Pop songs don’t always end up being what they began. Written with one star in mind, a song may then be passed from artist to artist until the right fit is found. This process gets a spotlight in this month’s Vogue profile of Rihanna, which finds the star in the studio in the very early days of working on her album, shuffling through demos sung by someone else and imagining what she might make of them. “They sound like decent pop songs to me, but there’s no way to judge until Rihanna herself is on the cut, adding that secret ingredient,” writes Vogue‘s Jason Gay of the process. And so eventually “Diamonds” becomes Rihanna’s “Diamonds” and so on, but what about the demos that get left behind?
In an interview with the U.K.’s Daily Star, X-Factor champ Leona Lewis let slip that Calvin Harris‘ Rihanna vehicle “We Found Love” was originally meant for her. “I worked with Calvin and we recorded ‘We Found Love.’ But he went touring with Rihanna and she ended up releasing it,” she says. And though the song ended up being a smash for Rihanna, Lewis is certain that she could have done one better: “It was the same version and production but mine’s better,” she says.
Lewis doesn’t plan on leaking her “better” take, but we sort of wish she would. These demo-ed versions remind that a song can have many lives, all of which are often times very good in their own ways. For example, Beyoncé‘s “Irreplaceable” was first a NE-YO song. NE-YO explains in Behind The Song: NE-YO, “Irreplaceable” that he felt the song was better performed by a woman and so he passed it off, but we think he sounds pretty good singing it as well. Same goes for Bey’s “I Miss You,” a song that Frank Ocean wrote and sometimes still performs to a chilling effect. And where Rihanna is concerned, we spin The-Dream‘s “Umbrella” demo almost as often as Rihanna’s recorded version, and a little YouTube searching finds very good Brandy and NE-YO takes on what ended up being her “Stupid In Love.” We’re all inclusive when it comes to pop music; Lewis, show us what you’ve got!