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Amber Riley Says She Acted As A 'Ghost Singer' For 'Big' Artists Who Can't Hit Their Notes — Fans Have Theories

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Vanessa Hudgens, Amber Riley, Demi Lovato

Actor and singer Amber Riley is known the world over for her powerful singing voice — and it turns out that voice may have been… let’s say “borrowed” by other big-name artists on their hit songs.

During an appearance this week on “The Jennifer Hudson Show” following her big win on “The Masked Singer,” Riley opened up about cutting her teeth in the music industry as a “ghost singer” back before "Glee" made her famous.

It seems that when certain artists couldn’t quite hit their notes, Riley was one of the go-to vocalists called in to give stars' singing a bit of extra oomph.

And for fans, it all makes sense because many swear they’ve heard Riley’s on the radio over the years where other artists’ vocals are supposed to be.

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Which artists has Amber Riley acted as a 'ghost singer' for?

Riley didn't name names but her fans, who have grown familiar with her voice due to her own success, have some guesses.

The practice is an open secret in the music industry, but still under the radar enough that even Hudson herself claimed to have never heard of it.

Like many vocalists, before she was famous Riley worked regularly singing demos—early versions of songs that songwriters hope to sell to other artists to record themselves.

But it seems Riley’s demos often became the finished versions after she was asked to “imitate” big-name singers—a practice known as “ghost singing.”

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Riley says her voice was used by 'big name' singers who couldn't hit their own notes.

Asked to explain by Hudson, Riley said:

“Producers used to come and have me…do demos, but sometimes some artists couldn’t do what I did in the demo, and they would have me come and imitate that artist to kinda fix vocals… It’s like a ghostwriter.”

Hudson then mentioned the common practice in music of sometimes blending demo artists’ voices with lead vocals, and using demo artists to sing back-up on songs.

But Riley was quick to explain that what she provided was often much more than that.

“They used to try to like lie and be like ‘oh it’s just a background.’ No it’s not. It’s lead. Like I know my voice when I heard it.”

Even a veteran like Hudson who’s attained the coveted EGOT—the rare feat of winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award—was so surprised she couldn’t help but wag her finger and shake her head at the sketchiness. 

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Fans suspect Amber Riley sang on some of Demi Lovato's songs.

Chief among them, pop star Demi Lovato. As one fan put it, “I know Demi Lovato can sing but I def think Demi Lovato was getting ‘fixed’ by Amber’s vocals.”

Of course, Lovato’s pipes are undeniable, but in some live performances… well, they don’t quite live up to Riley’s standards, as another music fan pointed out:

“[O]nce these artists go live, they cannot hide. I remember Lovato screeching her way through some notes and getting visibly frustrated with the fact that she couldn't hit 'em. It wasn't you, honey!”

Shady, but when you’re right, you’re right. 

TikTokers had lots of theories too. 

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After a clip of Riley telling her story to Hudson went viral on the platform, one user commented that “there are times where I can clearly hear Amber Riley in certain songs and I would be confused when it’s not her! It makes sense!”

And several others were sure they knew who the culprits are. One called out of Vanessa Hudgens, commenting, “I knew that was her hitting the low notes for Vanessa Hudgens in ['High School Musical']."

Others name-checked everyone from Britney Spears to Rihanna as possible culprits.

But one theory, in particular, had TikTokers shook. A user pointed out that “you can hear amber clear as a bell” in Brandy’s “Right Here (Departed).” The user claimed, “Idk if I’m trippin but I swear I can hear her, 1:30 start there!”

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And lots of other TikTokers couldn’t believe their ears. One reported that “You can hear her throughout the whole song,” and another found the similarity so uncanny she couldn’t help but go full all-caps about it. 

"I JUST WENT AND LISTENED OHMYGAWD YOU’RE RIGHT! ALL MY LIFE”

As Riley and many others pointed out, “ghost singing” is a common practice in the music industry, and scores of big-name artists are rumored to have started out the same way Riley says she did, including Mariah Carey who was allegedly a ghost vocalist on Soul II Soul's song "Keep on Moving” and “Back to Life.”

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Bebe Rexha claims she sings the high notes in Rihanna's "Monster."

In 2017, Bebe Rexha shaded Rihanna for supposedly using Rexha’s vocals in “Monster” because she “can’t hit those high notes.”

But perhaps no artist is as legendary for using other singers’ vocals than Jennifer Lopez.

She's known to have used demo vocals by Christina Milian, Ashanti and Natasha Ramos on three of her biggest signature hits, including “Play” and, ironically, “Jenny From the Block,” and “I’m Real.”

Only J.Lo could pull off such a trick on tracks about how genuine she is.

In the end, it’s all worked out for Riley after a star-making turn on “Glee,” a major Broadway career, and now as the winner of “The Masked Singer.” Seems having actual pipes pays off in the end.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.

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