2020 Grammys

12 Musicians Who Have Used Pseudonyms, From Prince and Taylor Swift to Harry Styles and Coldplay

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Prince performs during the "Pepsi Halftime Show" at Super Bowl XLI between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears on Feb. 4, 2007 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. 

By now, most people know that Taylor Swift is Nils Sjöberg, the mysterious Swede who co-wrote Calvin Harris' global smash "This is What You Came For." Swift hid behind a pseudonym in penning the insta-catchy dance track featuring vocals from Rihanna, and she's certainly not the first mega-musician to hide behind a fake name to anonymously write music with someone else.   

In fact, everyone from Sir Paul McCartney to Prince, Green Day, Coldplay, Harry Styles, Elton John and John Lennon and Bob Dylan have cooked up phony identities while working undercover. Check out some of the most famous pseudo jobs in music history:


Though their label would not confirm it to Billboard, there was little doubt that the band branded as "Los Unidades" on the Global Citizen benefit due out in late November 2018, Global Citizen EP 1, was, in fact, Coldplay. The collaboration with Pharrell on "E-Lo" featuring Jozzy, made perfect sense since Coldplay's Chris Martin is the curator of Global Citizens' annual music festival aimed at eradicating global poverty by 2030. Parlophone Records appeared to spill the beans with a social media post the day before the song dropped, posting a fuzzy picture of a band whose silhouette looks a lot like Coldplay, and announcing a "new signing" in a pic with the message "Yo2LPAC81ODL," an apparent anagram for "Coldplay 2018."

David Guetta

Unlike acts that try to pretend they know nothing about their alleged alter egos, Guetta fully fessed up to returning to his house roots under his "Jack Back" alias, releasing a 12-track mixtape under that name in 2018. Not a bad move, since the producer/DJ earned his 12th No. 1 on Billboard's Dance Club Songs charts with the gospel-flecked hype-fest "(It Happens) Sometimes."

Taylor Swift

Though Swifties suspected it from go, it wasn't until Wednesday (July 13) that the world finally learned that Taylor had indeed co-written ex boyfriend Calvin Harris' "This is What You Came For" under a Swedish pseudonym.

Paul McCartney

In addition to releasing EDM music under the name The Fireman, early in his career Sir Paul went undercover as Bernard Webb to write the song "Woman" for the duo Peter and Gordon. He also released Thrillington in 1977, a low-key album credited to fake socialite Percy "Thrills" Thrillington.

Green Day

The punk icons have gone undercover a number of times during their career, as the new wave six-piece The Network in 2003, then as The Coverups in March 2018, an all-covers band comprised of singer Billie Joe Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt, along with touring guitarist Jason White, audio engineer Chris Dugan on drums and tour manager Bill Schneider on bass. Several months later, Armstrong was at it again with a mystery side project called The Longshot, who surprise dropped their 11-song debut in April 2018. According to reports -- again, the band's people wouldn't confirm anything about Longshot to Billboard -- it featured Armstrong, guitarist Kevin Preston, drummer David S. Field and Green Day touring guitarist Jeff Matika. 


During the 1980s, Prince wrote dozens of songs for other artists (Kenny Rogers, Sheena Easton, the Bangles, Cyndi Lauper) under a variety of names, including Joey Coco, Alexander Nevermind and Jamie Starr.

Harry Styles

Though definitive proof has not yet been found that former One Direction heartthrob Styles is, in fact, mysterious songwriter Mick Greenberg, MTV did a deep dive last year and found pretty convincing proof that Styles had co-written a song for Alex & Sierra and may have worked on songs for Ariana Grande and Gavin DeGraw.

Mick Jagger/Keith Richards

Though they've written plenty of hits under their own names, the Rolling Stones singer and guitarist have also written and produced a slew of tracks under their nickname "the Glimmer Twins," including 1982's Still Life live album.

Elton John

The hit-spawning piano man and his longtime writing partner, Bernie Taupin, penned the smash "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" for singer Kiki Dee in 1976 under the names Ann Orson and Carte Blanche.

John Lennon

It's hard to hide when you're a Beatle, but Lennon went undercover in 1975 to help out his old pal Elton by adopting the fakie Dr. Winston O'Boogie on John's cover of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."

Garth Brooks

In one of the most famous (and only) missteps of his long career, Brooks went undercover (barely) as unknown soul-patch-rocking singer Chris Gaines. It did not end well.

Traveling Wilburys

Though their faces appear on the cover, this supergroup is not credited in the liner notes of their 1988 debut album, instead going by the jokey made-up monikers Nelson Wilbury (George Harrison), Otis Wilbury (Jeff Lynne), Charlie T. Wilbury (Tom Petty), Lefty Wilbury (Roy Orbison) and Lucky Wilbury (Bob Dylan).


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