The Ones That Got Away: Songs Originally Intended For Other Artists

Have you ever heard a song and wondered what it would sound like if another artist released it? Well, often times that’s the case when artists and producers reimagine the voice behind the anthem. Throughout history some of the biggest hits could’ve ended up in the wrong hands. Artists would’ve missed out on a potential chart topper or lend a song to a different artist who just didn’t do it justice.

During promotion for his critically acclaimed sixth studio album IGOR, Tyler The Creator revealed that he had pitched album highlight “Earfquake” to various artists including Justin Bieber and Rihanna. As both artists turned down the song, Tyler ended up scoring his highest peaking song to date. Inspired by such sudden turn of events here’s a list of notable songs that were written or produced for another artist. The ultimate curation of the hits that got away.

Song: “Find Your Love”

Artist: Drake

Album: Thank Me Later

Intended for: Rihanna

The first of many songs on this list that were intended for Rihanna is none other than Drake’s “Find Your Love”. The top five hit was originally written for Rihanna who later recorded her own version of the song that Drake heard and then wanted. The melody of the track was envisioned by Kanye West which was revealed by producer Jeff Bhasker.


Song: “Love Yourself”

Artist: Justin Bieber

Album: Purpose

Intended for: Ed Sheeran 

Originally penning one of Justin Bieber’s biggest hits for the album Divide, Ed Sheeran passed on the song, lending it over to the Canadian star. The singer-songwriter sound was a different direction than the previous singles of the blockbuster Purpose era, while still remaining as successful, becoming the third No.1 hit off of the album.


Song: “Rock Your Body”

Artist: Justin Timberlake

Album: Justified 

Intended for: Michael Jackson

The 2003 Neptunes produced hit “Rock Your Body” was notable for launching the solo career of Justin Timberlake. Infused with the sounds of disco and soul, the song was influenced by the likes of Stevie Wonder and the artist the song was intended for, Michael Jackson. Michael rejected the song, which was intended for his tenth studio album, Invincible.


Song: “In Paris”

Artist: Jay Z & Kanye West

Album: Watch the Throne

Intended for: Pusha T

A pivotal moment of the Watch the Throne era was the success of the single, “In Paris”. The irresistible rap number was the ultimate banger which seemed like only Jay and Ye could’ve pulled off, but producer Hit-Boy had another name in mind, Pusha T.  Kanye reached out to Pusha T, sending him the instrumental but the rapper eventually turned down the song.


Song: “Thinkin Bout You”

Artist: Frank Ocean

Album: channel ORANGE

Intended for: Bridget Kelly

Before officially debuting in 2012, Frank Ocean notably wrote hits for the likes of Beyoncé and Justin Bieber. A year prior to the release of his debut single “Thinkin Bout You”, Frank posted a demo of the song which was written for Roc Nation artist Bridget Kelly. Even though it was released by Frank, the song also appeared on Kelly’s “Every Girl” EP.


Song: “Nothin’ On You”

Artist B.o.B featuring Bruno Mars

Album: Nothin' On You

Intended for Lupe Fiasco

The megahit of 2010 by breakthrough artist B.o.B was almost wasn’t released by him. Originally offered to labelmate Lupe Fiasco, Atlantic Records rejected Fiasco’s version after hearing it.


Song: “Gold Digger”

Artist: Kanye West

Album: The College Dropout

Intended for: Shawnna

Imagine if Kanye West never released “Gold Digger”? One of Kanye’s signature hits lasted the test of time with its iconic lyricism and the rapper’s approach to the subject matter, but he had to rework the magic. Fellow Chicago emcee Shawnna passed on the beat forcing Kanye to shift the subject into a male perspective.


Song: “Earfquake”

Artist: Tyler, The Creator

Album: IGOR

Intended for: Justin Bieber and Rihanna

The most successful song from Tyler, The Creator’s Grammy winning album IGOR originally wasn’t meant for the concept of the album. Expressing interest in writing pop songs, Tyler pitched the song to Justin Bieber who turned down the song. Once Bieber passed on it, he tried his luck with Rihanna, who also was disinterested in the track.


Song: “See You Again”

Artist: Tyler, The Creator

Album: Flower Boy

Intended for: Zayn




Song: “The Less I Know The Better”

Artist: Tame Impala

Album: Currents

Intended for: Mark Ronson

What if Kevin Parker never released “The Less I Know The Better”? What would’ve happened if Tame Impala’s biggest hit was a hit that got away? Recently revealing that he tried to give the track to Mark Ronson, he eventually came to realization that he should keep the track to himself. It’s safe to say that he made the right decision as the song has been streamed nearly 500 million times on Spotify.


Song: “Happy”

Artist: Pharrell Williams

Album: GIRL

Intended for: Cee Lo Green

The inescapable “Happy” has went on to become the most successful songs of all time. The Academy Award nominated song which was recorded and released by Pharrell explained that it almost went to Cee Lo Green.\


Song: “Lemon”

Artist: N*E*R*D featuring Rihanna

Album: No One Ever Really Dies

Intended for: Diddy

N*E*R*D’s 2017 grand return was marked by the lead single featuring Rihanna. The song originally traces back to 2015 when it was recorded by Diddy who later on refused it. Also revealed in Rihanna’s picture back, the hit was included in the original tracklist to ANTI.


Songs intended for Rihanna:

Usher: “DJ Got Us Fallin In Love”

Major Lazer: “Lean On”

Sia: “Cheap Thrills”

Ed Sheeran: “Shape Of You”

Leave a comment