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Turns Out These 10 Famous Musicians Wrote Hit Songs for Other Stars and Everything Makes Sense Now
I hate to break it to you, but every single music artist doesn’t actually write their own music (they can’t all be Taylor Swift!!!). Thing is, some music artists don't end up singing or performing the songs they themselves wrote. *pauses for mind to be blown*
Okay, maybe it's not mind-blowing, but still. It's cool. Sometimes artists write songs specifically with other acts in mind, or the song just didn’t fit in on their own album so they pass it off. Whatever the case may be, some artists’ biggest hits (Beyoncé’s “Halo”), were written by other big names in the music biz. The best collaborations are the unexpected ones, where the two artists don't even create in the same genre space. But sometimes there’s characteristics heard throughout the songs.
Here are some of your faves who've written hit songs for other artists. (PSA: expect to fall down a rabbit hole from here on out and stay looking at the song credits on Spotify.)
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Sia is here to literally save pop music. She’s written hit songs for pretty much everyone. See: Britney Spears’ “Perfume” (and “Passenger”), Katy Perry’s “Chained to the Rhythm” and Kelly Clarkson “Invincible.” Her own album This is Acting is compiled of songs that she wrote for other artists—but they passed. She went number one with “Cheap Thrills” which she originally wrote for Rihanna. So there!
“Pretty Hurts” by Beyoncé (2013): In an unlikely collab on Beyoncé’s self-titled album, Sia gave Beyoncé a self-confidence anthem with this one. We stan!
“You Lost Me” by Christina Aguilera (2010): Unlike Sia’s typical song filled with belting and runs, she helps show Christina Aguilera’s soft side with this track from her album Bionic.
“Diamonds” by Rihanna (2012): Sia’s first number one hit for another artist was shiny like “Diamonds” from Rihanna’s album Unapologetic. Not only did this elevate Sia as an in-demand songwriter, but the success of the song pushed Rihanna into new musical territory. Trust me, I'm a music historian. (I'm not, but still.)
“Flashlight” by Jessie J (2015): Although not originally intended for the film, the song was picked up for Pitch Perfect 2 over her other song written for the film “Bird Set Free.” Fun fact: a pre-fame Sam Smith was also a co-writer on the tune. Sia took “Bird Set Free” for her This is Acting album while the Bellas took home victory with an emotional performance of “Flashlight” in the film.
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2) St. Vincent
St. Vincent is known for her edgy sets and alt pop sound. Her music almost always includes deep synths and vibrating electronics. And she's the songwriter behind...
“Cruel Summer” by Taylor Swift (2019): If this pandemic didn’t happen, Taylor would currently be pushing “Cruel Summer” for song of the summer, accompanied by an over the top music video from her album Lover. But, um, "cruel" maybe hits waaay too close to home. (Sorry, Tay!) Coming from a totally different sound and under her real name Annie Clark, St. Vincent lends her writing chops to this bop. How did the collaboration come about? Swift says she’s a huge fan of St. Vincent. Which, same.
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3) Pharrell Williams
If you don't have “Happy” stuck in your head rn, who are you?? Oh, and Pharrell's written songs for other artists too, you know:
“Hot In Herre” by Nelly (2002): Nelly revealed that he turned his final cut of his album Nellyville in without “Hot In Heree” (which reigned the Billboard Top 100 for seven consecutive weeks). Nelly brought in Pharrell after feeling like something was missing from the final album, “Hot in Heree” was born and the rest is history.
"I'm A Slave 4 U" by Britney Spears (2001): From Britney’s self-titled album, I had no idea that Pharrell brought this iconic song to being. This man can do it all!!!
“Milkshake” by Kelis (2004): Arguably Kelis’ biggest song is never not relevant. Pharrell actually didn’t write the song for Kelis originally. He first offered the song to Britney Spears for her In the Zone album, but she passed.
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4) Lady Gaga
Before Lady Gaga became a household name, Super Bowl Halftime performer and Oscar winner, she was just a girl with a dream named Stefani Germanotta. She says she played at a thousand bars in New York City before anyone knew who she was, but she didn’t give up. While she doesn’t write for other artists anymore, she collaborated with artists early in her career.
“Quicksand” by Britney Spears (2008): “Quicksand,” the bonus track on Britney Spears’ album Circus, has major Gaga vibes. This is a good thing.
“Fever” by Adam Lambert (2010): Okay, this screams Gaga, too.
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5) Ryan Tedder
Ryan Tedder, like Sia, has a songwriting career offstage (he's in OneRepublic). Let’s not forget he was standing onstage with Taylor Swift when she won Album of the Year in 2016 for 1989 as well as collaborating with Adele on her song “Remedy” from her album 25.
“Sine From Above” by Lady Gaga ft. Elton John (2020): This is by far the craziest song Ryan has contributed to, led by the fearless Gaga herself (he's fully entered life on Chromatica).
“Halo” by Beyoncé (2008): Just when we think he couldn’t have written for anyone bigger, he wrote one of Beyoncé’s most uplifting songs alongside her. Iconique.
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6) Bruno Mars
From the Super Bowl to taking home seven Grammys in 2018 for his album 24K Magic, Bruno Mars has quickly hit icon status—and so has, wait for it, his songwriting. Of course. Let's get to it:
“Forget You” by Cee Lo Green (2010): With distant characteristics of Bruno Mars’ own music, it’s not sooo far fetched he was attached to this hit.
“All I Ask” by Adele (2015): No one could have seen this collaboration coming—it’s the most heart-wrenching song on Adele’s 25. In 2016 Mars covered the song at BBC Radio’s Live Lounge saying “the next song I’m about to do for y’all is a song that means a lot to me.”
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7) Taylor Swift
Wanna know something legendary? Taylor Swift wrote all of Speak Now *solo* because critics were saying that she doesn’t play a big part in the writing process. Any further questions???! Didn't think so. Here's a lil look at just some of the other bops she's written:
“Better Man” by Little Big Town (2016): Taylor Swift releasing her first complete pop album 1989 was her proclamation to the world that she is leaving her country music roots. But even if the songs aren’t for her, she’s continued to write for country artists like Little Big Town, Sugarland, and Kellie Pickler.
“You’ll Always Find Your Way Back Home” by Miley Cyrus (2009): Who could have guessed that Taylor Swift was behind the *iconic* song that Miley Cyrus performed as Hannah Montana in Hannah Montana: The Movie before revealing her true identity to an entire crowd? Me. I could've.
“This Is What You Came For” by Calvin Harris ft. Rihanna (2016): Originally written under her pseudonym Nils Sjöberg, Taylor Swift and her then boyfriend Calvin Harris are the sole writers on this hit track. Swift used a fake name because they didn't want their relationship to overshadow the song. If you listen closely fans speculate that you can hear Swift in the chorus!
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8) Ed Sheeran
Remember when Ed Sheeran teamed up with Beyoncé for his song “Perfect”? I didn’t see that coming, but the song was so…perfect. 'K, so anyway, he also wrote:
"Love Yourself" by Justin Bieber (2015): If you know Ed's music, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he's behind this track. Last year Justin Bieber was featured on Ed’s song “I Don’t Care” that went number one on the Billboard Top 100 (from his album No. 6 Collaborations Project), which, TBH, is a v nice thank you gift.
“Little Things” by One Direction (2012): Although Ed wanted this track for himself (I mean, come on) he passed it off to his friend Harry Styles with One Direction. *swoon*
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9) Katy Perry
Katy Perry broke into superstardom by kissing a girl (and liking it, etc. etc.), but JYSK, she's been breaking hits for other pop stars this whole time (and liking it, etc. etc.). Her album Teenage Dream broke records having five Billboard Top 100 number ones and was two spots away from having a sixth with the ironically named The One That Got Away. We’ll see what she has up her sleeve for her next album due out this August. P.S. she also penned:
“Black Widow” by Iggy Azalea ft. Rita Ora (2014): Katy Perry co-wrote “Black Widow” originally for her 2013 album Prism, but ultimately decided to pass it off to Iggy Azalea, fresh off of Iggy’s summer smash “Fancy.”
“I Do Not Hook Up” by Kelly Clarkson (2009): Katy also wrote this song for herself, but after choosing not to use it she gave it to Kelly Clarkson when she switched record labels.
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10) Jessie J
Fine. I'll say it: Jessie J is arguably one of the most talented singers of this generation, coming on the scene with "Price Tag" and uplifting ballads like “Nobody’s Perfect” and “Who You Are.” She threw us all for a loop when she entered China’s Singer in 2018 (a singing competition like the X Factor UK, which she was a judge on) and won! Oh yeah, and she wrote:
“Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus (2009): Jessie J wrote “Party in the USA” for herself, but once she hopped off the plane at LAX, she thought the song wasn’t mature enough for her. She passed the song to Miley Cyrus and said the royalties paid her rent for three years.
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