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With 10 number-one singles and nine Grammys (not to mention a handful of diamond-certified songs), there’s no doubt that Rihanna is one of the biggest pop stars in the world, let alone in history. But even she makes mistakes. As a megastar, the 30-year-old is bombarded with songs every day from writers, producers, and artists hoping that she will lend her voice to their unreleased tracks.
Sometimes the demos make it to her and she passes. Sometimes she never even hears them. Regardless of what happens, Rihanna can’t sing them all, so many of these songs end up in the hands of other singers, such as Sia, Miley Cyrus, and Ed Sheeran, who make them into hits. But we don’t see this as a mistake. (RihRih makes no mistakes.) We see this as Rihanna spreading the love to give other artists a chance. Ahead, learn about 10 hit songs that were almost sung by Rihanna.
“Pretty Hurts” by Beyoncé
Any Beyoncé fan knows that “Pretty Hurts” is an iconic song from the singer’s fifth album. Beyoncé. But Queen Bey wasn’t the first choice. In an interview with ABC, Sia, who wrote “Pretty Hurts,” revealed that she first sent the song to Katy Perry. After Perry failed to respond, Sia sent it to Bey’s and Rihanna’s teams. And though RihRih liked the song, Bey ended up edging them out after she put down money to buy the track before Rih had the chance to.
“I wrote it on the sofa three years ago for Katy Perry, sent it to Katy Perry, and she never heard it,” Sia said. “Then I sent to Beyonce’s people and Rihanna’s people, and Rihanna heard it and she had it on hold for eight months and her management forgot to secure it by paying for the track, and Beyonce just slid into home base and threw the money down, and it was a really awkward situation.”
“Alive” by Sia
“Alive” was one of the songs that put Sia on the map as a singer, but the track was initially intended for Adele, who passed on it. Then it was pitched to Rihanna, who also turned it down. After people heard a demo recorded by Sia, the singer-songwriter decided to put it on her own album.
“I said to [Adele], ‘Do you mind if I pitch it to, let’s say, Rihanna?'” Sia told Ryan Seacrest. “‘Yeah, but can you take my vocal off it because I don’t want my vocal floating around out there on a demo.’ And I was like, ‘Sure.’ So I went and recut the vocal and everybody in my life was like, ‘You can’t give this away to anybody.'”
“We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus
“We Can’t Stop” was Cyrus’s big comeback to music after Disney Channel, but the song almost went to Rihanna. In an interview with MTV, the song’s producer, Mike WiLL Made-It, revealed that the song was written for Rihanna. Rihanna eventually turned “We Can’t Stop” down for another of the producer’s songs, “Pour It Up,” which gave Cyrus a chance to record it. “When I originally worked on ‘We Can’t Stop,’ we had did it for Rihanna. The idea was more towards Rihanna,” Mike WiLL Made-It said. “Rihanna, she heard ‘Pour It Up’ right away, and she didn’t even hear ‘We Can’t Stop.’”
“Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran
Sheeran and Rihanna are completely different artists, so it might surprise you when you learn that Sheeran’s 2017 banger, “Shape of You,” was initially written for RihRih. In an interview with BBC, Sheeran revealed that he wrote the mid-tempo song with Rihanna in mind. However, as he got farther in the writing process, he realized that the songs’ lyrics weren’t exactly on brand for Rih, which is when he decided to keep the track for himself. “But then I was singing some of the lyrics and was like, Rihanna is not going to sing these words, so I kept it to myself,” Sheeran said.
“Cheap Thrills” by Sia (Feat. Sean Paul)
When Rihanna’s 2012 single “Diamonds,” became an international sensation, Sia, the writer behind the song, thought that she might have another track that Rihanna could make into a number one: “Cheap Thrills.” In an interview with Rolling Stone, Sia revealed that “Cheap Thrills” was originally written for Rihanna, but the singer passed due to the British-pop-like sound. After the song was stuck in her head for years, Sia kept the track for herself and made it into a number one in 2016.
“I realized just as soon as I was cutting it that it sounded a little bit too Brit-pop for her. It’s more Icona Pop,” Sia said. “We did actually send it to her, but they passed on it, and then I just couldn’t stop listening to it in the car. For some reason, I really liked listening to it, which makes me feel masturbatory, but I wouldn’t normally be just jamming out to my own tunes. There’s something really uplifting about it that put me in a good mood, and I would just pretend it wasn’t me singing. It felt very summer and fun, and I was like, ‘I’ll put that on there.'”
“DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love” by Usher (Feat. Pitbull)
When Rihanna was putting together her 2010 album, Loud, she recorded around 200 songs written by about 50 people. One of those tracks happened to be “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love” written by Max Martin. However, in the end, Rolling Stone revealed that the song didn’t make it on Rihanna’s final cut, which gave Usher the chance to record it into a dance hit.
“Don’t Let Me Down” by the Chainsmokers (Feat. Daya)
Before the Chainsmokers became one of the most popular DJs in modern music, the pair pitched one of its songs, “Don’t Let Me Down,” to Rihanna. As the duo is known for featuring up-and-coming artists, such as Halsey and Tove Lo, Rih would be a big get. She turned it down. However, Alex Pall, one half of the Chainsmokers, saw it as an opportunity to hire an unknown artist, such as Daya, who recorded the song and made it into a hit. “Because young unknown artists have this hunger. They’re willing to work really hard,” Pall told Rolling Stone.
“Battlefield” by Jordin Sparks
According to Billboard, Sparks’s 2009 single, “Battlefield,” was sought after by a number of artists, including Leona Lewis, Christina Aguilera, and the Backstreet Boys. Then, the writers were told that the song was considered as a duet between Rihanna and Chris Brown. However, that same day, news broke that Brown had assaulted Rihanna, leading the producers to scrap the idea of a duet and give the song to Sparks.
“Timber” by Pitbull (Feat. Kesha)
Kesha wasn’t always meant to be the feature on Pitbull’s “Timber.” In an interview with KiddNation, the rapper revealed that he originally pitched the part to Rihanna, who passed on the song to record “Can’t Remember to Forget You” with Shakira.
“Find Your Love” by Drake
Drake and Rihanna are on-again, off-again friends, but once upon a time, they vied for the same song. In an interview with Complex, Jeff Bhasker, the producer for Drake’s 2010 R&B hit “Find Your Love,” revealed that the song was originally written for Rihanna, and that the singer actually recorded a demo for it. However, somewhere down the line, the song, which was cowritten by Kanye West, fell out of Rihanna’s hands and landed into Drake’s. Bhasker speculates that Gee Roberson, Drake’s and Rihanna’s mutual manager at the time, thought that it would work better for the then-emerging rapper, who changed the sound and made it into a hit.
“I’m not exactly sure [how Drake got it], but they were both managed by Gee Roberson, who was probably the messenger for that song. For one reason or another it didn’t make it to Rihanna’s album, so Drake took it and made a smash out of it,” Bhasker said.