For decades, the music industry has been at the forefront of mainstream entertainment. From Beyonce to Justin Bieber, Alicia Keys to Sia, every artist has carved a space for themselves amongst musical greats from the past, making them household names in every corner of the world. The success of a song, however, has a number of contributing factors – one of them being – ghostwriters.
The term ‘ghostwriter’ refers to a person that writes original music to sell to performers in the industry. While the names of songwriters are almost always displayed in a song’s credits section, ghostwriters are known to use aliases instead of their real names, making it close to impossible for listeners to know the origins of their favorites. There are a significant number of artists through history who have had songs ghostwritten. What should be noted here, is the vast difference between a creator and a performer. It is seldom that an artist can say a song is completely theirs, looking aside from songwriting, towards the execution, production and marketing of a song – making writing music and being on stage two very varying art forms. A singer that has an exceptional voice and seasoned techniques, with a stage presence that demands attention, won’t necessarily be as good at coming up with original music. Similarly, a high-level songwriter may not have the required skillset to deliver a quality performance to match.
You will be surprised to know that many established artists start out as ghostwriters. What is even more surprising is finding out that a chart-topper was, in fact, not written by the artist it belongs to. For the purists, this may come as a heartbreak. The universal message, however, is knowing that good music can come from anywhere, and its success is attributed to the efforts taken before and after release, making it so that there is no one correct way to have a hit song.
It takes years of hard work and dedication to become a successful performing artist. Every artist has paid their dues. Ghostwriting is can be seen as either a formative part of an artist’s career or a full-time profession – and while not all ghostwriters have turned performers, some of the industry’s largest icons have recently been identified as the writers behind some of the largest songs in recent history. Here are some interesting examples.
Sia Furler aka Sia, who is currently amongst the biggest and best artists of our generation, has written several songs for her now-colleagues. She wrote the song, Pretty Hurts and sent it out to both Rihanna and Beyoncé. It is said that Rihanna’s team sat on it for months and didn’t really come back to her with a proposal. In the meanwhile, Beyonce rolled out her own version of the single, which debuted on the 10th of June, 2014. The rest is history.
Sia also wrote Try Everything for the Disney film Zootopia. Try Everything was performed by Shakira and was on top of the charts in many countries, reaching No. 1 on Billboard’s Kid Digital Songs chart.
You Lost Me by Christina Aguilera, Loved me Back to Life by Celine Dion, Invincible Kelly Clarkson, Double Rainbow by Katy Perry, My Heart is Open by Maroon 5 are some more hit songs that Sia wrote during her stint as a ghostwriter.
Kesha, popularly known for her song, Tik Tok ghostwrote many chartbusters for famous artists. If you are a party person, there is no way you wouldn’t have danced to Time of our Lives by Miley Cyrus, which it turns out, was actually written by Kesha.
Till The World Ends played a huge role in the comeback process for Britney Spears. It put her back on the pop map as the undisputed queen from the 90s. Kesha famously said, “That song is me imagining Britney and any female musician touring the world”. Later, Britney released a dubstep remix of the same song featuring Kesha in the chorus.
Kesha also wrote the inspiring and party-synth heavy, Pink Champagne for Ariana Grande which released in 2013 on Grande’s Youtube Channel. She dedicated the song to all her fans who stood by her for years.
Yes, you read that right! The amazingly talented, suave-as-f**k, Uptown Funk boy Bruno Mars was also a ghostwriter on many many songs for other artists before he hit fame. Bruno Mars ghostwrote Ceelo Green’s 2010 soul-pop hit, F–k You.
One of Mars’ biggest hits songs which over the years became a sampler was Right Round by Flo Rida feat. Kesha. This 80s song played at every little pub and every major party for over a decade around the world and was on top of the charts in the US and UK.
Some other songs that Bruno Mars wrote are Hot Mess by Cobra Starship, Who Dat Girl by Flo Rida ft. Akon, Bow Chika Wow Wow by Mike Posner ft. Lil Wayne.
Here are some more famous songs that were actually ghostwritten by other artists:
Song – Getting Jiggy Wit It
Artist – Will Smith
Ghostwriter – Nas
Song – Miss Independent
Artist – Kelly Clarkson
Ghostwriter – Christina Aguilera
Song – You Are Not Alone
Artist – Michael Jackson
Ghostwriter – R. Kelly
Song – Unthinkable
Artist – Alicia Keys
Ghostwriter – Drake
Song – Love Yourself
Artist – Justin Bieber
Ghostwriter – Ed Sheeran
Song – Respect
Artist – Aretha Franklin
Ghostwriter – Otis Redding
Song – Halo
Artist – Beyoncé
Ghostwriter – Ryan Tedder (Lead singer of One Republic)
Song – Still D.R.E.
Artist – Dr. Dre
Ghostwriter – Jay-Z