Miley Cyrus’ latest single, “Flowers,” references her relationship with ex-husband Liam Hemsworth in an honest light, and she took inspiration from some of Bruno Mars’ lyrics to do it.
Cyrus rewrote the chorus of Mars’ “When I Was Your Man” from: “I should have bought you flowers, and held your hand. Should have gave you all my hours when I had the chance. Take you to every party ’cause all you wanted to do was dance,” to: “I can buy myself flowers, write my name in the sand. Talk to myself for hours, say things you don’t understand. I can take myself dancing, and I can hold my own hand — yeah, I can love me better than you can.”
When Christina Aguilera recorded her 2002 hit “Beautiful,” the opening line “don’t look at me” was completely ad-libbed. Linda Perry, the songwriter behind “Beautiful,” told Rolling Stone in 2019: “[Christina] stood there in my studio with the lyrics in her hands, and then said to this friend she brought along, ‘Don’t look at me’ in that little whispery voice.”
“I knew I was going to keep that on the record, and I knew she was the right person for the song,” said Perry. “I realized: ‘Oh, she’s insecure. She’s one of those beautiful people who’s got everything but is super insecure. Okay, this song is hers.'”
TLC had won two Grammys in 1996, and were the biggest-selling female group by that point (10 million albums sold worldwide), but they were actually bankrupt and barely received money for their major hits.
In 1996, the LA Times reported: “The trio has received less than 1% of the estimated $175 million in revenues that the group’s music has generated around the world. Analysts say that’s about 40 times less than the profit that has been divided among the management, production, and record companies that represent TLC.”
In her high school yearbook, Nicki Minaj used a Lauryn Hill lyric from Hill’s 1998 song, “Forgive Them Father.” The quote reads: “To survive is to stay alive in the face of opposition.”
Years later in 2016, Nicki Minaj met her hero Lauryn Hill backstage after a concert. “I’m in love with you — your spirit, your mind, and everything about you,” she gushed to Hill.
You can watch Nicki Minaj meeting Lauryn Hill here:
Ashanti sang demo vocals on one of Jennifer Lopez’s biggest hits: The Murder Inc. remix to “I’m Real.” She also claimed that she helped write Lopez’s second big remix, “Ain’t It Funny.” Ja Rule (who was also featured on both remixes) said the producers kept Ashanti’s demo vocals on “I’m Real.”
“It’s weird because obviously you get frustrated for not getting credit or not being properly labeled,” Ashanti told Metro UK last year. “But then that turns into something you get admired for.”
Missy Elliott was drunk when she filmed this scene for the “Work It” music video because director Dave Meyers accidentally refilled her glass with wine instead of water.
“We shot that take maybe seven times from different angles, so by the time that was over, [Missy] was trashed,” Dave Meyers recalled. “She was so smiley. Then, Janet Jackson came to bless us with her presence, and Missy was talking all kinds of gibberish to her — it was really a good time.”
Before they made it big as members of Fleetwood Mac in 1975, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham formed a rock band in the late-’60s called Fritz. In their early twenties, they played every gig they could land — and one of their most notable gigs was opening for legendary singer Janis Joplin in Cleveland in 1970.
Janis Joplin yelled at Stevie Nicks and the rest of Fritz off the stage because their set went over their allotted time. “Being yelled off the stage by Janis Joplin was one of the greatest honors of my life,” Nicks said. “On walks this girl in silky bell-bottoms, a beautiful top, lots of gorgeous jewelry, feathers in her crazy, big natural hair. Lots of attitude, arrogance, the crowd in the palm of her hand. She was not a beautiful woman, but very attractive. I was very taken with her.”
Dionne Warwick hosted an intervention in the ’90s with Snoop Dogg and Tupac about their misogynistic music lyrics. “We were kind of scared and shook up. We’re powerful right now, but she’s been powerful forever,” Snoop Dogg said. “Thirty-some years in the game, in the big home with a lot of money and success.”
Dionne Warwick said to Snoop Dogg and Tupac: “You’re going to have families, you’re going to have children, you’re going to have little girls. One day that little girl is going to look at you and say: ‘Daddy, did you really say that? Is that really you?'”
Taylor Swift’s favorite song lyric of all time is: “I had some dreams they were clouds in my coffee” from Carly Simon’s 1972 hit, “You’re So Vain.”
Swift is a huge admirer of Simon, so much so that she brought her out on her Red tour in 2013 to perform “You’re So Vain.” It was an iconic moment in music herstory, and a performance I will never, ever get out of my noggin.
In 1989, the Grammys created a new category: “Best Rap Performance.” DJ Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith (then the Fresh Prince) won the award. The Grammys didn’t plan on televising the category, so to show their support, rappers like Salt-N-Pepa didn’t attend the ceremony (even though they were nominated in the same category for their song “Push It“).
“We boycotted the Grammys back in ’89,” Pepa told Billboard in 2020. “Other music was being televised — everybody was able to walk and accept their awards visually, and we took a stance for that.”
After her six-decade-long career and pioneering efforts that have shaped the landscape of music today, Diana Ross has been shockingly shut out at the Grammys.
Other notable women in music who’ve never received a Grammy Award are Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez, Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, Debbie Harry, Björk, and Nina Simone.
In 1971, Carole King and Joni Mitchell were each recording legendary albums at the same studio in Los Angeles. King was recording Tapestry and Mitchell was recording Blue. Because they were in such close proximity to each other, these famous musicians performed on each other’s albums.
The most iconic collaboration was on “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” from Carole King’s Tapestry. King sang lead vocals and played piano while Mitchell sang background vocals (along with James Taylor). As a teenager in the early ’60s, Joni Mitchell’s favorite song was “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” (a song King originally co-wrote for the Shirelles with her then-husband, Gerry Goffin). So to sing background vocals on her favorite song nearly 10 years later with the original songwriter herself feels like a true full-circle moment.
Yoko Ono co-wrote “Imagine” for John Lennon’s 1971 album Imagine, but Lennon didn’t give her songwriting credit. Ono finally received songwriting credit for “Imagine” at NMPA’s Centennial Annual Meeting in 2017 once it was learned that Lennon pulled the majority of the lyrics from her 1964 poetry book Grapefruit.
In a BBC interview from 1980, Lennon was quoted as saying: “[‘Imagine’] should be credited as a Lennon-Ono song because a lot of it came from Yoko. But in those days, I was a bit more selfish, a bit more macho, and I sort of omitted to mention her contribution. But it was right out of Grapefruit, her book.”
And finally, Sia wrote “Invincible” for Kelly Clarkson’s 2015 album, Piece by Piece. Clarkson told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2015: “It was the last song we recorded for the album — I was done with the album — and Jesse (Clarkson’s producer) emailed me and said: ‘Sia wrote this song — you gotta hear it!'”
“We texted a bit, and she’s just so nice — it’s rare, which is kind of sad, because it’s a competitive world, and people like to pit women against each other in the [music] industry. I don’t feel that way, so it was nice because she was so uplifting.”