“Happy” For Cee Lo, “Irreplaceable” For Faith Hill? Hit Songs Originally Meant For Other Artists (Part II)

May 1, 2014  |  
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Can you imagine if your favorite songs by your favorite artists were sung by someone completely different? Well, before the following songs were topping the charts and making us dance (or cry in one case), they were in the hands of other popular artists, who for some reason, decided that they wanted or needed to pass on the track. Here are 10 such examples of hit songs that were originally meant for other artists, but when they were rejected, became some of the biggest hits in the careers of these artists…


Cee Lo – “Happy”

In an interview with Howard Stern recently, Pharrell Williams revealed that the song that made him America’s black sweetheart was originally intended for Cee Lo, though it was written and produced by Williams. Not only was it originally intended for the “Forget You” singer, Cee Lo actually recorded a version of the song and everything, but his people weren’t feeling it:

“[Cee Lo Green] wanted to do it…and he did do it.
He burns my version! But…how do I say this diplomatically? The powers that be, at the time, did not see it fit for him…they elected not to do that song.”


Celine Dion – “Unbreak My Heart”

The Toni Braxton cut (which she said in her “Behind The Music” episode she wasn’t originally feeling), which was her biggest hit, was originally intended for Celine Dion. Written by Diane Warren, the famed songwriter created hit songs for Dion in the past, including “Because You Loved Me.”


Donna Summer – “What’s Love Got To Do With It”

Can you imagine? Summer was offered the song (after Clive Davis wouldn’t allow the late Phyllis Hyman to record it), and had it in her possession for years, though she never recorded it. Eventually, Turner got her hands on the song and the rest is history. The late disco queen probably would have sounded great on such a song, but of course, nobody does it better than Ms. Turner (and it ended up being Turner’s biggest hit).


Christina Milian – “S.O.S.”

Milian was originally given the song “S.O.S.” to record, but she turned it down for her third album, So Amazin’. It was given to Rihanna, who went on to make it a hit. “S.O.S.” topped the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks and was Ri Ri’s FIRST number one song. As for Milian, she released  So Amazin’ with the lead single “Say I” featuring Young Jeezy. The album didn’t perform well and she was dropped from Def Jam because of poor sales…


Gloria Estefan – “Hero”

The song “Hero” was originally intended to be written for and performed by Gloria Estefan for the 1992 movie, Hero, starring Dustin Hoffman. But when working on Mariah Carey’s Music Box album, songwriter Walter Afanasieff told Carey about the movie, and while playing around, they created the song “Hero.” Carey didn’t want it initially, but Tommy Mottola told her she needed to make it her own.

Afanasieff once said this about the songwriting process:

“It was never meant for Mariah to sing. In her mind, we were writing a song for Gloria Estefan for this movie. And we went into an area that Mariah didn’t really go into – in her words, it was a little bit too schmaltzy or too pop ballady or too old-fashioned as far as melody and lyrics.”


Shawnna – “Gold Digger”

That’s right, this song was supposed to be for a woman, particularly “Gettin Some” singer Shawnna. But for some reason, when she didn’t record the song for her debut album, Worth Tha Weight, West kept it for himself, changed the hook to a man’s perspective, and rode the track to number one on the Billboard Hot 100.


Rihanna – “We Can’t Stop”

If you thought there was something familiar about Miley Cyrus’ new look and sound, it’s probably because the former Disney star’s big hit, “We Can’t Stop,” was originally intended for Ri Ri. Production duo Rock City wrote it with Rihanna in mind, but after the success of her song “Diamonds,” they thought it would be a good first single for someone else, and producer Mike Will Made It ended it up offering it to Cyrus.


Faith Hill – “Irreplaceable”

While “Irreplaceable” is one of Beyoncé’s biggest hits, Ne-Yo actually originally wrote the song in the style of country. And not only that, but he had Faith Hill AND Shania Twain in mind for the song in the beginning. But once drums were added, he thought it could be an “R&B-country western” song. It was finally passed to Beyoncé, who made major adjustments to it to make it flow better with the rest of the song selections from B’Day. In the end, the song spent a whopping 10 weeks at the number one spot on the Hot 100. 


Ciara – “Drop It Low”

The song, which was from the More Than A Game soundtrack, was a hit that put songwriter Ester Dean on people’s radar. It was such a well-made song, one of the biggest names in pop wanted it. Dean previously said the following: “‘Drop It Low,’ honestly, was for Ciara, but she didn’t come get the song. Then Britney wanted it.” In the end, with motivation from producer Polow da Don, Dean went ahead and recorded it for herself.


Lupe Fiasco – “Airplanes”

Interesting, right? The original version of “Airplanes” was written by rapper Lupe Fiasco, and it did still feature vocals from Paramore chanteuse Hayley Williams. For some reason, Lupe Fiasco decided against doing the song altogether, and the framework of the track was given to B.O.B. He went on to write his own verses for the hit song.

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  • Brian Simpson

    You forgot to include “Physical”. It was originally written for Rod Stewart but went to Olivia Newton-John instead, who made it a huge hit!

  • keepitcuteorputitonmute#1

    Who the fxck cares

  • Steve Stone

    Maria Carey thought a song was to schmaltzy? Child please

  • therealnumber1

    I can see Cee-Lo ripping Happy and I can picture Christina Milan doing S.O.S as well as Celine doing unbreak my heart…I actually liked Say I by Christina…Another good is Britney Spear’s hit Hit Me Baby One MOre Time which was originally for TLC…

  • Stacy D. Smith

    The first time I ever heard “Happy” I knew it had to have been written for Cee Lo. Sounds like a song he would sing. It’s even arranged in a way that suits his voice.

    “Irreplaceable” though? I had no idea. Here’s what’s funny though. Listen to “Irreplaceable” and then “How To Love.” The vocal arrangements are interchangeable.

  • JewelThompson

    I KNOW Cee Lo put a hurting on his version of “Happy”. I can really see him singing that song. However, if the reason Pharrell got his shot is because of optics/persona – I can see that also. I still want to hear Cee Lo’s vocals on this though 🙂

  • FamuRattler85

    Now that I know Cee-Lo was supposed to sing “Happy”, I think I would have liked it better if he had.

  • Miss E

    I could definitely hear Cee-Lo singing “Happy”!

  • At A Crossroads

    I always thought Irreplaceable sounded like a country song anyway. And I would love to hear Cee-lo’s Happy. I can almost hear it in my imagination.

  • lea

    Now y’all know Cee lo would have slayed the mess out of “Happy.” Now I really want to hear his version.

  • Chanda

    I can totally see Cee-Lo singing Happy. Now I wonder how many songs where passed up for Whitney Houston to sing. God rest her soul (one of the greatest singers) but Houston never written a song her whole career.

  • kiki j

    I would need to hear the country version of Irreplaceable because I just can’t see it. I imagine it was nearly a whole different song. But the rest of the list I can see being interchangeable. Especially ceelo singing Happy.

    • itiswhatitis

      the version Beyonce put out IS country…it just went POP…there is a reggae version and it STILL sounds country in that genre. hell, Sade’s By your side, is a country song, truth be told!

      • kiki j

        I tried really really hard to see it your way but I keep drawing a blank lol. Country? It’s extremely mainstream rnb. All day long! Lol

        • Chanda

          I can imagine it being country without that drum beat plus Bey put her own spin on Irreplaceable. I sometimes hear Beyonce’s version on the pop/soft rock station where I’m at.

          • kiki j

            The lyrics would’ve had to be completely different. Like every lyric. It’s not the beat that gets me but the lyrics. “Now go ahead and get gone call up that chick and see if she’s home. Oops i bet you thought that I don’t know….” country? I’m trying ladies I’m trying!

            • Chanda

              Yes, that is country! This generation of country singers are sassy like the R&B ones. Like someone else said, I can see/hear Underwood singing that lyric.

              • kiki j

                Well yes Underwood I could see singing this, ok y’all win lol

                • oscardgrouch

                  A country group actually performed the song with Beyonce on an awards show. I think it was Lady Antebellum. I’m sure you can google it and find the performance.

                  • ladybug

                    Thanks !

              • bailedex

                Or Miranda Lambert

  • Queen2Cent

    I think Cee Lo would’ve done a great job with Happy, but not sure if Faith version of Irreplaceable.

    • Reese

      I could see Carrie Underwood doing it Justice. Faith is too sweet to kick somebody out.

  • tarrilove

    I know Christina still mad about passing up SOS. They don’t know what to do with her. Bad management. She could be a huge pop star, without competeting with Riri or Beyonce. She has her own sex appeal. She needs to ask Demi Lovato to right her some songs. She needs to be pop r&b.

    • Miss E

      It wasn’t her management, it was her. She wouldn’t listen to anyone. She wanted her boyfriend to produce everything. She played herself.

      • monitorette

        The lyrics sung by Christina ‘I’m make it happen/ I make a way/if you’ve got something to prove/If you feel the same way/Say I” and the lyrics of the Young Jayzee are really good. No wonder why she rejected S.O.S, which is pop bubblegum compared to SAY I. (even though I like the production sound of S.O.S.. If you people keep denigrating valuable tracks like Say I just because the sales were ‘poor’, well interesting artists like Christina Millian will irreversibly be dumped by the music industry.

        • .

          Say i wasn’t really all of that either.

          • monitorette

            All I wanted to say is that SAY I had an uplifting message conveyed, with simple lyrics, as saying to you who is listening, if you’re feeling the same way, say I. It is often said that we’re living in an age in which everything has already been talked over so many times, and then someone drops a track like SAY I (even though upon a sampled music) and we realize there is still room for an accurate song on empowerment.

            As Christina’s vocal range, it suits my ears.

        • Miss E

          “Say I” was okay. She can’t sing all that great, if you ask me.
          Her producer boyfriend at the time was Dre from Cool & Dre, she tried to make it work with Nick Cannon before Dre. But then a couple of years later she hooks up with The Dream and has his baby. You tell me what she was tryna do?

      • tarrilove

        Oh , she picked the wrong boyfriend to produce. She should have had the dream produce. Instead Dre of the Cool and Dre.

        • Miss E

          She should be satisfied now. She had his child. lmao

  • Courtney Puzzo

    yeah so what Faith Hill can sing almost anything from Stephony Smith to Bruce Springsteen and her higher registers are stronger than Beyoncé’s are. MRS Smith wrote It’s Your Love which Faith sang harmony on with her husband Tim McGraw in 1997 it was the #1 country song of that year winning many awards and receiving nominations for others including a Grammy nomination for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals though they didn’t win

    • PolkaDots

      Yes, Mrs MCGRAW can SAAAANG. Love that girl!

    • Phil J.

      really? this may be my own ignorance because I haven’t really listened to a lot of her songs, but i never thought she was much of a singer