Few bands have what it takes to come up with that one massive hit that most people in the world will instantly associate with their name. It may not be their greatest or their most unannoying song, but it's the one they'll be thankful for when someone inevitably uses it for a cellphone ad. Of course, many times "what it takes" has less to do with their own talent and more to do with their capacity to take songs someone else rejected or flat-out steal them from another artist.
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Ah, the halcyon days of 2005. It was an innocent time when we were still optimistic about Episode III, getting our hopes way up about Lost, and not entirely sure that Kanye West was an asshole. In all three cases, of course, our naive optimism was dashed against the hard, cruel rocks of reality. For Kanye, those rocks came in the form and were even the central theme of "Gold Digger," a misogynistic but endlessly danceable ode to bitches obsessed with money and jewelry.
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"Irony? Nah, I get my shit steam cleaned."
If you've somehow made it to 2014 without hearing it, the chorus to this delightful little number goes "Now I ain't sayin' you're a gold digger, but you ain't messin' with no broke [word that rhymes with 'digger']." To Kanye's credit, he never intended to record it himself. To take that credit right the hell back, Kanye's head was so far up his ass even back then that he earnestly believed any woman on Earth would want anything to do with this song. According to A&R rep Patrick "Plain Pat" Reynolds, Kanye crafted the entire song specifically for rapper Shawnna.
Cracked Fact: Not male.
Now, you may think that having a woman recite those lyrics actually makes the song less offensive, since it would turn into a denunciation of shallow hoes from an independent woman, but you're forgetting that Kanye West operates on a different logic from the rest of us mortals. We say that because the song was actually meant to be recited from a first-person perspective, i.e., "I'm not sayin' I'm a gold digger, but I ain't messin' with no broke n-----." Reynolds says he's "not sure why" Shawnna passed on the song, because he's apparently never spoken to a woman ever.
Utterly surprised that a woman wasn't interested in publicly declaring herself a hooker, Kanye flipped the perspective and recruited Jamie Foxx to sing some verses in his best Ray Charles voice (because, again, Kanye logic). The song, of course, became a huge hit for Kanye, catapulting him to a career filled with more opportunities to be a clueless jackass about things. Thanks, Shawnna.
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After more than two decades of drinking, drugging, and rocking our collective faces off, Aerosmith scored their first #1 hit in 1998 with "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," that inescapable sappy love ballad from the Armageddon soundtrack. If you hated Aerosmith, we're guessing that song (or that "animal cracker" scene in Armageddon that went along with it) was the apex of your hatred:
It seemed like the ultimate sellout moment for a band that had been heading down that road for a while. But when you find out where the song started ... well, it looks even worse.
Basically, the band just ran out of ideas. The power ballad wasn't exactly uncharted territory for Aerosmith, so it made sense to ask them to bust their feelings back out for Steven Tyler's daughter Liv's upcoming blockbuster. Unfortunately, they dug deep into the hole where their feelings used to be and came up empty.
To be fair, you'd draw blanks too if you needed to come up with a radio-friendly song about Ben Afflecking your daughter.
That's when the record label presented them with a little number by Diane Warren, the she-devil behind every lite FM hit of the '90s. The executive noted that it had already been claimed for someone else, but, quickly running out of time and fucks to give, the band stole it right up from under the nose of fucking Celine Dion.
That's right: The biggest hit of arguably the most successful American rock band of the late 20th century was almost sung by a pop star so cheesy and dramatic that her overwrought performances are indistinguishable from their own SNL parodies. There's an alternate universe out there where this song is "My Heart Will Go On, Part 2," and that world makes so much more sense than ours.
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We also assume that universe's Michael Bay somehow learned a way to steal all the talent from ours to augment his own.
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Even if you could not give less of a shit about Beyonce and had no idea why Twitter was blowing up about her a few months ago, you know "Irreplaceable." You know this song because its hook -- "to the left, to the left" -- became the go-to catchphrase of every fake-tanned, acrylic-nailed, selfie-taking woman when she wanted to express displeasure with her mate, because coming up with your own "fuck yous" is hard. It also won a Grammy and stuff.
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And may have subliminally gotten Obama elected.
In its early incarnation, however, it's likely those lovely ladies would never have even heard the song, unless it was in the two seconds between accidentally tuning to a country music station and realizing you accidentally tuned to a country music station. Yep, "Irreplaceable" was originally meant for the likes of Shania Twain or Faith Hill.
The song and its famous refrain had a long, weird journey into the zeitgeist. When it was first conceived by R&B star and ridiculous name haver Ne-Yo, it was from a man's perspective, as he intended to sing the song himself. Eventually, Yo decided that it was better suited not only for a feminine voice, but a much whiter one. Exactly how white? Think cowboy boots, big hair, and unreasonable romantic double standards. With Twain or Hill in mind (Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton were unavailable), Ne-Yo had tweaked "Irreplaceable" into a foot-stomping, twangy country style. It sounds insane, but if you focus hard on your peripheral vision and believe in magic, you can totally hear it. Or you can just check out this cover by Sugarland at the American Music Awards in the style of the original arrangement.
Fate stepped in when Beyonce did, barging in and demanding the song in that way you just know she has, but Ne-Yo producer Tor Hermansen claims that if they had been putting together a song knowing it was for her, "Irreplaceable" is light-years away from what they would have come up with. Hermansen is adamant in his belief that the song would have been a country classic and honestly seems kind of annoyed about it being such an R&B smash hit, but all those royalty checks are probably good consolation.