Rihanna’s no stranger to the top of charts. From her early days singing “Pon de Replay” to her most recent album, Anti, Rihanna has seen the top of the pops a few times—37 to be exact. While we respect RiRi’s artistic decisions, there’s no doubt that number could have been higher had she accepted a few more of the many songs she’s had written for her by other artists.
Most recently, Ed Sheeran told BBC Radio 1 that one of his latest singles wasn’t originally meant for him. “Shape Of You,” one of two new singles released last week, was in fact written with Rihanna in mind. In the interview, Sheeran said, “I started singing lyrics like ‘putting Van the Man on the juke box’ and I was like, ‘She’s not really going to sing that, is she?’ And then we sort of decided halfway through that we were just gonna make it for me.”
In the past, Rih hasn’t been opposed to letting other songwriters take the lead. Calvin Harris wrote their duet chart topper “We Found Love,” while Sia penned 2012’s “Diamonds,” but she also rejected quite a few songs that ended up being total bangers. We’re taking a look back at all the hits that Rihanna has passed on.
Song: “Cheap Thrills” (2016)
Artist Who Actually Recorded It: Sia
Yes, Rihanna turned down a track that went on to be the number one song in the United States. After 23 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, “Cheap Thrills” nudged Drake’s “One Dance” out of the top stop last summer. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Sia said Rihanna’s manager came back to her and asked for another “Diamonds” and the result was “Cheap Thrills,” but the track ended up being “too Brit-pop” for the singer.
Song: “Lean On” (2015)
Artist Who Actually Recorded It: Major Lazer and DJ Snake ft. MØ
In an interview with TIME, Diplo said “Lean On” was originally meant for RiRi, but she passed and chose “Work” instead. “Work” was probably a better choice for Rih, but by passing on “Lean On,” the singer also passed on the chance to have the most streamed song in history on Spotify.
Song: “We Can’t Stop” (2013)
Writer: Mike WiLL Made It
Artist Who Actually Recorded It: Miley Cyrus
Rihanna took Mike WiLL Made It’s “Pour It Up” and brought it to new heights—therefore, Mike’s other hit “We Can’t Stop” could have been the perfect follow-up. If you listen closely, you can hear the Caribbean elements that were intended for Rihanna, but we do admit it’s hard to imagine anyone else singing this song but Miley. Mike WiLL told Billboard that Rihanna heard the beat for “Pour It Up” first and never really got around to listening to “We Can’t Stop.” But if she had, she probably would have snatched it up too.
Song: “Pretty Hurts” (2013)
Artist Who Actually Recorded It: Beyoncé
That’s right, Queen B’s first track off her 2013 self-titled album originally wasn’t for her. And she wasn’t even the first or even the second choice for the track either. In a feature with the New York Times, Sia explained how she actually wrote the song for Katy Perry, but she never saw it because she didn’t check her email, so Sia then passed it along to Rihanna. In the same article, Sia said Rihanna’s manager held the track for eight months but ultimately decided not to pay the securing fee, which left it available for Beyoncé to grab.
Song: “Come & Get It” (2013)
Artist Who Actually Recorded It: Selena Gomez
Norwegian producing duo Stargate, also known as the brains who co-wrote and produced Beyoncé’s worldwide hit “Irreplaceable,” originally intended for RiRi to rock this mystic, Bollywood-inspired track. According to Dazed, it didn’t make the final cut. Gomez was next in line for the song and took it to No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart—making it one of the top ten hits of her career.
Song: “R.I.P.” (2012)
Artist Who Actually Recorded It: Rita Ora
It was rumoured that Drake specifically wrote this song for Rihanna back in 2010 to appear on Loud, but according to Billboard, it was cut at the last minute. It then fell into the hands of Rita Ora who turned it into a U.K. chart topper. Despite the rumours, Ora maintains it was all hers.
Song: “Do It Like A Dude” (2011)
Writer: Jessie J
Artist Who Actually Recorded It: Jessie J
Rihanna actually never turned this song down. In an interview with BBC Radio 1, Jessie J said she wrote it with the singer in mind, but when her then label Def Jam received it, they thought it was too good and sent it right back and told her to record it herself. Although the track did not chart in the United States, it charted high in Scotland, New Zealand and the U.K.
Song: “Find Your Love” (2010)
Writer: Kanye West and Drake
Artist Who Actually Recorded It: Drake
Kanye West co-wrote and produced this song, and said in a radio interview that it was intended for Rihanna’s 2009 album, Rated R, but ended up being dropped. She even recorded her own version of the song before passing it to Drizzy, therefore missing the opportunity to have a song hit No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 3 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart. Drake used this hit to open Thank Me Later and while he remains the go-to guy for jams about hook-up rejections, there’s no denying Rihanna would have killed this one.
Song: “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love” (2010)
Writer: Max Martin
Artist Who Actually Recorded It: Usher ft. Pitbull
Max Martin has basically been a part of every pop banger in the industry—from Justin Bieber’s catchy “Beauty and a Beat” to Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Getting Back Together.” Martin said he wrote this track for Rihanna along with approximately 200 other tracks that were intended for her 2010 album Loud. After RiRi rejected the song, Usher took it and turned it into a major club anthem.