Behind every great R&B hit, there's often a complex web of songwriting, production, and artist selection. Songs are crafted with specific voices in mind, but the ever-changing landscape of the music industry means that these plans can shift. Scheduling conflicts, creative differences, and changes in musical direction can all lead to songs being passed from one artist to another. This process, while sometimes driven by practicality, often results in a perfect match that might never have been anticipated.

Some of the biggest hits in R&B history owe their success to this dynamic. Tracks like Rihanna's "Umbrella" and Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable" were initially intended for other artists, but found their rightful place with these powerhouse performers. The unique qualities of an artist's voice, style, and presence can transform a song, bringing out its full potential in ways that the original songwriters might not have envisioned. This transfer from one artist to another can elevate a song from being a mere tune to becoming a cultural phenomenon.

The stories behind these songs add a layer of depth and intrigue to their enjoyment. Knowing that Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know" was initially written for Janet Jackson, or that Toni Braxton's "Un-Break My Heart" was meant for Celine Dion, enriches our understanding of these tracks. It highlights the importance of the right artist-song pairing and celebrates the versatility and talent within the R&B genre. Each song's journey to its eventual performer is a testament to the collaborative and often unpredictable nature of the music industry.

1. We Found Love - Rihanna

The infectious dance-pop anthem "We Found Love" was initially penned by Scottish DJ Calvin Harris for British singer Leona Lewis. Known for her powerful ballads like "Bleeding Love," Lewis seemed a fitting choice for the song’s emotionally charged lyrics and soaring melodies. However, due to apparent timing issues and a shift in musical direction, the track found its way to Rihanna. The song became a global sensation and topped charts worldwide.

2. Irreplaceable - Beyoncé

Ne-Yo wrote "Irreplaceable" with the intention of it being a country song for Shania Twain. The song’s universal message of empowerment and resilience against heartbreak resonated with Beyoncé, who transformed it into an R&B anthem. "Irreplaceable" showcased the Houston star's ability to convey deep emotion and strength through her voice, and the catchy, memorable chorus ("To the left, to the left") and the song's message of self-respect and independence further solidified Beyoncé's status as a pop and R&B queen.

3. Umbrella - Rihanna

"Umbrella," the song that propelled Rihanna to superstardom, was said to have been written with Britney Spears in mind. Written by The-Dream, Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, and Kuk Harrell, the song eventually went to Rihanna as a result of timing issues and creative differences. "Umbrella" became an instant classic thanks to its catchy hook and memorable lyrics becoming a part of pop culture. The song's success marked a significant milestone in Rihanna’s career and earned the Bajan talent a wealth of accolades.

4. SOS - Rihanna

"SOS," another hit for Rihanna, was originally offered to Christina Milian. Milian passed on the song, which sampled Soft Cell’s "Tainted Love," and Rihanna seized the opportunity from former Def Jam CEO and chairman L.A. Reid. The rest is history.

5. Miss Independent - Ne-Yo

Ne-Yo wrote "Miss Independent" with Beyoncé in mind, but the song ended up being recorded by Ne-Yo himself. The track became a hit that celebrated the strength and independence of women – a theme that resonates with many of Beyoncé’s songs. Ne-Yo's heartfelt delivery and the song's catchy, upbeat production made it a favorite among fans and critics alike and spawned an equally infectious remix with additional contributions from Fabolous and Jamie Foxx.

6. Disturbia - Rihanna

"Disturbia" was co-written by Chris Brown and intended for his own album. However, Brown decided the song would be a better fit for Rihanna, who turned it into a chart-topping hit. The dark, edgy track showcased a different side of Rihanna with its haunting lyrics and pulsating beats. "Disturbia" became a summer anthem and further demonstrated Rihanna's ability to take risks and explore new musical territories.

7. If I Were a Boy - Beyoncé

"If I Were a Boy" was written by BC Jean and Toby Gad, with BC Jean initially recording the demo. When Jean's version didn't take off, Beyoncé recorded the song, bringing her own emotional depth and powerful vocals to the track. "If I Were a Boy" became a global hit, resonating with listeners through its poignant exploration of gender roles and relationships.

8. How Will I Know - Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston's breakout hit "How Will I Know" was originally written with Janet Jackson in mind. The song, penned by George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam of the duo Boy Meets Girl, was initially offered to Jackson, who declined. When Houston’s team got hold of the track, they saw its potential to showcase her vocal range and infectious energy. "How Will I Know" became one of Houston’s earliest hits, blending pop and R&B with her incredible vocal talent.

9. Since U Been Gone - Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson’s pop-rock anthem "Since U Been Gone" was initially offered to both Pink and Hilary Duff, who turned it down. Written by Max Martin and Dr. Luke, the song's powerful lyrics and high-energy production found the perfect match in Clarkson’s dynamic voice. "Since U Been Gone" became a massive hit, earning critical acclaim and commercial success. The song’s raw emotion and Clarkson’s passionate delivery resonated with fans, making it an enduring anthem of post-breakup empowerment and resilience.

10. Un-Break My Heart - Toni Braxton

Diane Warren wrote "Un-Break My Heart" with Celine Dion in mind. Known for her powerful ballads, Dion seemed like a natural fit for the song’s emotional depth. However, when Dion passed on the track, it went to Toni Braxton, whose soulful performance turned it into a classic. "Un-Break My Heart" became one of Braxton’s biggest hits, showcasing her vocal prowess and emotional intensity. The song topped charts worldwide and earned Braxton a Grammy Award, cementing her status as one of the leading voices in R&B.

11. Rock Your Body - Justin Timberlake

"Rock Your Body," one of Justin Timberlake’s biggest hits, was initially intended for Michael Jackson’s album. Written by Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo of The Neptunes, the track was part of a collection of songs they hoped to place with Jackson. When Jackson passed on the track, Timberlake recorded it for his debut solo album, Justified. "Rock Your Body" became a major hit, showcasing Timberlake’s smooth vocals and The Neptunes’ signature production. The song’s success marked a significant milestone in Timberlake’s career, helping him transition from boy band member to solo superstar.

12. Don't Cha - The Pussycat Dolls

Before becoming a hit for The Pussycat Dolls, "Don't Cha" was recorded by Tori Alamaze. Written by CeeLo Green and utilizing an interpolation of a line by Sir Mix-a-Lot, the song's provocative lyrics and catchy beat seemed poised to make a splash. After apparent creative differences, Alamaze signed away the rights to the track, which was then re-recorded by The Pussycat Dolls. Their version, which featured an assist from Busta Rhymes, became a major success.

13. I'm a Slave 4 U - Britney Spears

Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, known as The Neptunes, wrote "I'm a Slave 4 U" with Janet Jackson in mind. The song’s edgy, sensual vibe fit well with Jackson’s style, but when she didn’t take the song, it was offered to Britney Spears. "I'm a Slave 4 U" marked a bold shift in Spears' musical style, moving away from her earlier teen pop image. The song’s provocative lyrics and hypnotic production showcased a more mature and daring side of Spears, helping her reinvent her image and appeal to a broader audience.

14. Let's Get Loud - Jennifer Lopez

"Let's Get Loud," one of Jennifer Lopez’s early hits, was co-written by Gloria Estefan. Known for her vibrant Latin pop hits, Estefan decided the song would be a better fit for Lopez, helping to launch her music career. "Let's Get Loud" became an energetic anthem, blending Latin rhythms with pop sensibilities. Lopez’s dynamic performance and the song’s infectious energy made it a favorite among fans, helping her establish a successful career in both music and film.

15. Manic Monday - The Bangles

Although not an R&B song, "Manic Monday" by The Bangles was written by Prince under the pseudonym Christopher and was intended for the group Apollonia 6. When they didn’t record it, The Bangles turned it into a classic. The song's catchy melody and relatable lyrics about the struggles of starting the workweek resonated with listeners. "Manic Monday" became one of The Bangles' signature songs, highlighting their harmonious vocals and pop-rock sound. The song's success further solidified Prince's reputation as a prolific and versatile songwriter.

16. Telephone - Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga wrote "Telephone" for Britney Spears, but it didn’t make it onto her album. Featuring Beyoncé, the song was recorded by Gaga herself. "Telephone" became a massive hit, with its infectious beat and catchy lyrics making it a staple on dance floors worldwide. The collaboration between Gaga and Beyoncé added to the song's appeal, as it brought together two of the biggest names in pop music.

17. Party in the U.S.A. - Miley Cyrus

Jessie J co-wrote "Party in the U.S.A." with the intention of recording it herself. When it didn’t fit her album, the song was offered to Miley Cyrus, who turned it into a catchy pop anthem. "Party in the U.S.A." became a huge success, with its feel-good lyrics and infectious melody resonating with listeners. The song's success marked a significant moment in Cyrus’s career, helping her transition from her Disney Channel persona to a more mature pop artist.