Beautiful (Christina Aguilera song)

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"Beautiful"
Single by Christina Aguilera
from the album Stripped
Released November 16, 2002 (2002-11-16)
Format
Recorded 2002; The Enterprise Studios (Burbank), Conway Studios (Hollywood)
Genre Pop
Length 3:58
Label RCA
Writer(s) Linda Perry
Producer(s) Linda Perry
Christina Aguilera singles chronology
  • "Beautiful"
  • (2002)

"Beautiful" is a song by American recording artist Christina Aguilera, taken from her fourth studio album, Stripped. It was released on November 16, 2002 as the second single from the album. A pop ballad, "Beautiful" was written and produced by Linda Perry. Lyrically, it discusses inner beauty, as well as self-esteem and insecurity issues. Aguilera commented that she put "her heart and her soul" into the track, which she felt represented the theme of Stripped.[1] The song was later re-recorded in an electronic style for her first greatest hits album Keeps Gettin' Better: A Decade of Hits (2008).[2]

Upon its release, "Beautiful" received acclaim from music critics, who have ranked it among Aguilera's strongest material. It won a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and was also nominated for Song of the Year at the 2004 ceremony. "Beautiful" was also a commercial success, topping the charts in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The song peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, where it was certified gold for 500,000 units shipped.

"Beautiful" has been widely embraced as an anthem by the LGBT community for its message of self-empowerment and inner beauty. An accompanying music video was directed by Jonas Åkerlund, and earned Aguilera a GLAAD Media Award for its positive portrayal of gay and transgender people. In 2011, UK LGBT rights organization Stonewall named "Beautiful" the most empowering song of the previous decade for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. In 2009, Rolling Stone and VH1 listed it as one of the best songs of the 2000s. The song is widely recognized as one of Aguilera's signature songs and has been covered on numerous occasions and featured on several television shows.

Background and composition[edit]

"Beautiful" is a piano-driven ballad which features bass guitar, cello, drums, keyboards, piano, and violin in its composition.

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"Beautiful" was written and produced by Linda Perry. Aguilera recorded the song at two studios: The Enterprise Studios in Burbank, California and Conway Recording Studios in Hollywood. Prior to the collaboration with Aguilera, Perry had written the song and originally wished to keep the "personal" record for her own singing career.[3][4] During the recording sessions of Pink's second studio album, Missundaztood (2001), in which Perry is a producer, the songwriter initially previewed the song for the singer.[4] However, after hearing Aguilera sing the song at Perry's house to "break the ice", Perry was very impressed and allowed Aguilera to include the track on her then upcoming record Stripped, effectively deciding not to pursue a solo career.[4] The choice resulted in a feud between Pink against Aguilera and Perry, with the former commenting that it was "annoying" for the latter to collaborate with artists "[she] didn't like".[5] Perry later revealed to ASCAP, "When Christina came over to my house to start working, she asked me to play some songs to break the ice. [...] I had a long conversation with my manager about it. We both decided to hear Christina sing it. We demoed the song with her singing it, and I was like, 'Wow'. That rough vocal is what is out there on radio. It was that vocal that got her the song".[4] "Beautiful" is a gentle pop ballad.[6] The song was recorded at The Enterprise Studios in Burbank, California and Conway Studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. Its instrumentation incorporates bass guitar, cello, drum kits, keyboards, piano, and violin. "Beautiful" was composed in the key of E♭ major and moving at a slow 78 beats per minute. Aguilera's vocal range spans over two octaves from E♭3 to G5; she uses several melismas in the song, fitting as many as seven notes in one syllable.[7]

Release and reception[edit]

"Beautiful" was released as the second single from Stripped. It was first sent to American contemporary hit and rhythmic radio stations in the on November 16, 2002.[8][9] The song was later released as a CD single on January 27, February 24, and February 25, 2003 in Germany, the United Kingdom, and France, respectively.[10][11][12] Also on February 25, a digital remix EP of "Beautiful" was released worldwide.[13] Two days later, the single was released as a maxi single in Canada.[14] On March 11, 2003, the single was released as a CD in the United States.[15]

Critical reception[edit]

Aguilera performing "Beautiful" on her Back to Basics Tour.

Upon its release, "Beautiful" received universal acclaim from music critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic complimented the song for not following the "club and street-level R&B, which fit her poorly".[16] Similarly, a reviewer from Billboard recognized "Beautiful" as a "single-worthy ballad" from a record of "pleasantly surprising depth".[17] In a separate review, Chuck Taylor from the same magazine labeled the song "breathtaking", and recognized its melody and lyrical message.[18] Entertainment Weekly's David Browne called the song one of Stripped's "moments", noting that it is "more restrained" than the other songs from the album.[19] Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine commented that the collaboration with Linda Perry found Aguilera "truly naked" and reflective of the album's title.[20] Stylus Magazine's Todd Burns gave Stripped a negative review, but complimented "Beautiful" for "tastefully [reining] in Aguilera's frequent vocal acrobatics".[21] Jane Dark of The Village Voice compared the song to the works of Mariah Carey "made back when she was a natural".[22] In contrast, Amanda Murray from Sputnikmusic criticized the "platitude-drenched" lyrics but praised the overall production.[23] At the 2004 Grammy Awards, "Beautiful" won the award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and was nominated for Song of the Year.[24]

"Beautiful" has been recognized as being among Aguilera's strongest tracks. The song was recognized as her third-best single by Rachel McRady of Wetpaint, who commented that "Xtina’s inspiration ballad motivated an entire generation".[25] PopCrush's Alexandra Capotorto named it as her favorite track by Aguilera, opining that the song is "definitely one of the most memorable and greatest Christina Aguilera songs to date".[26] Rolling Stone ranked "Beautiful" at number 52 on their list of the 100 best songs of the 2000s, elaborating that it is "delivered with full-fathom force by the bottle-blond with the biggest voice".[27] Similarly, VH1 positioned the track at number 18 on their list of the 100 greatest songs of the past decade.[28]

Commercial performance[edit]

"Beautiful" was quickly released after the underperformance of the album's first single, "Dirrty".[29] It achieved international success and was the highest-charting single from Stripped in several territories. The song peaked at number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and became Aguilera's longest-charting solo track, spending twenty-seven weeks on the chart.[30][31] The song additionally topped Billboard Adult Contemporary, Hot Dance Club Songs, and Pop Songs component charts.[30] By March 2006, it was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipments of 500,000 copies.[32]. As of August 2014, the single has sold 1.5 million digital copies in that country.[33] In Canada, the song reached number 1 on the Billboard Canadian Hot 100.[34]

"Beautiful" proved similarly successful in Europe, where it peaked within the top five of most markets in which it was released. Spending a total of fifty-one weeks on the UK Singles Chart, the song eventually peaked atop the chart;[35] it was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry.[36] It peaked at numbers 3 and 18 on the Belgian Ultratop 50 and Ultratop 40, respectively. In Germany, the song peaked at number 9 after charting for thirteen weeks on the Media Control Charts.[34] However, "Beautiful" proved less successful on the French Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique, where it reached number 27.[34] In the Pacific regions, the song failed to chart in any Asian markets, but maintained a strong performance in Oceania. It peaked at number 1 on the Australian ARIA Charts, where it spent a total of thirteen weeks. "Beautiful" was later certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for shipments of 70,000 units.[37] The song also charted on the New Zealand Top 40 Singles Chart for twenty-three weeks, during which period it peaked at number 1.[34] After passing 7,500 shipments, "Beautiful" was recognized with a gold certification by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ).[38]

Music video[edit]

The accompanying music video for "Beautiful" was directed by Jonas Åkerlund and premiered on December 9, 2002. It opens with Aguilera speaking the line "Don't look at me", followed by scenes of her singing alone in a room intercut with self-image-related sequences of other people. An anorexic girl examines herself in a mirror, eventually punching through it; a thin teenage boy stands lifting weights in a room plastered with images of bodybuilders; and an African-American girl rips out pages of women's magazines including photos of only white women and throws them into a fire. In one sequence, a girl is physically bullied by several peers, and in another, a goth man sits at the back of a bus while several people get up and move.[39] The video also touches on LGBT issues; one scene features a gay couple, portrayed by Jordan Shannon and Justin Croft, kissing on a bench and ignoring the stares of people who pass them. Another shows a transgender person, played by Robert Sherman, putting on makeup, a wig, and women's clothing.[40] The music video debuted at number 2 on Total Request Live,[41] spending a total of fifty days on the chart and retiring at number 6.[42] It topped MuchMusic's Countdown for two consecutive weeks and remained on the countdown for fifteen weeks.[43] The video received a Special Recognition award, presented by David LaChapelle, from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation at its 14th GLAAD Media Awards.[44] After an a cappella performance of the song, Aguilera stated in her acceptance speech that "this song is definitely a universal message that everybody can relate to – anyone that's been discriminated against or unaccepted, unappreciated or disrespected just because of who you are."[44]

Live performances[edit]

Recognized as one of her signature songs, Aguilera has performed "Beautiful" at a number of venues and events.[45] During the promotion of Stripped, she appeared on VH1's Big In Awards,[46] Top of the Pops,[47] and the 46th Grammy Awards.[48] The song was included on the setlists of The Stripped Tour, the Justified and Stripped Tour in 2003[49] and the Back to Basics Tour in 2006.[50] "Beautiful" was also sung on the television special VH1 Storytellers in 2010.[51] "Beautiful" has also been performed on charity events and fundraisings, such as CNN Heroes introduce by Anderson Cooper "Its my pleasure to introduce a performer with unparalleled range and passion her song is a reminder that out of grates trails and tribulations we can all create something beautiful" in 2008 Aguilera deliver one of the most powerful renditions to this song, once again establishing her as the voice of our generation,[52] Justin Timberlake & Friends in 2010,[53] and Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together in 2012.[54]

Cultural impact[edit]

"Beautiful" is widely regarded as an anthem by the LGBT community.

Recognition[edit]

"Beautiful" has been embraced by the LGBT community as an anthem. On October 5, 2010, several hundred people gathered in front of the Massachusetts State House and sang "Beautiful" as a tribute to the teenagers that committed suicide due to anti-gay bullying during the previous months.[55] In March 2011, the Columbus Children's Choir and Columbus Gay Men's Chorus joined to perform the song as a contribution to the It Gets Better Project.[56] UK LGBT rights charity Stonewall named "Beautiful" the most empowering song of the decade for lesbian, gay and bisexual people; media personality and Stonewall contributor Paul Gambaccini called the song "a major achievement that has inspired millions of young people around the world."[57] The result is based on the choice from 1,007 readers.[57] Aguilera commented of the song's reception, "I cannot express in words how much the LGBT community means to me. On my darkest day their support lifts me up. I feel honored that some of my songs become anthems to them as well."[58] Additionally, a cover of the song was featured on a Foundation for a Better Life commercial, promoting courtesy and friendship.[59]

Elvis Costello recorded "Beautiful" for an episode of American TV series House MD.

Cover versions[edit]

Since its release, "Beautiful" has been covered by many performers. In 2003, indie rock band Clem Snide released the song as part of their A Beautiful EP recording.[60] Kidz Bop covered the original version for Kidz Bop 4 in 2003, and later recorded a dance edit three years later for Kidz Bop 6.[61][62] Kenny G and Chaka Khan performed the song for the former's 2003 project At Last...The Duets Album.[63] In 2012 David Archuleta included his rendition on his fifth studio album Begin.[64] Other performers that have recorded their own versions of the song are G4 in 2005,[65] Girl Authority in 2006,[66] The Lemonheads in 2009,[67] Zebrahead in 2009,[68] The Rebeatles Project in 2010,[69] and Insane Clown Posse in 2012.[70] Many performers have also played "Beautiful" live on shows and concerts. British rock band The Zutons performed the song on their BBC Radio 1 Live Launch show, on May 28, 2008;[71] this version of the song was later released as part of the compilation album Radio 1's Live Lounge – Volume 3. In 2011, child singer Savannah Robinson performed the song on The Ellen DeGeneres Show,[72] and in 2012 American singer Kelly Clarkson sang "Beautiful" during her Stronger Tour, by audience request.[73] Other notable performers that have covered the song are Gloria Gaynor,[74] Jason Mraz,[75] Brett Anderson,[76] and The All-American Rejects.[67]

The song has also been performed by contestants on televised talent competitions. In 2003, Alex Parks, the eventual winner of the first season of Fame Academy, covered the song on the series and re-recorded a version for her debut studio album Introduction.[77] In 2007, Angy Fernández sang "Beautiful" during the inaugural season of Factor X in Spain.[78] In 2010, Sally Chatfield chose the song during the second season of the Australian version of The X Factor.[79] The following year, Aguilera performed the song alongside her finalist Beverly McClellan on the first season finale of The Voice.[80] The following week, it debuted at number 74 on the US Billboard Hot 100[81] and peaked at number 52 on the Hot Digital Songs diagram with first-week sales of 42,000 downloads on the iTunes Store.[82] Later in 2011, both Janet Devlin and Little Mix covered the song during the eighth series of The X Factor in the United Kingdom.[83][84] Additionally, cover versions of the song have been featured on the scripted television series such as A.N.T. Farm, Glee, House, Smash, and Orange is the New Black.[85][86][87][88][89]

"Beautiful" has been subject to parody performances. In 2004, Daniel Franzese performed the song as the character Damian during a school talent show in the film Mean Girls.[90] Later that year, Pink mocked the song during her Try This Tour, where she improvised its lyrics during Aguilera's verse in "Lady Marmalade".[91] In 2008, Bob Ricci recorded a rendition titled "Unhackable" for his album Bob's Gone Wild.[92]

Track listings[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Recording
Personnel

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Stripped, RCA Records.

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[37] Platinum 70,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[38] Gold 7,500*
United Kingdom (BPI)[109] Silver 200,000^
United States (RIAA)[32] Platinum 1,500,000[33]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Country Date Format Label
United States[8][9] November 16, 2002 Contemporary hit and rhythmic radio RCA Records
Germany[10] January 27, 2003 CD single
United Kingdom[11] February 24, 2003
France[12] February 25, 2003
Worldwide[13] February 25, 2003 Digital remix EP
Canada[14] February 27, 2003 Maxi single
United States[15] March 11, 2003 CD single

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]