Last week, Nicole Scherzinger revealed in an interview that she had the opportunity to record "We Found Love," the Calvin Harris-produced dance smash that became the biggest hit of Rihanna's thriving career, but let the chance slip through her fingers. "I passed on 'We Found Love,'" Scherzinger admitted to Notion Magazine. "I've got the demo of that song and I was busy at the time."
Surprisingly, this occurrence is not at all uncommon in the music world: the past half-century is littered with examples of iconic pop songs that were originally intended for someone else to perform. Imagine a world in which Britney Spears is singing "Umbrella," Hilary Duff scored a monster hit with "Since U Been Gone" and Paris Hilton asked "Don't Cha" instead of Scherzinger's old group, the Pussycat Dolls. Strange to consider, isn't it? But some of these missed opportunities were pretty close to becoming reality.
"Rock Your Body"
Turned Down By: Michael Jackson
Recorded By: Justin Timberlake
Imagine, if you will, that Michael Jackson's final album was comprised of Neptunes-produced bangers like "Rock Your Body" instead of the uneven fare of 1999's "Invincible." And imagine that Justin Timberlake's solo debut was not blessed with tracks like this ubiquitous dance-starter. MJ passed on "Rock Your Body," and a number of other "Justified" songs, before the tracks went to JT, sending us into an alternate pop universe that still resonates today.
"Since U Been Gone"
Turned Down By: Pink, Hilary Duff
Recorded By: Kelly Clarkson
Dr. Luke and Max Martin originally teamed up to give P!nk another hit, and when she reportedly turned it down, they reached out to Hilary Duff. But the story goes that Clive Davis convinced the producers to give the song to Clarkson, who fashioned it into the centerpiece of her "Breakaway" and helped it sell 2.6 million downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"How Will I Know"
Turned Down By: Janet Jackson
Recorded By: Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston's No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 stands as one of the artist's most iconic tracks -- but it could have sounded a lot different with Janet Jackson at the helm. Songwriters George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam reportedly approached Janet's management team with a demo, but a swift decline forced them to look elsewhere. Thanks in large part to Clive Davis, Houston was given the track and turned it into a behemoth.
"Thinkin Bout You"
First Recorded By: Frank Ocean
Famously Recorded By: Bridget Kelly
Ocean's record of the year Grammy nominee was originally written for Roc Nation artist Bridget Kelly, but in 2011, Ocean leaked his own demo of the track on his Tumblr page. Fast-forward one year, and the vulnerable slow jam is featured on both Kelly's "Every Girl" EP (under the title "Thinking About Forever") and Ocean's best-selling "Channel Orange" LP. Both versions are worth hearing, but Ocean's personal cut still lingers with fans, years after that Tumblr post.
Turned Down By: Stevie Nicks
Recorded By: Blondie
Disco producer Giorgio Moroder originally asked Fleetwood Mac's lead songstress to help compose lyrics and deliver vocals for his latest dance confection, but when contractual issues prevented the collaboration from happening, Moroder turned to Debbie Harry, who co-wrote "Call Me." Nicks scored a huge hit two years later with "Edge of Seventeen," but could she have guided "Call Me" to its No. 1 spot on the Hot 100, as Blondie did?