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When a multi-billion dollar industry is wedded to the artistic whims of twenty-somethings, literally anything could happen. Ed Sheeran can take songs meant for Rihanna, two of the country's biggest stars can collaborate without ever being in the same room, and Billboard chart-toppers can be written in less time than it takes to watch an episode of The Good Place. If you aren't fascinated, you're not paying attention. We're about to blow your mind with seventeen of the craziest facts about your favorite songs, from "Mo Bamba" to "Since U Been Gone."
"The Middle" had an extensive production process, including auditioning over fourteen prospective singers for the track's lead vocals. The song's creative team — writer Sarah Aarons, production due Grey, and DJ Zedd — heard demos from high-profile artists like Carly Rae Jepson, Camila Cabello, Tove Lo, Bebe Rexha, and Demi Lovato in search of a star that could match Sarah's gravely timbre before settling on Anne-Marie. Demi had chosen "Sorry Not Sorry" as a single over "The Middle" and Camila backed out of recording at the last minute because she didn't want to pull focus from "Havana." Anne-Marie was the team's ~final~ final choice, or so they thought before she also bailed due to her commitment to Marshmello's "F.R.I.E.N.D.S." which was released around the same time. Zedd had never even heard of Maren Morris before her demo finally made its way into his hands.
Before "The Middle" found a home with Maren, the team took months fiddling with the production and preparing for its release. Part of the song's year-long road to number one was three different waves of production. The creative team lived up to their title, including sounds that came out of left-field to tie the song together. An example: the whooshing sound before the song's second chorus is a medieval battle ax hitting a tree stump that Grey found before sending the unfinished demo over to Zedd. The video that Grey ripped the ax sample audio from is included in the single's installment of the New York Times' Diary Of A Song.
Kacey Musgraves has been one of the most progressive country acts since her debut in 2014 unapologetically supported accepting the LGBTQ community, loving drugs, and minding your own g*ddamn business. Her Grammy-winning third album, Golden Hour created what critics called a "space country" subgenre, covered in a synthetic haze introduced right off the bat with album opener "Slow Burn." It probably shouldn't have been a surprise that the song was inspired by a particularly pleasant experience Kacey had while tripping on acid. Another track off the album, "Mother," was actually written ~while~ Kacey was tripping, but TBH, you'd be hard-pressed to find a song on the album that isn't drenched in LSD and good vibes. Hey, it worked for Jimi Hendrix, and it's working for Kacey.
It isn't, like, shocking that the creation of "Mo Bamba" wasn't exactly a laborious process, but nineteen-year-old Sheck Wes made the ~entire song~ in twenty minutes. He went into the recording booth with nothing written down, sang it all in one take, and gave it to producers. Take A Daytrip and 16yrold asked Sheck to refine his original vocals during the production process and he said no, just adding some background ad-libs to appease the beatmakers. The track was uploaded to SoundCloud with no press, and word-of-mouth turned it into a wildfire from which there is no escape.
Ed Sheeran knew his new song wasn't going to Rihanna anymore when he added the line "Put Van the Man on the jukebox" to what would become his second U.S. Billboard Hot 100 number one. It was halfway through the songwriting process, and Ed's label convinced him to add "Shape Of You" as the last track on his third album. The Rihanna connection is evident in the single's use of tropical house and R&B elements. There's even a hidden reference to "No Scrubs" by TLC in the pre-chorus, which is why the composers of "No Scrubs" appear in the song's writing credits.
Capitol Records Nashville
You can take the girl out of country music, but you can't take country music out of the girl. Taylor Swift won a CMA award as recently as 2017, even after her full transition to pop stardom, for writing one of Little Big Town's biggest hits. "Better Man" is one of Taylor's strongest songwriting efforts to date, and it's the only song she's ever pitched to another artist. She gave the track to Little Big Town because of the band's harmonies, and the artists agreed to keep Taylor's involvement a secret for as long as possible to allow the song to stand on its own free from the baggage that comes with being a Taylor Swift breakup song.
It's no secret that Pharrell Williams produced most of Ariana Grande's star-making album Sweetener. That album is so good, we can almost collectively forgive Pharrell for unleashing "Happy" unto the world. Almost. Going even further to atone for his musical sins, Pharrell co-wrote and co-produced Frank Ocean's "Pink + White," a standout track from his sophomore album, Blonde. Pharrell had also worked on two songs from Channel Orange. Maybe he'll return for Frank's third album when the famous recluse comes out of hiding again sometime in the next twenty to thirty years.
Universal Music Group
Lana Del Rey seems like someone who really vibes with "Creep." Repeat listenings might have been the cause of the similarities between the Radiohead single and her song "Get Free." Radiohead reportedly sued Lana for the full publishing rights for "Get Free," almost leading to its removal from Lust For Life. Radiohead's publishers at Warner/Chappell denied the story, but Lana referenced it again during Lollapalooza Brasil when she declared that the suit was over and she could sing "Get Free" any time she wants. Later, Warner/Chappell said they only wanted writing credits for the band. I guess creative license lawsuits don't fit their sad-boy underdog image, but that ship sailed a long time ago.
Alt-rock band Ednaswap probably didn't realize that their song would become the defining breakup song of the late-'90s or be the first step in One Direction's road to world domination on the U.K. X Factor, but Natalie Imbruglia's power ballad reimagining of "Torn" became a worldwide hit. That's right: "Torn" was a cover. Technically, it was a cover of a cover, with the song first recorded in Danish as "Brændt" by European pop artist Lis Sørensen. Natalie's cover was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at that year's Grammy Awards, and the lyrics are probably being keyed into cars by jilted ex-girlfriends even today.
Harry Styles wrote Ariana Grande's "Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart" from her third album My Everything long before One Direction's split "indefinite hiatus," when Harry going solo was just a crazy rumor that wouldn't come to fruition for years. The teen heartthrob was in the studio at the same time as Ariana one day when her regular collaborators Johan Carlsson and Savan Kotecha asked Harry if he wanted to write a song for the once-and-future diva. Savan helped pen seventeen songs for 1D, including their breakout hit "What Makes You Beautiful."
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Ariana Grande shared the haunting story behind "Raindrops (An Angel Cried)" on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in May 2018. Ari woke up with the tune stuck in her head while finishing up Sweetener and decided to record the vocals for producer Pharrell to craft into the album introduction. Her take was so gorgeous they included it untouched. After extensive Googling to try and find the proper attribution to legally include the snippet on Sweetener, Ari and her team learned that her late grandfather's best friend Charlie Calello wrote the song with Bob Gaudio from The Four Seasons.
Sony Music Entertainment
Britney Spears fans were treated to a weird surprise for the twentieth anniversary of "...Baby One More Time." The iconic track, which gifted us the ability to dress like a sexy private school girl for Halloween without it being pervy, was originally meant for TLC. Max Martin, the prolific Swedish producer whose written every song you've ever loved, shopped "...Baby One More Time" to TLC before offering it to Britney. TLC declined because they didn't want to say "hit me baby," which is... fair. The song became Brit's debut single, so she should either thank the '90s girl group or send them a bill for her post-head shaving breakdown wig collection. Fame is a gift and a curse.
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Talent never sleeps, and neither does Bruno Mars. The compact ball of swagger wrote some of the most iconic songs of 2009-2010 before he fully broke into pop stardom including "Right Round" by Flo Rida (featuring an uncredited and undiscovered Ke$ha), his collab with B.o.B. "Nothin' on You," and "F*ck You" CeeLo Green. Everything Bruno touches turns to Motown gold, but he didn't even think "F*ck You" was worth finishing before CeeLo took interest in the track. "F*ck You" became one of the biggest songs of 2010, but the Glee cover of the song by Gweneth Paltrow might not have been worth the karmic trade-off.
Did you think the massive cheerleader motif in Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" music video was a weird move for a ska-pop goddess? Like, not weirder than her decision to judge The Voice and date Blake Shelton, but weird for the early 2000s? Apparently, the song and its music video were meant to be a public clap back at Courtney Love after she called Gwen a "cheerleader" in Seventeen Magazine. Their feud lasted for decades, with Courtney telling the world she slept with Gwen's ex-husband Gavin Rossdale for months while they were still married. Yikes.
Kelly Clarkson's pop-rock anthem was offered to basically everyone but her in the early 2000s before it ended up reviving Max Martin's career and defining Kelly's. It was first offered to P!nk, but she wasn't into the song that had been written specifically with her in mind. Next, they took it to Hilary Duff, whose management rejected it because they were pretty sure she straight-up couldn't hit the high notes. Kelly only got the song because she was one of a small number of artists at the time that hadn't defined her sound and had the range.
Taylor Swift's friendship with Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds is the coolest power thruple in Hollywood. Fans figured out that the adorable (and TBH unnecessary, but whatever) baby voice at the beginning of her single "Gorgeous" off of 2017's Reputation was Blake and Ryan's beautiful baby girl James before the singer confirmed it in November 2017. Taylor was playing the song for Blake and Ryan at the beach when James kept repeating the title. Taylor asked if she could use James as a cute intro for the song, and James's super hip parents agreed.
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Rolling Stone first reported that the first single off of Maren Morris's sophomore album took a dramatic turn during the writing process. The "Girl" Power anthem started as a clap-back letter to another girl that has disrespected the singer and kept trying to compete with her (similar to Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" origin story with Katy Perry), but during the writing process, Maren realized that she needed the song to be a letter to herself and her inner critic. Maren decided to focus on pulling other girls up in the male-oriented country genre, rather than buying into the patriarchal narrative of competition. We dig it.