12 Pop Singers Who Didn’t Actually Sing on Their Hit Songs

<p>From background vocalists singing half the record to choruses being sung by other people, here are all the times your faves' vocals weren't 100 percent their own.</p>


Apr. 20 2020, Updated 3:12 p.m. ET

jennifer lopez aint it funny

These days, most people are pretty wise about how the music industry works. People don't expect pop singers like Britney Spears or Selena Gomez to write their albums, and yes, we all know their vocals are heavily edited in the studio and we rarely hear them sing live. But although we continue to lower our bar for pop stars, the one thing we expect is that they at least sing on their own records. Unfortunately, it appears a few singers can't even do that. From background vocalists singing half the record to choruses being sung by other people, here are all the times your faves' vocals were allegedly not 100 percent their own.

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1. Jennifer Lopez: "Play"

jennifer lopez play
Source: YouTube

Although Jennifer sings on the track, the entire chorus is actually sung by Christina Milian, who wrote the song before she was famous. After Christina found her own fame with "AM to PM," many fans noticed that the voice in "Play" sounded an awful lot like Christina's. "Oh yeah, I sing on the chorus," Christina admitted in 2016. "But I think that's a known thing." It's true that Christina is credited as a background vocalist on the track, but in the music video and in performances, Jennifer mimes to Christina's vocals, which is a little odd.

2. Jennifer Lopez: "Ain't It Funny (Remix)" / "I'm Real"

jennifer lopez aint it funny
Source: YouTube

Jennifer strikes again, this time with two 2001 singles she recorded with rapper Ja Rule. However, similarly to "Play," "Ain't It Funny (Remix)" was originally written by Ashanti before she was famous. Just like Christina, her vocals were left on the track and it's actually her voice you hear on the chorus, not Jennifer's. Same goes for Jennifer's track, "I'm Real." 

When Ashanti was asked in 2002 if she was the "ghost voice" of J.Lo, she cackled for a good second before diplomatically saying, "I [demoed] the record for her, which is done a lot in the music industry, and they left my background vocals on there."

However, in 2014, she was a bit more candid about the whole experience. "Ja Rule wrote ['I'm Real']," she told Blogxilla. "I wrote 'Ain't It Funny.'  I demoed the record  for her before I was signed to Murder Inc, and they kept my hook and some of the backgrounds and ad libs and stuff like that. It was bittersweet because I was really excited that it was J. Lo, but I was so mad at Irv [Gotti]. 'YOU KNOW I WANTED THAT RECORD!' I was so mad but I was happy at the same time because it was J. Lo."

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3. Jennifer Lopez: "Jenny From the Block"

Jenny From The Block Music Video jennifer lopez
Source: YouTube

For whatever reason, Jennifer just doesn't like singing her own choruses. Her 2002 single was originally demoed by vocalist Natasha Ramos. However, if you listen to Natasha's version of the song, the chorus sounds exactly the same as J.Lo's, which is kind of ironic considering the entire song is about "being real."

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4. TLC: "No Scrubs" / "Creep"

tlc no scrubs
Source: YouTube

Any fan of TLC's will know that the band never had a "lead vocalist." Some tracks featured Rozonda "Chili" Thomas heavily, while others were mostly Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins. However, two of their biggest hits, "Creep" and "No Scrubs," didn't have all three members on it. T-Boz didn't sing on "No Scrubs" at all, and Chili didn't sing on "Creep." 

In fact, many fans have alleged that most of TLC's songs are actually just layered vocals by background vocalist Debra Killings. VH-1 declared back in 2013, "Debra Killings should be cited as the fourth member of TLC."

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5. Britney Spears: "Britney Jean"

britney spears work b   h
Source: YouTube

Although none of this has ever been confirmed, it is rumored that most of the tracks featured on 2013's Britney Jean were actually sung by her background vocalist, Myah Marie. Myah denied everything and mysteriously disappeared off the face of the internet. However, the demo tracks she recorded for Britney are all over YouTube, prompting fans to come up with their own theories.

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6. Selena Gomez: "Same Old Love"

selena gomez same old love
Source: YouTube

Her hit 2015 track was written and composed by indie pop singer Charli XCX, and it was originally supposed to be her song. However, for whatever reason, the track was handed to Selena, but many eagle-eared fans have noticed that the chorus sounds just like Charli's voice. Considering Charli is credited as a background vocalist, it's likely parts of the original demo version were left on Selena's track. It's really obvious when you listen to Selena perform the track live. Her real voice on the chorus sounds starkly different.

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7. Zac Efron: 'High School Musical'

zac efron hsm
Source: Disney

Zac is hardly the first actor to lip-sync in a musical (the most famous example is Audrey Hepburn), but when news broke that he didn't use his real singing voice in the first High School Musical movie, teenage girls everywhere were crushed. However, he redeemed himself when he used his real singing voice in the sequels. As for why he lip-synced in the first movie? Apparently, he struggled to reach the high notes.

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8. Nicki Minaj: "Super Bass"

nicki minaj superbass
Source: YouTube

Know who Ester Dean is? Well, you should. She helped co-write "Super Bass" and sang the catchy chorus. However, if you ask most people, they think it's Nicki singing, "Boom, badoom, boom, boom, badoom, boom, bass." The song was originally released as "Super Bass (featuring Ester Dean)" at first, but once the single became a hit, Ester Dean's name was suspiciously taken off the title. She's still credited as a background vocalist, but her contribution to the track was definitely downplayed.

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9. Michael Jackson: "'Monster," "'Hollywood Tonight," and "Breaking News"

michael jackson
Source: Getty Images

A lawsuit filed in 2014 alleged that Michael didn't sing on three songs on the posthumous album that was released a year after his death. The woman who filed the suit claimed a sound-alike singer was used instead, and she accused Sony of fraud for releasing tracks that actually weren't sung by Michael. Even Michael's own sister LaToya told TMZ that "it didn’t sound like him." As of 2018, the lawsuit is still pending.

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10. Oasis: "Live Forever"

oasis live forever
Source: YouTube

This is another claim that hasn't quite been confirmed, but according to message board rumors, the falsetto voice that sings, "You and I are gonna live forever" in Oasis' 1994 track isn't Liam or Noel's. Instead, the voice belongs to their producer, Owen Morris. "The only thing I remember of interest about ['Live Forever'] was that officially that high bit wasn’t either Noel or Liam – it was actually me and Marcus [Russell, Oasis's manager]," Owen is quoted as saying on Oasis' Definitely Maybe DVD. However, many fans refuse to believe Owen, and some even claim that the producer was just joking. So although we can't confirm or deny this, you can check out the song for yourself and come to your own conclusion.

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11. Black Box: "I Don't Know Anybody Else"

OK, let's take things way back. Black Box's singles "Everybody Everybody" and "I Don't Know Anybody Else" were staples of the early '90s club scene, and you've probably heard their music in the background of movies (like Sister Act). However, there was a huge controversy surrounding the band that most people don't even know about. For one, the "singer" of the group didn't actually sing any of their songs. The woman was a French model the band hired to lip-sync tracks that were actually sung by Martha Wash. As Martha told Rolling Stone in 2014, she was paid a flat fee to demo a bunch of songs for the band. Except, she had no idea the band was planning to steal her vocals and use a skinny model to lip-sync to her voice.

The switcharoo was largely unnoticed — except for the few unlucky fans who saw Black Box live. The model's real singing voice was so comedically awful, in one particular performance (above), her mic had to be mercilessly cut off. 

As for Martha, she later successfully sued and won. As a result, today, all record labels are now forced to assign proper vocal credit for albums and music videos.

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12. Milli Vanilli: "Girl You Know It's True"

milli vanilli video
Source: YouTube

And of course, no listicle about "fake singing" can be complete without the duo that pioneered it. Back in 1990, Milli Vanilli won a Grammy for Best New Artist, but the group had to give the award back when it was discovered that the members didn't actually sing any of their songs. After immense backlash and several failed comeback albums, member Rob Pilatus died in 1998 of an alleged drug overdose.

It's a tragic story, but also a reminder that pop music is shady business.

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