18 Iconic Songs And The 18 Even More Iconic Songwriters You Had No Idea Were Behind Them

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18 Iconic Songs And The 18 Even More Iconic Songwriters You Had No Idea Were Behind Them

Harry Styles writing for Ariana Grande? Incredible.

We all know that not every singer out there writes their own songs. (And we also all know that that Ed Sheeran and Sia are behind like half the biggest hits in pop music.)


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But it’s always jarring when you hear that a song you’ve been singing along to for a decade is actually written by someone completely different. So without further ado, here are the songwriters behind some massive songs that kind of break our brains when we think too hard about it.


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1.

Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson


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Originally written by: Avril Lavigne.

“Breakaway” was written for Avril’s debut album, Let Go, but she scrapped it because, in her words, “it feels like a church song. I was just not there.” Avril included her version of the song on her 2022 re-release of the album. 

2.

This Is What You Came For” by Calvin Harris and Rihanna


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Originally written by: Nils Sjoberg aka Taylor Swift.

Famously, Taylor Swift helped her then-boyfriend Calvin Harris write this song. She didn’t want to take credit, so used an alias. But after they broke up and things got messy, it was revealed she helped with lyrics and even recorded some harmonies on the track. 

3.

“Pretty Hurts” by Beyoncé


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Originally written by:  Sia.

Sia wrote this song on the same day she recorded “Titanium.” It was actually written with Katy Perry in mind, then offered to Rihanna. When neither of them recorded the track, it was given to Beyoncé.

4.

Till the World Ends” by Britney Spears


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Originally written by:  Kesha.

Kesha says she actually wrote this song with the idea of giving it away. “That song was written specifically for Britney,” she told Digital Spy. “I put my brain in Britney Spears land and wrote that whole song for her.”

5.

Whataya Want from Me” by Adam Lambert


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Originally written by:  Pink.

The pop star wrote this song with Max Martin and Shellback for her album Funhouse, but it didn’t make the final track list. Pink’s recording of the song was included on the German and Australian releases of her first greatest hits compilation album.

6.

Little Things” by One Direction


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Originally written by:  Ed Sheeran.

Ed wrote this song when he was 17 with singer Fiona Bevan, but it was shelved and forgotten about. When One Direction expressed interest in working with Ed for their second album, Fiona sent the track to him, and it was a perfect match. 

7.

Party in the U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus


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Originally written by:  Jessie J. 

Though the song was written and produced by Dr. Luke, Jessie J is also credited as a co-writer. It was meant to be included on her first album, but she decided it wasn’t edgy enough, so it was given to Miley. Jessie said that the royalties from that song alone paid her rent for three years. 

8.

Fuck You” aka “Forget You” by CeeLo Green


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Originally written by: Bruno Mars.

When Bruno first started writing this track, he wasn’t sure it was even worth completing. But when it was played for CeeLo Green, he was keen to record it for his third album. 

9.

Baby” by Justin Bieber


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Originally written by:  Christina Milian.

She worked on this track with Ludacris and Bieber himself, as the first song from his debut album. 

10.

Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani


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Originally written by: Pharrell Williams.

Pharrell has written a lot of big pop songs. Gwen wanted to write a song in response to Courtney Love derogatorily referring to her as a “cheerleader.” She told NME: “You want me to be a cheerleader? Well, I will be one then. And I’ll rule the whole world, just you watch me.” And so “Hollaback Girl” was born. 

11.

American Boy” by Estelle and Kanye West


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Originally written by: John Legend and will.i.am.

Estelle and Kanye wrote this song with these two legends on a total whim. “We were just messing about in the studio, joking around,” said Estelle. “And John just said to me, ‘Why don’t you write a song about meeting an American boy?'”

12.

Unthinkable” by Alicia Keys


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Originally written by: Drake.

Alicia collaborated on this song with Drake, who also features as an uncredited background vocalist. 

13.

Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton


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Originally written by: The Bee Gees.

The Bee Gees first wrote this as an R&B tune for Marvin Gaye, but it later transformed into the country-pop song we know it as today.

14.

Red Red Wine” by UB40


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Originally written by: Neil Diamond.

When you hear “Red Red Wine,” you immediately think UB40 … but their version is actually a cover of a Neil Diamond song. In 1969, Jamaican-born singer Tony Tribe recorded a reggae version of the song. When UB40 took a stab at the song, they had no idea it was written by Neil Diamond. One band member told the Financial Times, “Even when we saw the writing credit which said ‘N. Diamond,’ we thought it was a Jamaican artist called Negus Diamond.”

15.

The Monster” by Rihanna and Eminem


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Originally written by: Bebe Rexha.

When Bebe was in the middle of writing songs for her debut album, she penned “Monster,” and as soon as she finished the hook, she says she knew it would be an Eminem song. 

16.

Irreplaceable” by Beyoncé


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Originally written by:  Ne-Yo.

At first, Ne-Yo wrote this as a country song, but it was re-arranged into a pop R&B track for Beyoncé.

17.

Just a Little Bit of Your Heart” by Ariana Grande


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Originally written by:  Harry Styles.

According to Ariana, she was in the studio recording her album My Everything in 2014, when Harry Styles stopped by. Her producers asked if he wanted to write a song for her; he said yes, and came up with this track. 

18.

Miss Independent” by Kelly Clarkson


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Originally written by:  Christina Aguilera.

Another iconic Kelly Clarkson song, this track was initially intended for Christina’s fourth album, Stripped, but was left half-finished. Kelly finished it off and included it on her first album.