Weird Alternate Versions To Hit Songs That You Never Knew Existed

The tastes of the public can be fickle and unpredictable, and nowhere is this more true than in the world of popular music. Even the most cynical executive, try as they might, will never be able to call with complete accuracy which songs will become hits. There have been plenty of tunes which seemed totally commercially viable on paper, but which have languished in the bottom reaches of the charts, or failed to crack them at all. Conversely, plenty of ridiculously annoying smash hits, bizarre novelty tunes, and movie and TV themes have inexplicably rocketed to the top of said charts. It's almost as if a Magic 8-Ball could do the job of your average label executive, an idea that frankly deserves to be explored further.

Every once in a while, though, a strange, quantum mechanics-like phenomenon occurs in which a song can be both a hit and a flop. And, in much the same way that some quantum models suggest the existence of alternate universes, this phenomenon produces songs that are quite a bit like the ones we know, but are decidedly different — often very, very weirdly so. Here, then, are those songs — the most bizarre alternate versions of well-known hits.

Der Kommissar vs. Deep in the Dark

In the early '80s, the phrase "German-language rap song" was not one that immediately translated to "massive stateside hit." But in 1981, budding Austrian superstar Falco released "Der Kommissar," which became an international club smash thanks largely to its vaguely badass, sinister vibe and its maddeningly catchy guitar riff, and American record executives quickly began trying to figure out how to cash in. We all know how that eventually worked out; British outfit After the Fire's 1982 English-language cover, with lyrics roughly translated from the original, became a No. 5 U.S. hit thanks to its ubiquitous video and truly brilliant production. That, however, was not the only attempt to bring the tune to the U.S. market.

In March 1983 — the month before After the Fire's version peaked on the charts — the song appeared in a radically reworked form as "Deep in the Dark," a cut on the sophomore effort from operatic-voiced songstress Laura Branigan. This version failed to make an impression, probably because everything about it was all wrong — from songwriter Bill Bowersock's completely different, super-clunky lyrics, to the watered down, muted production, to the sheer ridiculousness of making such a powerful singer as Branigan perform a silly rap. The song, however, featured the exact same arrangement, chorus melody, immediately recognizable riff, and verse-preceding exhortation to "Check it out, Joe" — but Joe had already checked out the Falco and After the Fire versions, and found them to be quite sufficient.

K-Solo vs. DMX, Spellbound

An affiliate of legendary rap outfit EPMD, Kevin "K-Solo" Madison made a splash with his debut on a track on that duo's 1989 sophomore LP "Unfinished Business" before dropping his debut album, "Tell the World My Name," a year later. Madison boasted undeniable talent and charisma on the microphone, and the gimmick that briefly had his career burning hot was a unique one: As showcased on the aptly titled single "Spellbound," Madison would spell out rhyming words with a rapid-fire delivery. After the single's success, though, another up-and-coming MC laid claim to the style's invention — Earl "DMX" Simmons, who asserted that Madison had stolen the style (and the concept for "Spellbound") when the pair had met (and battled) while in prison.

Simmons went so far as to record his own very different version of the tune, and the situation led to a serious rift between the two that was detailed in a segment in the classic 2003 documentary "Beef," in which Madison rightly pointed out that the style didn't exactly jibe with Simmons' typical, blustery style. Madison went so far as to sit for a lie detector test in the segment, the results of which suggested that he had not had help from Simmons in conceiving or writing the song — and yet, Simmons never backtracked on his claim of having originated the style, and it's worth noting that his version of the song is quite a bit more technically complex than the version that made Madison famous.

I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing vs. True Love and Apple Pie

In July 1971, one of the most iconic television ads in history aired in the United States for the first time: "Hilltop," which featured hundreds of young people singing an insanely catchy tune titled "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" on a lush hillside. The commercial made an immediate splash with the public, with radio stations all over the country fielding requests to play a full version which did not, at that time, actually exist. The tune had been recorded for the spot by vocal outfit the New Seekers, but they were too busy to get into the studio — so, the jingle's co-writer Billy Davis recruited a group of musicians to get the job done, dubbing them the Hillside Singers to strengthen association with the ad. 

When the tune began climbing the charts, the New Seekers suddenly found the time to hit the studio, which is how two versions of the same song, now titled "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing," landed inside the Top 20 at the same time — and yet, that's not even the whole story. The song's distinctive melody had been lifted wholesale from another jingle, titled "True Love and Apple Pie," which had been recorded for the pop market by British singer Susan Shirley and released in May of 1971. Strangely enough, this tune never charted — but the dueling hits it inspired went on to both pop and advertising immortality.

If You Had My Love vs. If I Gave Love

When Jennifer Lopez, initially known as an actress, released her debut album "On the 6" in 1999, her ascension to the top of the pop world was near-immediate. The album's lead single, the Rodney Jerkins-penned "If You Had My Love," was a perfect, slinky slice of shimmering pop confection, and it shot straight to No. 1 — but a few fans were left scratching their heads at the tune's familiarity. This is because R&B songstress Chanté Moore, who had just scored a Top 10 hit with "Chanté's Got a Man," had fielded a suspiciously similar, also Rodney Jerkins-penned tune titled "If I Gave Love" on her ironically titled album "This Moment Is Mine."

Moore remembered how this came to be in an interview with NPR. "[Jerkins] wrote the same song for [Lopez]," Moore said. "I heard that it was because ["On the 6" co-producer Sean 'Diddy' Combs] walked in and heard my song and said, 'I want that song' ... honestly, if you hear my song, it's the same song." Moore expressed regret that she and Jerkins hadn't stood up for themselves at the time, and had basically allowed Combs to strongarm Jerkins into rewriting his song for Lopez. "We should have been aggressive," she explained. "Instead of backing off our single — because ["If I Gave Love"] was gonna be my next single ... we backed off of it, because J. Lo had such a machine at the time."

You Give Love a Bad Name vs. If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)

Few pop songwriters are more versatile than Desmond Child. Since scoring with the disco hit "I Was Made for Lovin' You," which he wrote for one of the least popular KISS albums in 1979, he has penned massive hit tunes for acts as diverse as Menudo, Venom, Aerosmith, Cyndi Lauper, and — perhaps most notably — Bon Jovi, for whom he wrote the mega-smash No. 1 single "You Give Love a Bad Name." It's safe to say that Child had a fair amount of confidence in that particular song. It began life as a completely different song with a near-identical melody: "If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)," which was recorded by Bonnie Tyler and released as a single in early 1986. 

When that version stalled out at No. 77 on the pop chart, Child was undeterred, convinced that he had a huge hit on his hands. Partnering up with Bon Jovi, he gave the tune a light makeover— and, sure enough, the slightly heavier, still super-poppy, hair metal version of the song struck pop chart gold later that year. In an interview with Billboard, Child explained, "I just knew that melody was a smash, so ... I basically rewrote the song [for Bon Jovi] ... they had written a song on their previous album ... called 'Shot Through the Heart.' We used that title to kick off the song ... The rest is history."