In the same way that action stars don't do their own stunts and surrogate mothers don't raise their own babies, singers often rely on other songwriters to provide the lyrics to their biggest hits. It's never widely publicized who did the actual writing, and as we have mentioned before, sometimes it's for good reason.
#6. Michael Jackson Wrote "Do the Bartman"
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The Simpsons has been on the air so long that some of you aren't old enough to remember that at one time it was an absolute merchandising juggernaut. There was a span of a few years when you couldn't leave the house without seeing Bart Simpson dolls, T-shirts, lunch boxes, video games, and, at the apex, a music video for a single called "Do the Bartman":
So what songwriting hack was available in 1990 to slap together that sad, transparent cash grab?
Here's something cool you probably didn't know about the late Michael Jackson: He loved The Simpsons. If you remember the third season debut, "Stark Raving Dad," you'll probably remember it as that episode where Michael Jackson provides the voice of a huge white mental patient who thinks he's Michael Jackson.
It was probably the most ingenious bit of stunt casting ever, and a pretty bold move for the young show to have the King of Pop on as a guest star. Few knew at the time that Jackson had always been a fan, and longtime Simpsons producer James L. Brooks explained in a DVD commentary how he fielded a call in his office one day from Jackson himself, who proclaimed that he was a huge fan of Bart and wanted to write a No. 1 single for him, which is a little pretentious, but whatever. It's Michael Jackson. "Do the Bartman" is what he came up with.
Looking back, the whole thing is a little weird. It's a rap song, featuring Bart Simpson rapping words written by Michael Jackson, who is not someone necessarily known for his ill rhymes. But who are we to argue? The video was directed by Brad Bird (!), got heavy rotation on MTV, and topped the charts in five other countries. None of whom could have known that the show would still be on the air 23 years later.
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Or that Michael Jackson wouldn't.
#5. Bruno Mars Wrote CeeLo Green's Hit "Fuck You"
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If you've ever suffered from a gut-wrenching breakup so devastating that your heart actually bled out through your eyeballs during intense crying sessions, then you probably enjoyed CeeLo Green's 2010 viral hit "Fuck You." And if you haven't, guess what? You're the gold digger CeeLo is talking about in the song. Good job.
Even though most of us will never experience the catharsis of using a soaring tenor to give our ex a "fuck you," we appreciated the sentiment. Relive the summer of 2010 in all its glory by watching the video again.
And where else could such a track come from but the goofy head of stout little soul singer CeeLo Green?
Actually, it started in the mind of an even shorter R&B singer, and for once we're not talking about Prince. It just so happened that while CeeLo Green was recording his album The Lady Killer, Motown-influenced Bruno Mars was recording his debut album in the same studio. You know Bruno Mars, right? He's the pop singer whose pompadour is rivaled only by Little Richard's in audacity.
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Even Conan O'Brien feels threatened.
Not that Bruno Mars was a total rookie. He already had a few songwriting credits under his belt by that point, including the third most popular '80s hook that was turned into an ode to oral sex: "Right Round."
So Bruno Mars, a guy who looks like the love child of Elvis and the Rock, presented CeeLo with a half-finished version of the song that eventually became "Fuck You." Two hours later, the song was finished and recorded. Approximately 15 minutes after that, the Internet found it and had a collective orgasm. You should expect your grandma to send you a parody version of the song any day now, by the way.
#4. Dr. Dre Outsourced the Song Tribute to His Dead Brother
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No music fan makes it out of childhood without realizing that lots of their favorite artists' deep, meaningful lyrics were in fact written by somebody else. A teenage girl didn't write "Baby One More Time" -- that would be creepy. No, an adult male wrote it for a teenage girl to sing.
But then there are the deeply personal songs that could only have been written by the artist -- Alanis Morissette did in fact write "You Oughta Know" about the time she blew a dude in a theater (history doesn't remember what movie was playing, but for some reason we're sure it was Predator). Dr. Dre's track "The Message" would definitely have to fall into that category. It's a heartfelt tribute to his brother Tyree, who had been killed in a fight during N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton tour in 1989.
Even for one so averse to coming up with lyrics, you'd expect Dre to buckle down and actually write such a personal song. He did not. From the style of rapping, one would be forgiven for assuming that the writing of this one fell to Eminem -- but it wasn't him, either. So who wrote the very personal and touching words, "This one is for my brother, Tyree, R.I.P." and "I miss you, sometimes I wish I just died wit you"?
A guy named Royce da 5'9".
We'd tell you his Internet name, but it's just silly.
And if you're thinking that maybe Dre jotted down some personal thoughts about his brother and just had Royce da 5'9" make it rhyme, sorry. In fact, Royce da 5'9" didn't even intend the lyrics for Dre's brother: He wrote them for an altogether different fellow who was shot in the neck. It just so happened that Dre heard the words and thought "Oh, that fits Tyree" and used them.
But by then, Royce was used to shit like that. And when he had the nerve to speak up about writing lyrics for prominent rappers, Dre and Eminem cut ties with him for a while. But the good news? The rift didn't last, and 10 years later, Royce hooked up with Eminem for a new album, one that featured a song with another ghostwriter on this list, Bruno Mars.
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Seriously, look at that thing.