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11 Hit Songs Originally Intended for Other Artists

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In the music world, songs get passed around like a hot potato. Demo songs are sent to one artist, turned down, and recorded by another. Tracks bend gender rules, with Aerosmith snatching a power ballad from Celine Dion and Chris Brown handing over one of his tunes to Rihanna. Here are just 11 of the many songs that made it big after being turned down by other singers.

1. “Telephone” — Performed by Lady Gaga, meant for Britney Spears

Before Stefani Germanotta was known as Lady Gaga, she was a songwriter, penning songs for The Pussycat Dolls and Britney Spears. Gaga originally wrote "Telephone" to be included in Spears' Circus album, but the track was left on the cutting room floor. A demo with Spears' vocals suposedly exists, but there's doubt that it's actually the "Oops!" songstress. Gaga seized the tune back up and saved it for a rainy day—better known as The Fame Monster.

2. “How Will I know” — Performed by Whitney Houston, meant for Janet Jackson

Songwriters George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam wrote this Whitney Houston power ballad with Janet Jackson in mind. A&M Records asked the duo to send this song to Janet's people, but the "Rhythm Nation" singer politely passed. She was in the middle of recording Control, and the track wasn't right for the album's vision. The label held onto the song and eventually gave it to Houston, turning it into one of her signature tunes.

3. “Halo” — Performed by Beyonce, meant for Leona Lewis

This one's simple: Leona was too busy to record the track, so Beyonce snatched it up. Behind the scenes, Lewis' mentor Simon Cowell was working diligently to get Ryan Tedder to write the song for her, but the wait was too much for Tedder. Tedder has a different story, though, saying the song was intended for Beyonce all along; he just gave it to Lewis to make Beyonce hurry up with the recording process. His reasoning: If Beyonce thought another A-Lister wanted the single, she'd want it more.

4. “Hero” — Performed by Mariah Carey, meant for Gloria Estefan

Carey says this U.S. Billboard No. 1 was originally intended to be used for the 1992 Dustin Hoffman film of the same name, but the film's producers went with Luther Vandross' "Heart of a Hero" instead. While writing the chart-topper, Carey was told the song would be for Gloria Estefan and even said herself that the song didn't match her own style. After playing it for record executives, they insisted that Carey keep it for herself, so she made minor adjustments to give it a more R&B style and sent it to radio stations.

5. “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” — Performed by Aerosmith, meant for Celine Dion

When Liv Tyler got her first major theatrical role in Armageddon, her father, lead singer of Aerosmith, was supposed to author a sentimental song with his band for the film. After being out on the road promoting their album Nine Lives, the band went into the studio and found it difficult to come up with an appropriate song, but the clock was ticking. Then they found a track by acclaimed songwriter Diane Warren, originally intended for Celine Dion.

6. “Since U Been Gone” — Performed by Kelly Clarkson, meant for Pink first then passed to Hilary Duff

Clarkson may have been the first to win American Idol, but she was third in line for this track after Pink and Hilary Duff both snubbed it.

7. “Miss Independent” — Performed by Kelly Clarkson, meant for Destiny’s Child first then passed to Christina Aguilera

It looks like Clarkson has been accustomed to getting the left-overs from the very beginning. Featured on her first album, this tune was first offered to Destiny's Child and then to Christina Aguilera, who added lyrics but then decided not to use it for her Stripped album. Clarkson wrote the bridge and finished it before recording. Aguilera admits that Clarkson nailed the cobbled-together track.

8. “I’m A Slave 4 U” — Performed by Britney Spears, meant for Janet Jackson

Spears almost missed out on traipsing around the VMA stage with a python wrapped around her neck. Well, she may have done that, just not to the tune of "Slave." Producers The Neptunes originally conceptualized the song to fit for Janet Jackson's typically sexually-charged direction, but eventually gave it to the girl next door for her upcoming mature album.

9. “Toxic” — Performed by Britney Spears, meant for Kylie Minogue

"Toxic" was written by the same person who gave Minogue her well-known "Can't Get You Out of My Head" chart-topper. She's never elaborated much on why she turned down the song, but the tune got Spears her first (and only) Grammy.

10. “Umbrella” — Performed by Rihanna, meant for Britney Spears first then passed to Mary J. Blige

In the beginnings of Rihanna's career, she got the scraps (including "S.O.S.," which was turned down by Christina Milian). Spears was finished recording her album, so label executives turned down "Umbrella," sending it over to Mary J. Blige. Blige turned it away, too, so it ended up in the hands of the Barbados-born singer. Rihanna took the song and was awarded a Grammy in 2008.

11. “Disturbia” — Performed by Rihanna, meant for Chris Brown

This song was originally intended for the re-release of Chris Brown's Exclusive album—but once Rihanna heard it, it was hers. Brown handed it over, saying it would serve better as a female-oriented song.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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© Nintendo
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.