It's hard to fathom, but pop folklore has it that Britney Spears' breakout 1998 single, "...Baby One More Time," almost ended up as a TLC track. But for reasons unknown (until now), the R&B trio rejected the iconic single. Why? T-Boz recently explained to MTV that the Lolita-laced lyrics just didn't feel very TLC to her: "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. It's good for her. But was I going to say 'hit me baby one more time'? Hell no!'"
So, Britney got it, crushed it, and thanks to a video of a lifetime, made it legendary — and the rest is history. But this sort of pop-song swap is nothing new. You may be surprised at how many iconic anthems almost fell into the hands and throat of an entirely different singer. It makes you wonder how many potential classics are left to wither and die as unsung anthems on the cutting-room floor. But at least some are saved!
Take Madonna's "Holiday" — it feels preternaturally destined for her, no? Hindsight says so, anyway. But the track almost ended up as a song for Supremes' singer Mary Wilson, who didn't feel it suited her soulful vocals. Another uplifting Madonna hit, 1986's "Open Your Heart," was originally a Cyndi Lauper reject. And years before, Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, and Cher all refused "It's Raining Men" before it became a huge hit by The Weather Girls.
Perhaps more than any other contemporary artist, Rihanna has a knack for taking other artists' sonic "scraps" and making them huge. "Disturbia" was originally intended for Chris Brown (who is indeed disturbing), and "S.O.S." was meant for Christina Milian (we feel for her, but at least she has The Voice). Even "Umbrella" was intended for Britney! But Rihanna isn't afraid to turn down songs either: In fact, she rejected "We Can't Stop," and we all know who ended up with that one. But you knew that instinctively, didn't you? The cadence of Miley's party smash alone reveals its true nature: It's expressly RiRi. And sure, maybe a little Jessie J, too, which fits, since the British singer wrote and originally intended to record Miley's first chart-topper, "Party In The USA."
Back to Britney: Her other truly groundbreaking single, "Toxic," was intended for none other than Kylie Minogue (and honestly, we bet that would have sounded pretty incredible). She also was first in the running for Lady Gaga's future smash/Beyonce collaboration, "Telephone." Then there's the rare gem, "Graffiti My Soul," which Britney demoed and dismissed. Happily, it became an anarchic pop staple for British group Girls Aloud (RIP), but there is in fact recorded (and in-demand) evidence of Britney singing this.
We all know that Justin Timberlake very openly admires, and sometimes apes, Michael Jackson's music and moves, but did you know that "Rock Your Body? was originally intended for The King of Pop? Instead, it ended up as JT's own pretty solid tribute track. And if you ever thought that Paris Hilton's breezy "Stars Are Blind" sounded uncannily like a Gwen Stefani ripoff, that's no accident. Producer Fernando Garibay has confirmed it was in fact originally intended for the No Doubt singer's solo sessions. And Fergie's vaporous hit, "Glamorous," is also a Stefani reject (we can see why).
Even power ballads aren't exempt. Back when she was queen of the world (or of Titanic, anyway), Celine Dion rejected "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing," the Diane Warren emofest that ended up resurrecting Aerosmith's relevance to kids everywhere. (Maybe having two late-'90s movie ballads in a row was a bit much for Dion?) And finally, Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" — the coming-of-age, life-affirming hymn beloved by everyone of the Mean Girls generation — almost wasn't because songwriter Linda Perry wanted it for her own record. Luckily, Perry loved working with Aguilera so much she decided to let her have it, thus defining the young diva's career, and saving radio from a total dominance of Nicklebackian dreck. (MTV)