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#RIHJECTS: 14 Songs Written For Rihanna That Other People Recorded

A recent history of tracks that could have been Rihanna, but weren’t.

#RIHJECTS: 14 Songs Written For Rihanna That Other People Recorded Larry Busacca/Mike Coppola/Chelsea Lauren/Christopher Pollok/Getty Images

For her upcoming eighth studio album, R8, it seems that Rihanna, pop’s most consistent hitmaker, is flipping the script. She’s already released a few offbeat singles and chosen to have Kanye West executive produce, seemingly eschewing the cottage industry of songwriters and producers that sprang up to keep the Rihanna hit factory going back when she was releasing an album every year.


In the past, when Rihanna made an album, songwriting camps were convened. Experienced hitmakers brought their top shelf material in hopes of placing a track with one of the few sure things left in popular music. Sometimes they succeeded. And if they didn’t, there were always superstars and up-and-comers ready to accept a new single that sounded a bit like Rihanna. Over the past few years, countless Rihanna rejects and outtakes have piled up on the margins of the music industry and begun to find their way to the public, either as demos or as songs recorded by other artists. This allows a multitude of what-if scenarios, akin to the kind of “Al Pacino almost played Han Solo” casting legends that have become Hollywood lore. Here’s a recent history of the #RihJects—14 songs that have been confirmed, or heavily rumored, to have been written with Rihanna in mind before ending up elsewhere.

Jordin Sparks, "Battlefield"

Released: May 8, 2009
Hot 100 peak: #10

Jive Records

When pitching songs for Rihanna’s follow-up to Good Girl Gone Bad, OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder probably thought he had the next “Umbrella” on his hands. After all, “Battlefield” was another anthemic pop song in which a three-syllable noun gets repeated over and over as part of a romantic metaphor. After Chris Brown’s arrest for assaulting Rihanna in early 2009, however, “Battlefield” perhaps seemed like a suddenly uncomfortable choice for Rihanna. So the song wound up as the lead single for American Idol winner Jordin Sparks’ sophomore album.

Ian Brown, "Stellify"

Released: September 21, 2009
Hot 100 peak: did not chart

It’s hard to imagine that Rihanna would have recorded a song written by Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown. But he claimed to write the track with her in mind, before ultimately deciding to keep it for himself. We’ll never know whether she would’ve accepted the submission. The lead single to 2009’s My Way reached #31 on the UK single charts.

Cheryl Cole, "Happy Hour"

Released: October 23, 2009
Hot 100 peak: did not chart

#RIHJECTS: 14 Songs Written For Rihanna That Other People Recorded Polydor Records

Danish production duo Soulshock & Karlin have a long history of transatlantic hits like Whitney Houston’s “Heartbreak Hotel” and JoJo’s “Leave (Get Out).” But “Happy Hour,” which was pitched to Rihanna, wound up never being released in many countries, including America, when it was recorded for Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Cole’s solo debut. That album, 3 Words, topped the charts in the UK, but “Happy Hour” was not among its trio of hit singles.

Drake, "Find Your Love"

Released: May 5, 2010
Hot 100 peak: #5

#RIHJECTS: 14 Songs Written For Rihanna That Other People Recorded Young Money Entertainment

Kanye West was one of the first artists to go in the studio with Rihanna for her 2009 album Rated R, although he ended up with nothing on the final album. Instead, a couple of the tracks he worked on wound up as singles for platinum hip-hop albums. “Run This Town” was ultimately released as a Jay-Z song featuring Rihanna and Kanye for The Blueprint 3, while "Find Your Love" was the R&B-tinged single from Drake’s Thank Me Later.

Jessie J, "Do It Like A Dude"

Released: November 18, 2010
Hot 100 peak: did not chart

Island Records

After Jessie J penned the blockbuster hit “Party In The U.S.A.” for Miley Cyrus, her song “Do It Like A Dude” was shopped to Rihanna. When Rih passed, however, the song was refashioned as Jessie J’s own debut single, as she transitioned from writer to artist. The song hit #2 in the U.K., although Jessie J’s U.S. breakthrough came with later singles.

Usher ft. Pitbull Usher ft. Pitbull, "DJ Got Us Fallin' In Love"

Released: July 13, 2010
Hot 100 peak: #4

#RIHJECTS: 14 Songs Written For Rihanna That Other People Recorded Jive Records

Max Martin is one of the few people making music today with more #1s to their name than Rihanna but surprisingly, they’ve never released a song together. It’s not for lack of trying on Martin’s part—he’s pitched at least a couple songs to her, including a leaked demo called “Black Butterflies.” But it’s “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love,” a dancefloor-friendly ode to the power of disc jockeys in the vein of “Don’t Stop The Music,” that wound up as a hit for Usher.

Selena Gomez, "Come & Get It"

Released: April 6, 2013
Hot 100 peak: #6

Hollywood Records

Rihanna declined to record “Come & Get It,” despite it being written by Stargate and another songwriter behind some of her past hits, Ester Dean. But the song found success as the debut single from Selena Gomez’ post-Spring Breakers solo career, giving the singer her first top 10 hit.

Rita Ora ft. Tinie Tempah, "R.I.P."

Released: May 6, 2012
Hot 100 peak: did not chart

Rita Ora has been dogged by Rihanna comparisons throughout her career, which began with longtime Rih mentor Jay-Z signing her to his Roc Nation imprint. On at least one occasion, she’s also taken the superstar’s castoffs. Rihanna’s on-again off-again love interest Drake wrote “R.I.P.” for her, and even rapped a guest verse on an early demo of the song. But ultimately it was recorded by Ora, with British rapper Tinie Tempah guesting, for a chart-topping U.K. single.

Miley Cyrus, "We Can’t Stop"

Released: June 3, 2013
Hot 100 peak: #2

RCA Records

Fast rising southern rap hitmaker Mike WiLL Made It and songwriting team Rock City went in the studio with Rihanna in 2012, and wound up with the strip club anthem “Pour It Up.” But one of the other songs that the trio pitched to Rihanna that she passed on went on to much greater fame as the lead single from Miley Cyrus’s controversial career reboot, Bangerz. “We Can’t Stop” still has a bit of a Caribbean lilt to it, perhaps thanks to Rock City’s Virgin Islands roots.

Pitbull ft. Ke$ha, "Timber"

Released: October 7, 2013
Hot 100 peak: #1

#RIHJECTS: 14 Songs Written For Rihanna That Other People Recorded Polo Grounds Music

“Timber” was always Pitbull’s song, but once upon a time, the campy hook was to be sung by Rihanna. With Ke$ha instead, the song became a chart-topper, and perhaps the only #1 Rihanna’s ever missed out on.

Joel Compass, "Run"

Released: October 9, 2013
Hot 100 peak: did not chart

British R&B singer Joel Compass tried his hand at writing for Rihanna, and missed both in pitching it to her and in making it a hit for himself. As the first single released from his full-length debut album Science, “Run” failed to chart in the U.K., although two of his later singles did.

Sia, "Chandelier"

Released: March 17, 2014
Hot 100 peak: #8

#RIHJECTS: 14 Songs Written For Rihanna That Other People Recorded Inertia

Sia wrote Rihanna’s most recent solo #1, 2012’s “Diamonds.” She also wrote other songs with Riri in mind that didn’t make the cut, including “Pretty Hurts” and what became Sia’s biggest solo hit, “Chandelier.” Even without an instantly recognizable superstar behind it, “Chandelier” became a major hit, with Sia promoting it in a brilliant video and television appearances without ever showing her own face.

Beyoncé, "Pretty Hurts"

Released: December 13, 2013
Hot 100 peak: did not chart

Columbia Records

The opening track to Beyoncé’s surprise self-titled album had taken a couple trips around the industry before it wound up kicking off B’s blockbuster. An early version of Sia’s composition was offered to both Rihanna and Katy Perry, before Beyoncé took the song and co-wrote it to make it her own. Released as the album’s fourth single, it made minor waves on the radio, peaking at #33 on the Rhythmic charts.

Grimes ft. Blood Diamonds, "Go"

Released: June 26, 2014
Hot 100 peak: did not chart


Claire Boucher AKA Grimes melded idiosyncratic DIY sonics with unabashed pop sensibilities on her acclaimed 2012 album, Visions. In 2013 Grimes signed with Roc Nation’s management arm in 2013, and in 2014 released the Blood Diamonds collaboration “Go,” originally written for Rihanna. The hooky dance track polarized some and didn’t chart, but reports of Grimes scrapping an entire album in response to the reception of “Go” were greatly exaggerated. She’s expected to release an album this year.

#RIHJECTS: 14 Songs Written For Rihanna That Other People Recorded