By Christopher Rosa
When a song doesn’t fit, it just doesn’t fit. Unfortunately for today’s crop of talent, recording a song that doesn’t feel right can mean losing a coveted spot atop the Billboard Hot 100 or Top 40 charts. It’s like squeezing into a pair of jeans after Thanksgiving—not pretty, y’all.
There are many cases of artists attempting to fit their circle sounds into square songs—a little Hilary Duff for ya, folks!—and the results are all kinds of awkward and just…meh.
Here are a few examples. Can you think of any would’ve-been smashers had another artist laid down the vocals? Let us know in the comments below.
10. “Recovery” by Justin Bieber from Journals (2013)
Would Have Been A Hit If It Were Sung By: Usher
Bieber attempts to sound all grown up on this R&B groove jam, but the delivery is reminiscent of a young tyke trying on his father’s ties. This baby-making romp needs a man—enter Usher. The “Scream” singer would have made this a No. 1 track à la “Ignition” (unlike the song’s actual No. 41 peak).
9. “Cannonball” by Lea Michele from Louder (2014)
Would Have Been A Hit If It Were Sung By: Demi Lovato
Michele’s Broadway-bursting bravado sounds awkward—and frankly, bizarre—on a squeaky-clean pop anthem like “Cannonball.” But the track does have some tricky high notes that most pop tarts can’t hit. The solution? Demi Lovato, the pop music hybrid, of course! She’s got a killer range, but the ideal pop oomph to her voice that would have made “Cannonball” soar.
8. “The Sky’s the Limit” by Jason Derulo from Jason Derulo (2010)
Would Have Been A Hit If It Were Sung By: Justin Bieber
Derulo’s signature genre of rap/pop smothered in Auto-Tune has garnered him tons of hits; however, “The Sky’s the Limit” failed to take off. The track doesn’t have enough edge for Derulo and would have been perfect for a 2010 Bieber, who was attempting to shake his kiddie-pop image at the time.
7. “Girl Gone Wild” by Madonna from MDNA (2012)
Would Have Been A Hit If It Were Sung By: Britney Spears
The Queen is Pop is too good for saltine-stale dance fluff, which is exactly what “Girl Gone Wild” is—Madonna should be creating trends, not chasing them! On the flip side, Spears is pop music’s most notorious onyx, so her robo-fied voice is a perfect match for “Girl Gone Wild.”
6. “Windows Down” by Big Time Rush from Elevate (2012)
Would Have Been A Hit If It Were Sung By: One Direction
This summery piece of rock-pop cheesecake tastes just like early One Direction, and that’s exactly the band that should have recorded this track. Big Time Rush makes this song—which reached No. 97 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 35 on the U.S. Mainstream Top 40 charts—sound a tad too manufactured. But One Direction’s natural effervescence for firecracker pop would have given this song the life support it needed (if only).
5. “First Love” by Jennifer Lopez from A.K.A. (2014)
Would Have Been A Hit If It Were Sung By: Rihanna
“First Love” has all the ingredients to be a bona-fide smash, so why has it only hit No. 36 on the U.S. Mainstream Top 40 chart (and not even cracked the Billboard Hot 100)? It’s missing a zest that Lopez’s thin voice (perfect for hits like “On the Floor”) can’t cook up. But Rihanna can: Her signature cadence is just what this sexy slow-jam needs to speed up the charts.
4. “Fever” by Adam Lambert from For Your Entertainment (2009)
Would Have Been A Hit If It Were Sung By: Lady Gaga
Mother Monster actually penned this electro glam-rock delight, but she should have recorded it for her 2011 album Born This Way. This type of techno-rock is what BTW was about, and some “You and I”-type vocals would’ve made this a one-night stand ode for the ages. Mr. Lambert does fine, but Gaga would have been fierce.
3. “Your Body” by Christina Aguilera from Lotus (2012)
Would Have Been A Hit If It Were Sung By: Katy Perry
Synths and Aguilera just don’t mix, seen disastrously in 2010’s Bionic. “Your Body” once again finds Aguilera’s sensational voice buried deep in techno trickery when it should just be stripped (eh?!). But Perry has perfect four-on-the-floor pipes that “Your Body” needed to reach that radio-crashing level.
2. “Ain’t Thinkin’ ‘Bout You” by Bow Wow feat. Chris Brown from Underrated (2010)
Would Have Been A Hit If It Were Sung By: Drake (…still feat. Chris Brown)
“Ain’t Thinkin’ Bout You” follows 2010’s trend of rap songs with insanely catchy pop choruses—“Love the Way You Lie,” anybody?—but Bow Wow’s track failed to even crack the Billboard Hot 100. What gives? Well…Bow Wow sounds a little too young on “Ain’t Thinkin’ Bout You,” and the track would be better suited for a more mature voice like Drake. Plus, Brown and Drake on one song is the stuff tabloid dreams are made of.
1. “Who Owns My Heart” by Miley Cyrus from Can’t Be Tamed (2010)
Would Have Been A Hit If It Were Sung By: Selena Gomez
In terms of catchiness and bubblegum glitz, “Who Owns My Heart” is infinitely sweeter than Gomez’s lackluster “Slow Down,” which reached an impressive No. 7 spot on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40. “Who Owns My Heart,” on the other hand, failed to chart in the U.S. period. Cyrus’ voice is frankly too strong (read: good) for an electro-pop disco filler. Slab on Gomez’s slinky come-ons, however, and “Who Owns My Heart” would have been a smash.
[Photos: Interscope, Cash Money, Hollywood, Nick/Columbia]