It’s no big surprise that a lot of hits weren’t written by the people who sing them. For every Britney Spears or Kelly Clarkson, there’s an army of song-writers mixing up their best magic to make somebody else insanely famous. But what you may not know is that even famous musicians sometimes give their songs away. And then sometimes they totally regret that decision.
5 Musicians Who Gave Away Their Songs And Wanted Them Back:
1.Prince: “Nothing Compares 2 U”
Prince originally wrote “Nothing Compares 2 U” for his funk band The Family. It was released in 1985 on The Family’s one and only album, but it wasn’t promoted as a single and nobody really noticed it. When Sinead O’Connor recorded her infinitely more haunting version in 1990, it became a massive worldwide hit, spurred in part by the iconic music video directed by John Maybury. The video focuses heavily on Sinead O’Connor’s highly distinctive face, and the real-life tears spurred by the lyrics “All the flowers that you planted, Mother, in the back yard, all died when you went away” (Sinead’s beloved yet abusive mother had recently passed away).
Prince didn’t take kindly to an unknown Irish singer catapulting to stardom on the back of the song he wrote. He subsequently recorded and released several versions of “Nothing Compares 2 U”, but none came close to approaching the popularity of Sinead’s. Most people never even knew Prince wrote the song.
2. Jessie J “Party In The USA”
Jessie J repeatedly struggled to break out in America, long after she became famous in the UK. She might have had more luck if she’d held onto the extremely ‘Murica-centric “Party In The USA” instead of selling it to Miley Cyrus. It became Miley’s first smash hit, helping her bust out of her Hannah Montana image (along with a healthy side-dish of scandalous pole-dancing). Jessie regretted caving to the wishes of her label, who didn’t consider the song “edgy” enough for her, but it’s not certain she could have made the song a hit anyway. After all, Miley Cyrus had the cowboy boots and down-home background to make a stars and stripes anthem, while Jessie J has covered the song live multiple times to no great effect.
3. Lupe Fiasco, “Nothin’ On You” and “Airplanes”
Poor Lupe Fiasco gets to be on this list not once but twice, with two songs stolen by the exact same artist! First Lupe wrote “Nothin’ On You”, which was rejected by his record label but picked up by then-unknown artist B.o.B. (aka Bobby Ray Simmons, Jr.). B.o.B. made “Nothin’ On You” his debut single, and shot to the top of the charts in both the US and UK. Lupe was so distraught at his missed opportunity that he became, in his words:
Lightly suicidal, at moments medium suicidal.
I’d hate to hear what his state of mind became when he recorded “Airplanes” for his own album, only to have it stolen again by that bastard B.o.B. “Airplanes” became B.o.B.’s third single, and another massive hit. I presume Lupe Fiasco’s record label hid the scissors, tape dispensers, and anything else with a sharp edge for the remainder of the year.
Usher was one of the strongest and earliest promoters of the youthful Justin Bieber, but I’m not sure he meant to hand Bieber one of his biggest hits. “Somebody to Love” was originally recorded for Usher’s 6th album, but as the release date was repeatedly delayed, Usher passed the song along to his protege. Bieber titled his entire album after “Somebody To Love” and made the song his lead single. It became a bigger hit in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and Japan than anything Usher has released in the last 5 years. Usher apparently decided to capitalize on that popularity: while the original song only included Usher on background vocals, he featured heavily in the music video, then re-recorded the song for his 7th album, this time with Usher as the lead singer and Bieber on backup.
5. Ne-Yo’s “Irreplaceable”
The song “Irreplaceable” went through many alterations before Beyonce picked it up. Ne-Yo’s song was originally written from the male perspective, tweaked for R&B singer Chrisette Michelle, then re-written to suit a female country singer like Shania Twain. Finally Beyonce picked it up, worked her magic, and took it to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Ne-Yo regretted giving up the song, not because it became such a successful hit, but because the lyrics were originally so personal and specific to himself. He said:
One song that I gave away and didn’t want to is Beyonce’s ‘Irreplaceable’. I honestly wrote that song for myself.