Pop Culture with Tatiana


Artists who stole vocals and passed them off as their own

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It is a fact that in today’s world, a pop/commercial artist does not necessarily have to be a good vocalist. It is all about the image, the sex appeal, and most importantly in my opinion, the marketability (What’s up Selena Gomez). We all know artists use auto-tune and very often do not sing live (What’s up Britney Spears). That is accepted, but for an artist to pass someone else’s vocals off as their own, that’s taking it a little bit too far. Here is a list of hit songs I am sure you all know. But what you might not know is that they were not entirely sung by the artist taking credit for them.

I cannot start this list without mentioning the most infamous lip-syncers of all time Milli Vanilli. Unlike the other singers on the list, they never sung a single word throughout their career. But their story is fascinating, 10 million albums sold and a GRAMMY, before they were exposed as being total 100% lip-syncers.

I will give you a bit of their background. They were a duo that consisted of Frenchman Fab Morvan and German Rob Pilatus. They could barely speak english, which is what initially sparked doubts that they weren’t singing their songs. The first public sign that the group was lip-syncing came on 21 July 1989, during a live performance a hard drive issue caused the recording of the song “Girl You Know It’s True” to jam and skip, repeatedly playing the partial line “Girl, you know it’s…” through the speakers. 

Then when their album was released, the vocals were attributed to the duo. This prompted singer Charles Shaw to reveal in December 1989 that he was one of the three actual vocalists on the album and that Pilatus and Morvan were impostors. They eventually confirmed the deception, returned their Grammy and over 10 million fans were refunded for having bought their records.

Now onto our list.

“Hey Mama” produced by David Guetta and Afrojack, featuring Nicki Minaj and Bebe Rexha

Bebe Rexha was not credited as a featured singer on the track when it was released in March of 2015.

She sings the chorus: “Beating the drum like dum di-di-day/I like the dirty rhythm you play/ I wanna hear you calling my name/ Like hey mama mama hey mama mama”.

And not only was she originally left out of featured artists lists, but she was also not in the music video.

“It’s tough hearing your voice on the radio, on a chorus, and knowing that people think it’s another artist,” said Bebe Rexha

“Hey Mama” was a huge hit, the song peaked at number 8 on the US Billboard hot 100 chart. A feat which would have been a huge boost for Rexha who was struggling singer/songwriter at the time.

It seems as though Guetta and his team thought there were too many names on the title, which did not look good for radio. So they decided to leave out Bebe’s name. But After talking to Guetta, and involving her lawyer, Bebe’s name was listed with the others 4 months after the song’s release. She was added on the album’s artwork and has since performed the song with Guetta and Minaj. In a statement to USA TODAY, Guetta’s management said, “Initially, Bebe was happy and agreed to be credited as a writer. When she changed her mind, after the record was released, we changed the credits immediately.

“The Monster” Eminem featuring Rihanna

Turns out “Hey Mama” was not the only time Bebe Rexha wasn’t credit for her vocals!

Back in 2013, a young Bebe Rexha was writing her own album, she wrote and sang a song called “Monsters under my bed” and said she thought the song would fit well with Eminem’s style. She was then dropped by her label Island Def Jam. In the meantime, Eminem was looking for songs to be featured on his eight studio album. He loved Bebe’s demo as soon as he heard it, and added his own verses, adjusted the instrumental portions of the track and invited Rihanna to feature. However, he left the background vocals sung by Rexha intact. 

Well, that’s nothin’ (ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
(Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)

Well, that’s nothin’ (ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)
(Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)

That’s Rexha’s voice. Maybe because Rihanna couldn’t hit those high notes? Who knows. “The Monster” went up to number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the UK’s singles chart.

“Same Old Love” Selena Gomez

“Same Old Love” was a single off of Selena Gomez’ second studio album “Revival”. The song was written and demoed by English singer Charli XCX. The track was presented to Gomez and she loved it, stating she was a fan of XCX’s music and cited an emotional connection with its lyrics. However, in the final version of the song she kept XCX’s background vocals all over the track, including in the chorus, and did not mention her name as a featuring artist.

“Scream and Shout” Will.I.Am featuring Britney Spears

We could do a whole list of Britney Spears’ list of stolen vocals but I will stick to this song as it is the most famous “stolen” vocals one.

“Scream and Shout” was released in 2012 as a single off of Will.I.Am’s fourth studio album #willpower.  The song was a commercial success and peaked at number 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, despite being criticised for its heavy use of autotune on the vocals.

British singer Tulisa actually co-wrote the original version of the song and recorded it for her own album under the title “I Don’t Give A Fuck”. After feuding with the producer of the track Lazy Jay, he did not want Tulisa to keep the song and gave it to Will.I.Am who re-wrote the song with Spears in mind. However, Will kept many of Tulisa’s vocals intact on the final version of the song, and seemed to pass them off as Britney’s. This explains why at the time Billboard magazine said that the song “features a very different sound for Spears, whose voice is robotised to a nearly unrecognisable degree.”

Am I the only one that thought Britney had a British accents at some points in the song? this explains it!

At the beginning Tulisa was not credited as a songwriter, which prevented her from collecting any royalties from the song’s release, however, she sued Will.I.Am and eventually won the lawsuit, entitling her to 10% of the publishing rights.

“Don’t Cha” Pussycat Dolls

This is different. I think Nicole Scherzinger has enough vocal talent to be able to sing all of her own songs no problem. However, the story here is that Don’t Cha, was a song that was completely stolen from another artist.

CeeLo Green wrote and produced the song for an unknown R&B singer called Tori Alamaze in 2004. Alamaze recorded her version of the song and released it as her very first single. Her song started getting radio play and did enter some Billboard charts including the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart at number 53. However Alamaze decided to part ways with her label “Universal Records”, and agreed to give up her rights to the song to get out of her contact.

The chairman of the Universal Music Group was still very interested in marketing the song. It was offered to the Sugababes and Paris Hilton but both declined. “I think I did hear the song, but not in the format that we all came to know and love. If I’d heard that, of course I’d have jumped at the chance” said Hilton in 2006.

Then came the newly formed Pussycat Dolls led by Nicole Scherzinger. They re-recorded the exact same song, adding Busta Rhymes’ verse. Even Nicole herself admitted that the two records sounded identical.

I am assuming you all already know the PCD version of Don’t Cha, so here is Alamaze’s version… I think you will be “alamazed” lol

Quicksand Britney Spears

Long story short, the song was written by Lady Gaga, and she sung the chorus. But she is not credited as a featured artist on the song, and Britney seems to pass it off as her voice.

But then again, when it comes to Britney Spears has she been in the studio at all in the past decades? Who knows.

During my research for this article, I realised I cannot include Jennifer Lopez in this list. Why? Because she needs a whole list for herself! You will be shocked! Stay tuned!

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