Many prominent singers are also talented songwriters, often penning their tracks solo or working with a team to get them just right. In fact, many times they wrote songs for other artists long before their own careers as artists themselves took off.
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You’ve definitely heard of these stars, but you might not know they got their start writing songs for others—and some became really big hits!
Long before Ed Sheeran was churning out love ballads and dueting with Beyoncé, he wrote songs for other artists. One of his biggest hits was a song he wrote when he was 17 years old—years later, Sheeran reworked “Little Things” and gave it to the boy band One Direction, who made it a major hit.
Sheeran’s songwriting credits are truly impressive. He’s written for artists ranging from The Weeknd to Taylor Swift, Rita Ora, Keith Urban, and more. And, of course, he’s had his own wildly successful career, winning four Grammy Awards and scoring 14 No. 1 hit singles.
Sia might not show her face often, but she’s known worldwide for hits such as “Chandelier” and “Cheap Thrills.” But before she became a pop superstar in her own right, she wrote for other pop superstars such as Beyoncé, Rihanna, Christina Aguilera, Rita Ora, and Celine Dion. Sia’s discography includes close to 100 songs—not counting her own. Her most successful songs written for other artists include “Pretty Hurts” by Beyoncé and “Diamonds” by Rihanna. The ironic part? She wrote her breakthrough hit “Chandelier” for one of these two pop divas to cut before recording it herself.
Julia Michaels might be one of the most experienced and talented songwriters alive. She’s written some of the biggest songs of the century, including “Sorry” by Justin Bieber, “Hands to Myself” by Selena Gomez, and “Miss Movin’ On” by Fifth Harmony. She’s won many awards and been nominated for multiple Grammys as a songwriter and singer.
In 2017, Michaels gained international attention with her song “Issues,” which was on the charts for 29 weeks and earned a Grammy Award nomination. Though she’s turned her attention to writing her own music, Michaels remains one of the most successful and prolific songwriters in pop music today.
Bruno Mars gained fame as the crooner of ballads like “Grenade” and “Just the Way You Are.” Before he was a suave heartthrob dominating the airwaves, though, Mars wrote music for other great artists. He had a hand in writing hits like CeeLo Green’s “Forget You” and “Right Round” by Flo Rida. He’s also written songs for Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, Wiz Khalifa, Alicia Keys, and Adele. Later, Mars would write with producer Mark Ronson, with whom he’d later team up to record the ubiquitous smash hit “Uptown Funk.”
Pop star Kesha is known for her dance club hits like “TiK ToK” and “Die Young.” But she’s also a talented songwriter who has written for singers such as Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus. Unlike many songwriters, Kesha has the unique method of creating bespoke tracks for specific artists rather than writing a song and opening it to offers. She wrote the 2011 song “Till the World Ends” especially for Britney Spears, explaining that she tried to step into the superstar singer’s mindset to write a song that fit her. She’s also written for artists such as Macklemore, Zedd, and Flo Rida.
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