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  5. 16 Surprising Facts You Didn't Know About Popular Songs

16 Surprising Facts You Didn't Know About Popular Songs

16 Surprising Facts You Didn't Know About Popular Songs
EntertainmentEntertainment1 min read

Justin Timberlake’s “Rock Your Body” was originally written by Pharrell for Michael Jackson.

Justin Timberlake’s “Rock Your Body” was originally written by Pharrell for Michael Jackson.

One of the best songs on Justin Timberlake's debut solo album, "Justified," was meant for Michael Jackson.

Timberlake's "Rock Your Body," which was also written by Pharrell Williams and The Neptunes, was supposed to be on Michael Jackson's final album "Invincible." However, Jackson's management ultimately rejected the song and it ended up with the beat-boxing Timberlake instead.

For JT, this helped jumpstart his solo career with "Justified" debuting at No. 2 and selling more than 3.5 million copies in the U.S.

Aerosmith's "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" was originally written for Celine Dion.


1998's "Armageddon" would have sounded a lot differently if not for Aerosmith's power ballad "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing."

Especially if it went to the artist it was intended for ... Celine Dion.

Since the film starred singer Steven Tyler's daughter Liv, the band was set to write a song for the soundtrack. Yet with the band running low on time and ideas, they went with a song written by Diane Warren for Dion.

"I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" went on to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, get nominated for an Oscar, and become one of Aerosmith's biggest hits.

Kurt Cobain accidentally named Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" after a deodorant for teenage girls.

Kurt Cobain accidentally named Nirvana

Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" ushered in the age of grunge, and changed music forever.

However, the song takes on a new meaning when you realize its title was a complete accident that had to do with a deodorant for teenage girls.

Katherine Hanna, the lead singer of Bikini Kill (and band mate of Cobain's girlfriend at the time), scribbled the phrase on Cobain's wall as a joke about his smelling like the female deodorant "Teen Spirit."

Cobain — mistaking it for a rebellious phrase — turned it into a song title, helping "Nevermind" to sell 30 million albums worldwide.

Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" was about a school shooting Eddie Vedder read about in the newspaper.

Pearl Jam

For their 1991 debut album "Ten," Pearl Jam pulled a story straight from the newspaper to create one of their most well-known songs, "Jeremy."

"Ed [Vedder] had been reading a newspaper when we were starting to jam on the song," Pearl Jam bass player Jeff Ament said in the 2011 documentary "Pearl Jam Twenty." "Basically wrote the entire lyrics off a newspaper article."

The newspaper article that Vedder pulled from was that of Jeremy Wade Delle, a 16-year-old from Texas who shot himself in front of his fellow classmates.

The song would lead to a controversial music video, helping "Ten" become the 22nd full-length album to reach 10 million sales.

Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'N Roll" was a cover.

Joan Jett

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts are known for their hit song "I Love Rock 'N Roll."

But "I Love Rock 'N Roll" is a cover by an English band the Arrows.

Joan Jett would go on to make the song famous, having it hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts. It would also be ranked by Rolling Stone as one of best 500 songs of all time, and be covered by everyone from Britney Spears to Miley Cyrus.

Yet no matter how many people think it belongs to Joan Jett, the song first belonged to the Arrows.

Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” is about heroin addiction.

Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” is about heroin addiction.

Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" is a beautiful song with a dark meaning.

McLachlan told CMJ New Music Monthly that the inspiration for "Angel" came from learning about how widespread heroin addiction was in the music industry and how fellow musicians were being "picked off by it."

"I've never done heroin," McLachlan said. "But I've done plenty of other things to escape."

"Angel" went on to be one of McLachlan's biggest hits and has since been used by the ASPCA, helping to raise $30 million for the organization.

Will Smith co-wrote “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” with Nas.

Will Smith co-wrote “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” with Nas.

"Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" is one of Will Smith's most fun songs. However, it was co-written by one of the most serious hip-hop artists, Nas.

For the Fresh Prince, "Jiggy" brought Smith back to music industry prominence, with "Big Willie Style" selling over 6 million albums.

It helped Smith win his fourth Grammy.

As for Nas, he's written some of the most well-respected music in hip-hop, but "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" still didn't help the 18-times nominated rapper win a Grammy.

Bruce Springsteen's seemingly patriotic "Born In The U.S.A." is an anti-American anthem about the Vietnam War.

Bruce Springsteen

A Fourth of July favorite for many, Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The U.S.A." is an anti-American ballad about Springsteen's anger toward the country's treatment of Vietnam vets.

"You think about all the young men and women that died in Vietnam, and how many died since they've been back," Springsteen told Rolling Stone. "You have to think that, at the time, the country took advantage of their selflessness."

The song has been misinterpreted by many, with Springsteen even telling President Regan to stop using it as a patriotic anthem during his 1984 re-election campaign.

However, its popularity (misunderstood or otherwise) has helped propel "Born In The U.S.A." to become a multiplatinum album by selling over 15 million copies.

Prince was the writer of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2U.”

Prince was the writer of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2U.”

"Nothing Compares 2U" might be Sinead O'Conner's biggest hit, but the song was originally written by Prince.

O'Conner turned the song into a global sensation, but didn't meet the man who wrote it until after the song had been released.

"We didn't really hit it off," O'Conner said in an interview. "But that's best left in the past."

The song, which is still performed by Prince, along with a very simple but memorable music video, went platinum and made O'Conner a household name.

Kelly Clarkson's “Since U Been Gone” was turned down by P!nk and almost went to Hillary Duff.

Kelly Clarkson

"Since U Been Gone" almost went to two very different artists before it made its way to Kelly Clarkson.

Writers Max Martin and "Dr. Luke" Gottwald told Blender that they intended it for P!nk, but she turned it down. Hillary Duff also almost got it, but couldn't hit the high notes.

It wasn't until record producer Clive Davis intervened that the song went to Clarkson.

"Honestly, I don’t think Max even knew who Kelly was,” Gottwald said.“He lives in Sweden, and he didn’t follow 'American Idol.'"

"Since U Been Gone" proved Clarkson was a pop star, with the song going on to have 2.6 million downloads.

Otis Redding was R-E-S-P-E-C-T'ing in "Respect" Before Aretha Franklin.

Otis Redding was R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Aretha Franklin's "Respect" is one of the best female-empowerment songs of all time, but the song was originally sung by male artist, Otis Redding.

The song may have been performed by Redding first, but once Franklin got her hands on it, the tone and meaning of the song changed.

"It also became a really important song for women," said Lauren Onkey, executive producer of the American Music Masters to "Of course, Aretha Franklin singing about respect at home sounds different than Otis Redding singing about it."

"Respect" would become Franklin's first No. 1 hits and was ranked fifth in Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time."

Cee Lo Green's "F--- You" was written by Bruno Mars.

Cee Lo Green

Bruno Mars has written many hits, but one that may come as a surprise is Cee Lo's "F--- You."

According to EW, the song came out of a recording session between the two with Mars putting together the foundations of the song, along with Cee Lo's NSFW chorus.

“When Bruno first sung ‘F--- You’ to me, they were still a bit indecisive on whether it could work at all,” Cee Lo said.

The song went on to be a huge hit, reaching No. 7 on Billboard's best of 2011 chart.

Guns N' Roses's "Sweet Child o' Mine" was written in five minutes.

Guns N

"Sweet Child o' Mine" from Guns 'N Roses's debut album "Appetite For Destruction" is a great rock song ... that was mostly the band screwing around.

"It was an interesting sort of pattern," Slash told Rolling Stone. "I never thought it was going to become a song."

If that wasn't enough, lead singer Axl Rose wrote lyrics and completed the song in five minutes after hearing the guitar playing from another room.

"Sweet Child o' Mine" would go on to spend 24 weeks on the charts, peaking at No. 1, which isn't too bad considering it was made in minutes.

Bob Marley's “I Shot The Sheriff” is about birth control.

Bob Marley

If someone was trying to figure out what Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff" was about, not many would say birth control.

But that's exactly the meaning behind it.

Marley was an opponent of birth control, finding it to be sacrilegious, so he disliked the doctor who was prescribing the medication to his girlfriend.

That doctor would later go on to become sheriff, and "I Shot The Sheriff" would help Bob Marley's greatest hits "Legend" pass 10 million copies.

The Police's romantic "Every Breath You Take" isn't romantic at all. It's about surveillance.

The Police

The Police's "Every Breath You Take" is a romantic-sounding song that has to do with themes like surveillance and control.

When lead singer Sting wrote the song, he was dealing with jealousy and obsession during the collapse of his marriage.

"I think the song is very, very sinister," Sting told the BBC.

Despite the true meaning, many people still think of it as a classic love song, one of Sting's most profitable of all time, for which he still receives $730,000 annually.

Many of Britney Spears's greatest hits were rejected, meant for, or written by other artists.

Many of Britney Spears
  1. What would have TLC's "Baby One More Time" sounded like?
  2. How about "I'm A Slave 4 U" by Janet Jackson?
  3. Would Rihanna and Lady Gaga be as famous if "Umbrella" and "Telephone" went to Britney Spears instead?

These all could have happened considering many of Spears's hits were rejected or written by other artists.

TLC and Janet Jackson both rejected songs that ultimately went to Spears, while Spears then rejected "Umbrella" and "Telephone."

Now that you know the facts behind some of music's best songs ...

Now that you know the facts behind some of music
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