song. I think it's a good, fun song, but I didn't anticipate it being on the record." 'Reaper' is fun and catchy, but it seems like a throwaway track for Sia and more like something we'd expect from Rihanna's fifth album than her eighth.
13. Beyoncé - Pretty Hurts
'Pretty Hurts' is often regarded as the standout from Beyoncé's self-titled 2013 album, and even it's lead songwriter Sia considers it to be her "best song". As such, it makes some sense that the track was in demand by multiple musicians before Bey finally snagged it for herself. The track was originally written by Sia alongside producer Ammo on the same day as she recorded 'Titanium' for David Guetta in 2011, and as with 'Titanium' first dibs for the song went to Katy Perry. Somehow, Katy ended up missing the e-mail that 'Pretty Hurts' was attached to, and the track was instead passed onto Rihanna's team. Rihanna, who was at the time recording for Talk That Talk, showed interest in the song and placed it on hold; but after she failed to pay the track's fee for a whopping eight months, Sia continued to shop it around once more.
While 'Pretty Hurts' remained in limbo, Beyoncé heard it and labelled it as "my song". She would later go on to state, "The second I heard the song, I'm like, 'I have to sing this song, I don't care how hard I have to fight for this song!'". Ultimately, she paid the fee to make the song hers and stole the track right out from under Rihanna's nose. Given that 'Pretty Hurts' originally had a very different composition from the version that Bey released, it's hard to say how Rihanna's vocals would have worked on the track; although given that the song is a statement on the beauty industrial complex, we can't imagine that her Fenty Beauty company would have gone on to great success after she recorded it.
14. Jordin Sparks - Battlefield
2009 was the year of Ryan Tedder, with the English-born songwriter penning hits for balladeers ranging from Beyoncé to Kelly Clarkson: and if things had played out differently, he may just have added Rihanna to that list. 'Battlefield', which was ultimately released by Jordin Sparks as the first single from her album of the same name, was initially written with the intention of pitching it to Christina Aguilera. After a demo was recorded it was then considered as a duet for Rihanna and Chris Brown, but after news of Brown's physical assault broke these plans were scrapped. Instead, Sparks went on to nab the song and turn it into a moderate success, with the song hitting #10 on the US charts.
15. Jessie J - Do It Like A Dude
Jessie J had success with writing on Miley Cyrus's 'Party In The U.S.A.', and it didn't take long before she tried to replicate the hit when she wrote 'Do It Like A Dude' for Rihanna. Jessie had Rihanna on the mind at the time due to the prominence of 'Rude Boy' on the radio, and she thought that the "tongue-in-cheek" and "empowering" nature of 'Dude' would be perfect for Rih to embody. After her completion of the song, Jessie sent it to both Rih's management and her own record label Island Records; and while she received no response from the former, an enthusiastic review from the latter encouraged her to release the song as her first single. Although Rih would have undoubtedly improved the song just by her very presence, we're kind of glad she didn't lend her vocals to this one; I'm pretty sure even Rihanna couldn't have saved this tryhard mess of a song.
16. Ariana Grande - Dangerous Woman
'Dangerous Woman' is a favourite among not only Ariana Grande fans, but also the popstar herself, who liked the track so much that she ended up scrapping her original lead single 'Focus' in it's favour and reworking her entire album to fit it's theme. Despite this, writers Johan Carlsson and Ross Golan had a very different artist in mind when they penned the song. Initially, the song was written with the intention of sending it to Carrie Underwood, who passed; and following this, it was also sent to Alicia Keys. Rihanna was third on the list of artists who were sent the song, and it was only after she rejected it that Grande got sloppy...fourths? While it would have been cool to hear Rih do her thing on this thumping mid-tempo, we're honestly more interested to hear what Carrie Underwood could have done with the song. She's never headed in such an R&B direction before, and it could definitely be an interesting change of pace for the country singer.
17. Major Lazer & DJ Snake - Lean On (Feat. MØ)
'Lean On' was one of the biggest songs of 2015, and one of the largest hits of the streaming era. Despite only peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, the song reached #1 in nine other countries, and went on to become the most streamed song of all time, as well as selling over 13 million copies worldwide. Surprisingly though, the track was offered to multiple artists who turned it down before it became the smash we know it as today. Major Lazer and MØ wrote the track together as a slower reggae song, pitching it to Nicki Minaj who turned it down. Later, they reworked the track into a more upbeat version with the help of DJ Snake, and went on to pitch this version to Rihanna. "I played her 'Lean On,'" Diplo would later recount. "She was like, 'I don't do house music.' I face-palmed so hard on that one." Weirdly enough though, despite the song's tropical influences, we think MØ is way more suited for the track than Rihanna would ever be. Ultimately, this track went to just the singer who needed it most.
18. Pitbull - Timber (Feat. Ke$ha)
Out of all of the songs that Rihanna turned down, this has to be the one we're most happy to see her let go of. Although Pitbull was always (unfortunately) intended to rap over the 'Timber' beat, he had initially wanted Rihanna to sing the chorus later made famous by Kesha. Fortunately, due to Rihanna's focus on her Shakira duet 'Can't Remember To Forget You', she was unable to find time to record vocals for the song. This was a positive thing for two reasons: one, because Rih didn't have to besmirch her good name by working with a rent-a-rapper like Pitbull; and two, because Kesha's southern roots and party girl image were perfect for the chorus of 'Timber', which gave her a greatly-needed hit at the perfect moment in time. We just wish she'd been given the chance to rap the verses herself.
Which of these songs would you most like to hear Rihanna's vocals on? Let us know in the comments down below!