Pop music is filled with tales of woe about the hits that almost were. You’d never know it though. Can you imagine anyone other than Rihanna singing “Umbrella”? How about Stevie Nicks singing “Call Me”? We didn’t think so.
Here are 11 tales of pop gold that slipped through these singers’ fingers.
Beyonce: “All About That Bass”
If there was a song of the fall, Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” would be it. Too bad the booty-empowerment anthem’s frisky ’50s sound was wrong for Ms. Beyonce Knowles’ cutting edge alt-R&B era.
Michael Jackson:“Rock Your Body” and half of Justified
Justin Timberlake’s debut solo album was called Justified, but it was very nearly Jacksonfied. Of the seven tracks Pharrell Williams wrote for the album, including “Senorita” and “Rock Your Body,” all but “Like I Love You” were originally written for Michael Jackson. After the album was a smash, a giddy Jackson sang the tunes back to Pharrell and, laughing, told him “those songs should have been for me.”
Britney Spears and Mary J. Blige:“Umbrella”
Today, the words “ella ella eh eh eh” make perfect sense, but before we’d learned to speak fluent Rihanna, the song was turned down by both Britney Spears and Mary J. Blige. “Umbrella” opened up Rihanna’s career to all kinds of opportunities including, of course, her own line of umbrellas.
Meat Loaf:“All Coming Back To Me Now”
Celine Dion belts a power ballad so hard it’s a wonder she hasn’t pounded a fist right through her chest during her heart-thumping performances. The Lord of the Rings of her epic anthems, “All Coming Back To Me Now,” was written by longtime Meat Loaf collaborator Jim Steinman for the comeback collection Bat Out Of Hell II. However, Mr. Loaf chose to record the similarly sweeping piano monster “I Would Do Anything For Love” instead, ultimately recording “All Coming Back To Me Now” for Bat Out of Hell III. Yes, there was a Bat Out Of Hell III!
Gloria Estefan:“Let’s Get Loud”
After doing the conga, turning the beat around, and warning the good people of Miami that the rhythm was going to get them, getting loud seemed a little redundant for Gloria Estefan. She passed “Let’s Get Loud” to Jennifer Lopez, and crowned America’s new latina diva in the process.
The Fixx, Bryan Ferry and Billy Idol:“Don’t You (Forget About Me)”
The Breakfast Club anthem was a tough sell, with The Fixx, Bryan Ferry and Billy Idol all backing off the ’80s classic. U.K. act Simple Minds begrudgingly recorded it, and it’s the only reason why we haven’t forgotten about them.
Janet Jackson:“How Will I Know”
“How Will I Know” was written with Janet Jackson in mind, but a new direction on the Control album meant the song’s upbeat pop style no longer fit the Janet oeuvre. Instead it went to a then-unknown singer named Whitney Houston.
Stevie Nicks:“Call Me”
Stevie Nicks was the first choice to sing the theme from Richard Gere’s breakout movie American Gigolo. She declined, allowing Debbie Harry a crack at “Call Me.” It went on to become the band’s biggest single.
Rihanna was originally supposed to be the one yelling “Timber” before abandoning the Pitbull track to join Shakira on the ironically forgettable “Can’t Remember To Forget You.” Kesha scored a third Canadian number one by stepping into Rihanna’s lumberjack leftovers.
Elvis Presley:“Golden Years”
The boogie-ready riff of “Golden Years” would have been perfect for Elvis Presley had The King not already outlived his own golden years: turning the track down was just one of the many missteps that characterized the final years of his life. Thankfully the song’s writer, one David Bowie, added it to his own roster.
Celine Dion:“I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing”
How many movie anthems can one woman belt? Celine Dion mercifully passed on “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing,” allowing Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler the honour of belting out the Armageddon theme and allowing us some space in our relationship with Dion: her signature “My Heart Will Go On” had been released just seven months prior.