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18 Famous Women Who Actually Wrote Popular Songs For Other Singers

Missy Elliott has written all of your favorite songs — I kid you not!

1. Linda Perry wrote "Beautiful" for Christina Aguilera's 2002 album, Stripped.

Christina Aguilera singing in the "Beautiful" music video; Linda Perry and Christina Aguilera hugging each other on a red carpet
RCA / Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images

Perry told Rolling Stone in 2019: "[Christina Aguilera] 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. I realized, 'She's one of those beautiful people who's got everything but is super insecure. Okay, this song is hers.'"

Listen to the song here:

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RCA / Via youtube.com

2. Linda Perry also helped write "Superwoman" with Alicia Keys for her 2007 album, As I Am.

Alicia Keys in the "Superwoman" music video, wearing glasses and business attire; Linda Perry smiling at a red carpet event
J Records / Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

Perry is the songwriter behind many notable hits, like "Get the Party Started" by Pink, "Can't Let Go" by Adele, and "What You Waiting For?" by Gwen Stefani.

When it came down to working with Alicia Keys on "Superwoman," she told Rolling Stone it was an effortless collaboration. The song came from a vulnerable but powerful place, and Perry only helped Keys where she needed inspiration. She said: "[Alicia] had a chorus but no verse and no bridge, but she had the 'Superwoman' theme. It was probably coming from the area of women’s empowerment and that we are superwomen. I can fly around the world and be right on time to make burgers and fries for 30 kids in fifth grade. That song was just acknowledging the vulnerability — but just because you’re vulnerable doesn’t mean you're not powerful."

Listen to the song here:

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J Records / Via youtube.com

3. Lauryn Hill wrote "A Rose Is Still a Rose" for Aretha Franklin's 1998 album, A Rose Is Still a Rose.

Lauryn Hill and Aretha Franklin at the piano together in the "A Rose Is Still a Rose" music video
Arista

When Rolling Stone asked Hill what it was like to write a song for Franklin back in 1998, she said: "It's amazing to have Aretha singing words that you wrote. When I recorded with her in Detroit, I went into the vocal booth after she came out, and it smelled like church, like paper fans with wooden sticks. Like it came out of her pores."

Listen to the song here:

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Arista / Via youtube.com

4. Missy Elliott (along with Timbaland) wrote "One in a Million" for Aaliyah's 1996 album, One in a Million.

Aaliyah dancing in the "One in a Million"
Blackground / Atlantic / Craig Barritt / Getty Images

Missy Elliott cowrote most of Aaliyah's music from "One in a Million" onward. Along with her huge list of production credits, Elliott has written major hits for female artists including Tweet, Beyoncé, Monica, and Fantasia.

Listen to the song here:

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Blackground / Atlantic / Via youtube.com

5. Missy Elliott is also responsible for writing a plethora of major hits for singers in the 2000s, like "My Love Is Like...Wo" for Mýa, "Oops (Oh My)" for Tweet, and "So Gone" for Monica.

Mýa in the "My Love Is Like...Wo" music video; Missy Elliott and Tweet in the "Oops (Oh My)" music video; Monica in the "So Gone" music video
Interscope / The Goldmind / Elektra / J Records

"Oops (Oh My)" by Tweet was always rumored to be about masturbation, but in 2021, Elliott cleared the air and let her fans know it's actually about Tweet's self-love for her Black skin. She tweeted: "This song was never 'bout masturbation, it was always about her appreciating her dark skin (self-love) when she looked in the mirror 🙂. It was listeners who thought it was about sex and just ran with it — we just let the consumer's mind create what they wanted."

In 2018, Elliott tweeted about her experience writing "My Love Is Like...Wo" for Mýa: "I remember I had 10 shots of Patrón writing the lyrics. I played it for Mýa and we was dancing 'round the studio having a ball. In this music video, SHE DID DAT. The choreography was lit 🙌🏾🔥."

Listen to "My Love Is Like...Wo" here:

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Interscope / Via youtube.com

Listen to "Oops (Oh My)" here:

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The Goldmind / Elektra / Via youtube.com

Listen to "So Gone" here:

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J Records / Via youtube.com

6. Kelly Clarkson wrote "Tell Me a Lie" for One Direction's 2011 album, Up All Night.

The cover of One Direction's debut album, "Up All Night;" Kelly Clarkson at a press event in the late 2010s
Syco / Columbia / Jared Siskin / Getty Images

Clarkson told the Daily Star in 2012: "Giving away my songs is not something I do lightly. I'm such a writer's snob. But I like the story of [One Direction] and how they came together as a group. They've worked so well in the US, as well as the UK, because people love a story. Plus, they have this innocence about them that attracts people.'"

Listen to the song here:

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Syco / Columbia / Via youtube.com

7. Yoko Ono cowrote "Imagine" for John Lennon's 1971 Imagine, but Lennon didn't give her songwriting credit.

Lennon and Ono in the "Imagine" music video from 1971; the cover of Ono's poetry book "Grapefruit;" an excerpt from Ono's poem "Cloud Piece" that reads: "Imagine the clouds dripping. Dig a hole in your garden to put them in"
Apple / Simon & Schuster / @yokoono / Via Twitter: @yokoono

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."

Listen to the song here:

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Apple / Via youtube.com

8. Alicia Keys (along with Swizz Beatz) wrote "Million Dollar Bill" for Whitney Houston's 2009 album, I Look to You.

Whitney Houston in the "Million Dollar Bill" music video; Alicia Keys performing at the piano in the late 2010s
Arista / Gary Gershoff / Getty Images

Keys talked about collaborating with Houston in a Rolling Stone interview shortly after the legendary singer died: "She was a woman from the streets of Newark — she had that energy and brashness, that laughter and silliness. She'd crack a joke at anything."

"When we made 'Million Dollar Bill' in 2009, she was doing a hundred thousand jokes. I had to reel the session in, like, 'Okay, if we keep joking like this, we are never going to get anything done!' I guess something in my spirit recognized something in her spirit and we connected."

Listen to the song here:

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Arista / Via youtube.com

9. Diane Warren wrote "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" for Aerosmith's 1998 album, Armageddon: The Album.

Steven Tyler in Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" music video; Diane Warren and Steven Tyler at an event in LA in 2016
Columbia / Hollywood / Epic / Michael Kovac / Getty Images

Warren is known in the music industry as the go-to composer for writing massive hits, like "I Was Here" by Beyoncé and "'Til It Happens To You" by Lady Gaga.

She was inspired to write "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" after watching a Barbra Streisand interview with Barbara Walters in the late '90s. Streisand revealed to Walters what her then-boyfriend (now husband) James Brolin told her before they fell asleep: "I don't wanna fall asleep because then I'll miss you." After watching the interview, Warren said: "I wrote down the title — I didn't write the song — it's just a cool title," and sat down at the piano to compose it (never thinking Aerosmith would sing it).

Listen to the song here:

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Columbia / Hollywood / Epic / Via youtube.com

10. Christina Milian wrote "Play" for Jennifer Lopez's 2001 album, J.Lo, and "Baby" for Justin Bieber's 2010 album, My World 2.0.

Milian and Lopez posing together in a music studio in the early 2000s; Jennifer Lopez in the "Play" music video; Justin Bieber in the "Baby" music video
@MilianTurnedUp / Epic / Island / RBMG / Via Twitter: @MilianTurnedUp

In 2019, Milian appeared on Talk Stoop and recalled: "A lot of the songs I wrote early on were songs I wrote for myself. So for people like Jennifer Lopez, ['Play'] was a song I originally wrote for myself. When we were in the studio and recorded it, she hadn't added the 'Play my motherfucking song!' [lyric] yet. I remember I heard it on the radio, and everyone was talking about how she cursed on the song, but I loved that she did that."

Listen to "Play" here:

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Epic / Via youtube.com

Listen to "Baby" here:

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Island / RBMG / Via youtube.com

11. Jessie J wrote "Party in the U.S.A." for Miley Cyrus's 2009 EP, The Time of Our Lives.

Miley Cyrus singing in the "Party in the U.S.A." music video; Jessie J at Abbey Road studios in 2019
Hollywood / Koury Angelo / Getty Images

Jessie J wrote a ton of popular songs for famous singers just as she was making it big as a solo artist in the early 2010s. Along with "Party in the U.S.A.," J wrote "Repeat" for David Guetta and "V.I.P" for Koda Kumi.

Listen to the song here:

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Hollywood / Via youtube.com

12. Alicia Keys wrote "Impossible" for Christina Aguilera's 2002 album, Stripped.

Alicia Keys producing Christina Aguilera in a music studio in the early 2000s for Aguilera's album, "Stripped"
MTV

MTV followed Aguilera's journey while recording her 2002 album, Stripped. In the documentary, she described how effortless it was to work with Keys because she didn't bring her ego as a performing artist into the studio — she worked with Aguilera as a songwriter and producer. The two worked closely together on "Impossible" at Electric Lady Studios in New York City, with Keys teaching Aguilera her go-to vocal warmups at the piano.

Listen to the song here:

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RCA / Via youtube.com

13. Ester Dean cowrote "S&M" for Rihanna's 2010 album, Loud.

Rihanna in the "S&M" music video; Ester Dean posing for an episode of "Songland" Season 2
Def Jam / SRP / NBC / Getty Images

Dean is responsible for cowriting many major hits for singers in the 2010s, like "Firework" by Katy Perry and "Rude Boy" by Rihanna.

In 2019 Dean sat down with BuzzFeed and revealed what it was like to write "S&M" for Rihanna. She said: "I had a song years ago called 'Theme Park of Love,' and it [had lyrics like]: 'Don't you wanna ride on the pony?' Everybody was like, 'Ester, those are too many dirty songs.' And then all of a sudden 'S&M' [came out]! So, who was wrong?"

Listen to the song here:

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Def Jam / SRP / Via youtube.com

14. Tayla Parx co-wrote "Pynk" for Janelle Monáe's 2018 album, Dirty Computer.

Janelle Monáe in the "Pynk" music video; Tayla Parx at the BMI Pop Awards in 2019
Wondaland / Bad Boy / Atlantic / Jean Baptiste Lacroix / Getty Images

Parx also works closely with Ariana Grande, and helped her cowrite songs from her latest album, Positions, and most hits from Grande's 2019 album, Thank U, Next. At 27, Parx already has a solid catalogue of songwriting credits under her belt, cowriting hits like "Infinity" for Mariah Carey's 2015 greatest hits album, Number 1 to Infinity, and "The Kids Are Alright" for Chloe x Halle's 2018 debut album, The Kids Are Alright. Check out Parx's full songwriting credits here.

Listen to the song here:

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Wondaland / Bad Boy / Atlantic / Via youtube.com

15. Carole King (along with Gerry Goffin) wrote major hits for famous artists in the '60s, like "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" for Aretha Franklin and "Pleasant Valley Sunday" for The Monkees.

Carole King posing for a portrait at A&M studios in 1972; the cover of Aretha Franklin's album "Lady Soul;" The Monkees' cover for their single "Pleasant Valley Sunday"
Jim McCrary / Getty Images / Atlantic / Colgems

King has written hundreds of hits for famous singers spanning over five decades, becoming one of the most successful songwriters in pop music history. Her songs have been covered by notable performers like Mariah Carey, James Taylor, Celine Dion, The Beatles, Dusty Springfield, The Righteous Brothers, The Byrds, The Shirelles, Little Eva, The Crystals, and The Animals — check out King's full songwriting credits here.

Listen to "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" here:

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CBS / Via youtube.com

Listen to "Pleasant Valley Sunday" here:

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Colgems / Via youtube.com

16. Carole King also rewrote her 1971 hit "Where You Lead" for the Gilmore Girls theme song in 2000.

Rory and Lorelai in the "Gilmore Girls" opening theme; Carole King's "Tapestry" album cover
Warner Bros. / Jim McCrary / Getty Images

If you've ever seen an episode of Gilmore Girls, then you already know who Carole King is because that's right, folks: "Where You Lead" was written (and performed) by King herself!

She originally cowrote it with Toni Stern for her 1971 album Tapestry, but rerecorded it with her daughter Louise Goffin for the legendary Amy Sherman-Palladino TV show. In a concert tour in the mid-'00s, King revealed: "After I recorded ['Where You Lead'] for the Tapestry album, we women decided that we didn't actually need to follow our men anymore. Then, it got a new lease on life." King and Stern edited some of the original lyrics to fit the Gilmore Girls theme, and the last verse was changed to: "You never know how it's all gonna turn out, but that's okay. Just as long as we're together, we can find a way."

Listen to the song here:

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Warner Bros. / KOCH / Rockingale / Via youtube.com

17. Wynter Gordon cowrote "Don't Hurt Yourself," "Sorry," and "Daddy Lessons" for Beyoncé's 2016 album, Lemonade.

Beyoncé singing "He only want me when I'm not there, he better call Becky with the good hair" in her "Sorry" music video; Wynter Gordon at 2018 Beautycon in NYC
Parkwood / Columbia / Taylor Hill / Getty Images

In a 2018 interview with Harper's Bazaar, Gordon went into great detail about what it was like writing for the legendary album Lemonade, especially when it came down to the popular lyric "Becky with the good hair" from the fourth track, "Sorry."

Gordan said: "When you work with Beyoncé, she's really, really hands on. She has her own reasons for doing things. If Becky was somebody to her, I had no idea who it was. I just thought it was funny that everybody was like, 'Who is it?' like it was this personal person that we all knew about. I was just laughing."

Listen to "Don't Hurt Yourself" here:

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Parkwood / Columbia / Via youtube.com

Listen to "Sorry" here:

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Parkwood / Columbia / Via youtube.com

Listen to "Daddy Lessons" here:

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Parkwood / Columbia / Via youtube.com

18. And Mariah Carey wrote Faith Hill's "Where Are You Christmas?" for the How the Grinch Stole Christmas soundtrack in 2000.

Faith Hill singing in the "Where Are You Christmas?" music video; Mariah Carey posing at an entertainment event in the late 2010s
Warner Bros. Nashville / Interscope / D Dipasupil / Getty Images

Mariah Carey wrote almost all of her own discography (except for the covers) — she even wrote the Mixed-ish theme song, "In the Mix," which she recorded with her children, Roc and Roe.

Carey originally wrote "Where Are You Christmas?" to perform herself, but Faith Hill recorded the Christmas classic for the movie instead, possibly because of a legal battle between Carey and ex-husband/music executive Tommy Mottola.

Listen to the song here:

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Warner Bros. Nashville / Interscope / Via youtube.com

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