Pretty Hurts (song)

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"Pretty Hurts"
Single by Beyoncé
from the album Beyoncé
Released June 10, 2014 (2014-06-10)
Recorded 2013; Kings Landing (Bridgehampton, New York); Jungle City Studios (New York City); Oven Studios (New York City)
Length 4:17
Label Columbia
Beyoncé singles chronology
"Say Yes"
"Pretty Hurts"

"Pretty Hurts" is a song recorded by American singer Beyoncé for her fifth studio album, Beyoncé (2013). It impacted mainstream radio in the United States on June 10, 2014 as the fourth single from the album. The song was written by Sia Furler, Ammo and Beyoncé, while the production was handled by the latter two. "Pretty Hurts" was initially written for Katy Perry and then offered to Rihanna; as both of the artists did not record it, the song was eventually sent to Beyoncé who decided to include it on her fifth studio album that was still in development.

"Pretty Hurts" is a self-empowerment pop song discussing society beauty standards and analyzing female body image. Beyoncé decided to record it to show the negative effect of beauty pageants and expectations on how women should look. Upon its release, it received critical acclaim from music critics who commended the lyrics and Beyoncé's vocal performance. Prior to the release of the song as a single, it charted on several international charts after the release of Beyoncé in 2013 and its music video in April 2014. It managed to peak at number one on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs in the United States despite not appearing on the main Billboard Hot 100. Elsewhere, the song failed to enter the top ten of a chart with many of its initial positions also becoming its peak.

A music video filmed for "Pretty Hurts" was made available on iTunes with the release of the album on December 13, 2013 and was later released online on April 24, 2014. It was directed by Melina Matsoukas and it shows Beyoncé as a contestant competing in a beauty peagant trying to achieve physical perfection. The story depicted in the video is meant to illustrate the lyrics of the song. It received positive reviews by critics who generally praised Beyoncé's acting, the cohesion between the video and its lyrical content as well as the meaningful message behind it. "Pretty Hurts" was performed live during Beyoncé's co-headlining tour with Jay-Z, On the Run Tour (2014).

Background and recording[edit]

Sia Furler, the co-writer of the song, had previously worked with Beyoncé on the songs "Standing on the Sun", "Rise Up" and "God Made You Beautiful".

"Pretty Hurts" was initially written by Australian singer Sia Furler in 2011.[1] Furler subsequently sent the song to Katy Perry on her e-mail but Perry did not see it. Afterwards, she sent the song to Rihanna's manager, who put it on hold for eight months but did not pay a fee to secure it. Furler then proceeded to send it to Beyoncé, who knew instantly that she wanted to record "Pretty Hurts".[1][2] During an interview, Beyoncé said, "The second I heard the song, I'm like, 'I have to sing this song, I don't care how hard I have to fight for this song, this is my song!'".[3]

The final version of "Pretty Hurts" was written by Furler, Beyoncé and Ammo.[4] When replying to a fan lamenting that her song "Elastic Heart" would have been a fine single for Beyoncé, Furler commented that she gave the singer her "other best song".[5] Beyoncé and Ammo produced "Pretty Hurts". Rob Suchecki engineered and recorded the song's instrumental tracks with intro synthesizer help from Derek Dixie. Beyoncé's vocals were recorded by Stuart White who also handled the mixing of the song. "Pretty Hurts" was recorded in three studios: Kings Landing in Bridgehampton, and Jungle City Studios and Oven Studios in New York City.[4]

In an interview with iTunes Radio, Beyoncé praised Furler's songwriting and expressed her desire to focus on the beauty pageant industry as "the most humiliating, judgmental place you can be as a woman". She added, "I feel like sometimes the world is a big contest, we're all being judged. I wanted to capture how humiliating and insecure that makes you feel."[3] Talking about the theme, Beyoncé said that it "represents finding that thing in the world that makes you truly happy".[6] She added that the song was in line with the album's theme of "finding beauty in imperfections".[7] "Pretty Hurts" was added to the playlist of the United Kingdom national radio station BBC Radio 1 on June 2, 2014.[8] It impacted mainstream and rhythmic radio in the United States on June 10, 2014 as the fourth single from the album.[9] In the United Kingdom, it impacted mainstream radio on June 23, 2014.[10]


"Pretty Hurts" is a pop, power pop and neo soul ballad[11][12][13][14] with undertones of mellow R&B music[15] and a hip hop groove.[16][17] Musically, it is complete with synths which give "crisp clarity" and "spare background" to the track[18][19] as well as minor chords and booming drums.[20] It was composed using common time in the key of B major, with a slow tempo of 65 beats per minute.[21] Beyoncé's vocals span from the low note of F3 to the high note of D5.[21] Beyoncé's vocal performance in the song received comparison to her own powerhouse vocals in "Halo" (2008).[19][20][22][23] "Pretty Hurts" further received comparisons with TLC's "Unpretty" (1999) and Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" (2002) due to their similar themes and statements.[24][25] Una Mullally of The Irish Times further noted that the song sounded like something Pink could sing.[25] Jody Rosen writing for Vulture said that the song sounded like a "robust, black" tune sang by Barbra Streisand.[20] Jed Gottlieb from Boston Herald found an influence by singer Lorde in the beat of "Pretty Hurts".[26] Chris Bosman from Consequence of Sound described "Pretty Hurts" as a blend of "cinematic reach of modern Top 40 pop with the patience and melancholy of post-808s & Heartbreaks hip-hop."[17]

A 24-second sample of "Pretty Hurts", an "anti-plastic surgery [song]... [and] a brave statement about the damage body modification in the name of objectification".[25] Its anthemic composition accompanied by big-sounding production characteristic for Sia was noted to be "one of the more musically traditional tracks" on Beyoncé, an album composed of songs with minimalistic sound.[20][25][27]

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The theme of "Pretty Hurts" is related to third-wave feminism;[28] it is intended as a self-empowerment anthem for women as Beyoncé sings negatively of beauty stereotypes and expectations on how women should look which are often "impossible" and created mostly by the society.[22][29][30] Thematically, the song was also noted for being darker, vulnerable and more personal to the singer in comparison with her other material.[31] The song opens with an audio snippet of a beauty pageant judge asking Beyoncé, "Miss 3rd Ward... What is your aspiration in life?" to which she replies "My aspiration in life would be... to be happy."[22] The sample was used to frame the song in the context of the singer's childhood.[32] According to Michael Cragg from The Guardian, the snippets were used in the song to question the singer's "drive and desire that's got her to where she is today, and whether the struggle was entirely worth it".[33] The opening lyrics then follow, in which Beyoncé represents a pageant contestant about to be judged: "Mama said, 'You're a pretty girl, what's in your head, it doesn't matter. Brush your hair, fix your teeth. What you wear is all that matters".[34][35] The lyrics further indicate the self-doubt and nervousness of a girl who is under pressure of achieving physical perfection through a long "tedious, exhausting" process.[36][37]

Lyrically, the song is also complete "with speechy lyrics about the tyranny of the beauty industry",[11] with the singer analyzing female body image, questioning the need for women to beautify themselves aas well people's obsession with physical perfection.[12][27][38] This is evident in the second verse, in which Beyoncé lists the things that are considered beautiful in society, "Blonder hair, flat chest/ TV says bigger is better/ South Beach, sugar free/ Vogue says thinner is better."[35] According to Tris McCall of The Star-Ledger, the song implicates that "American women are flung from their cradles into competition with each other, and are coached to disguise their flaws and distrust any gesture toward solidarity."[34] Beyoncé further describes the sickness behind perfection and the damaging effects to the body it usually has, something that occurs mostly with eating disorders.[15][35][39] The song sends a message about increasing a person's self-esteem and self-love[39][40] as well as respecting a person's character instead of the physical looks.[20] This is heard in the chorus lines:

Pretty hurts
We shine the light on whatever's worst
Perfection is a disease of a nation[...]
Tryna fix something
But you can't fix what you can't see
It’s the soul that needs surgery"[24][39][41]

The singer denounces "plastic smiles" and during the last verses of the song demands from the listeners to "strip away the masquearede".[42][32] Several critics found messages advising listeners to believe in their dreams and reach their goals; a theme about desire for fame was also noticed in the song.[26][43] Marc Hogan of Spin magazine felt that the lyrics of the song made a type of a political statement against beauty industry and added that it resembled a speech accompanied by music.[44] McCall somehow agreed with Hogan's statements, noting that if the song had been sung by Phil Ochs in 1995, set to an acoustic guitar background, it would have been regarded as a protest song.[34] He further opined that Beyoncé recorded the song as a response to the criticism she received for her "perfection" following the lip-syncing of the American anthem during Barack Obama's second inauguration in 2013.[34]

Critical reception[edit]

"Pretty Hurts" received critical acclaim from music critics with many of them discussing its placement as the opening song for the album. Mesfin Fekadu of the Associated Press called it a "supreme way" to open Beyoncé.[15] Randal Roberts from the Los Angeles Times praised the song for being placed as an opener for the album and described it as "a striking first glimpse".[40] Claire Lobenfeld from Complex called "Pretty Hurts" a preamble for an album which discusses body-positivity and self-acceptance and wrote that it "cuts even deeper" than Beyoncé's previous female empowerment songs.[45] However, Ryan Dennehy from the website AbsolutePunk opined that the placement of the song as the first one on the album was not good as he further criticized it for being "too safe at this point in her [Beyoncé's] career".[46] Similarly, Emily Mackay of NME wrote that the choice of the song as the opener of the album was "nauspicious". She wrote that it was similar to Aguilera's "Beautiful" in a way that a "beautiful celebrity becomes convinced they can relate to the body image issues of the masses".[18] She concluded that Beyoncé failed to understand "that the result comes off like a City banker lecturing you on the need for spiritual rather than material wealth".[18] Philip Cosores of Paste commented, "'Pretty Hurts' opens the album with didactic rhetoric without the grace of subtlety, with its repeated conclusion that the 'soul needs surgery,' hardly a poetic payoff that listeners deserve".[47]

Beyoncé's vocal performance was complimented with Drowned in Sound's Robert Leedham hailing the song as "impeccably sung".[48] Andrew Hampp and Erika Ramirez of Billboard magazine praised Beyoncé's vocals saying that unlike other singers singing songs written by Sia, "[she] doesn't just re-sing a... demo – she fully makes this self-empowerment anthem fully her own" further highlighting the song's bridge.[22] Conrad Tao from the website Sputnikmusic wrote that "Pretty Hurts" shows Beyoncé's "ability to take potentially trite lyrics and turn them into something affirming and/or beautiful".[49] Tris McCall of The Star-Ledger praised Beyoncé's vulnerable delivery in "Pretty Hurts" saying that the sounded as if she's "on the verge of tears".[34] Its production also received praise and attention[34] with Newsday '​s Glenn Gamboa describing it as "dynamic musically and bold lyrically".[19] Tao praised the song's production which "create[s] nuance amid the bombast".[49]

Andy Gill of The Independent referenced the song as the "best thing on the album" and an "undeniably noble attempt to boost female morale".[36] Consequence of Sound writer Chris Bosman also chose the song as one of the best on the album with its "dramatic and painful exploration of female beauty".[17] Michael Cragg from The Guardian chose the song as an "immediate" choice for single.[50] Describing it as the album's pièce de résistance, Spin magazine's Jem Aswad called "Pretty Hurts", "a shimmering, melancholy-yet-radio-friendly landscape that perfectly suits the song's heavy subject matter".[51] Writing for Complex, Tim Finney of hailed "Pretty Hurts" as a "heavy-handed future concert staple".[52] Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine praised the "admittedly catchy slogan (and inevitable meme) 'It's my soul that needs surgery'".[28] Ryan B. Patrick of Exclaim! also described the song as "admittedly catchy".[14] Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Mikael Wood commented that Beyoncé succeeded in making "razzle-dazzle pop out of small-scale sentiments that might've seemed on paper like fodder for hushed ballads".[27]

Dee Lockett from Slate magazine felt that the opening lines of the song in which Beyoncé tells her aspiration in life was the "album's most empowering line".[53] Describing it as "one of the few relatively straightforward" songs on the album and calling it a personal statement by the singer, Philip Matusavage of musicOMH added, "The song is good but its performance by Beyoncé is absolutely crucial – its power is derived from the tension between the artist as an icon of perfection and as aforementioned 'every woman'."[24] Ryan E.C. Hamm from Under the Radar magazine gave a mixed review about the song and "Heaven" calling them the album's "flaws... okay songs, but a little on the nose".[54] In the annual Pazz and Jop mass critics poll of the year's best in music in 2013, "Pretty Hurts" was ranked at number 424.[55] At the 2014 Soul Train Music Awards, the song is currently nominated in the category The Ashford and Simpson Songwriter's Award.[56]

Chart performance[edit]

Following the release of Beyoncé in December and its music video in April the song managed to appear on several international music charts before being released as a single. In the United Kingdom, the song debuted at number 123 on the UK Singles Chart and number 12 on the UK R&B Chart on December 28, 2013.[57][58] The following week, it climbed to number 93 on the singles chart.[57] It has so far peaked at number 63 on May 17, 2014.[59] It has also set a peak of number eight on the UK R&B Chart on the chart issue dated July 5, 2014 in its 25 weeks of charting.[60] "Pretty Hurts" debuted at number 82 on the Irish Singles Chart on December 26, 2013 and the next week it fell off the chart.[61] On the chart published on May 8, 2014, the song re-entered at a new peak position of 56.[62] On the ARIA Singles Chart in Australia, "Pretty Hurts" debuted at number 68 for the week ending May 31, 2014 becoming the singer's twenty ninth entry on that chart.[63] The following week, it moved up twenty-one spots to number 47 before falling off the chart.[64]

In the US, "Pretty Hurts" peaked at number 13 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles on January 11, 2014 which is equivalent to 113 on the main Billboard Hot 100 chart.[65] "Pretty Hurts" debuted at number 38 on the Billboard Rhythmic Songs chart for the week ending July 5, 2014 and has so far peaked at 33.[66] For the week ending July 12, 2014, the song was placed at number 16 on the US Hot Dance Club Songs chart.[67] The following week, which marked its fifth one on the chart, "Pretty Hurts" entered the top ten of the Hot Dance Club Songs setting a new peak of number nine.[68] It peaked at number one on the chart issue dated August 30, 2014, becoming Beyoncé's twenty first chart topper.[69][70]

Music video[edit]

Background and release[edit]

Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School where the music video for "Pretty Hurts" was filmed.

The music video for "Pretty Hurts" was directed by Melina Matsoukas. It was filmed at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood beginning on August 11, 2013 with the shoot lasting three days.[71][72] As the filming started extending more than scheduled, with many scenes and concepts being developed while the filming was ongoing, several members of the crew started quitting, leaving the director with a limited team.[73] The school in which the video was filmed was small as it was intended to showcase "a small-town kind of pageant". According to Matsoukas, the location where the video was filmed created an '80s feel with mix of pin-up further inspired by Blake Lively's character in the film The Town.[72] Several of the actresses portraying the beauty contestants in the video were also real-life models and served as experts on the stage.[74] American actor Harvey Keitel also makes a cameo appearance during the video.[75] Speaking about Keitel's involvement, Matsoukas said that she wanted to use a "greasy, Vegas-type pageant character" realizing that Harvey would be a perfect match for that role. After her proposals for the role to him, Keitel immediately accepted it.[72]

Beyoncé revealed that she wanted to film the video to showcase the correlation of physical beauty and happiness in life, something which is also discussed in the song. She said, "It represents all of the things women go through to keep up with the pressure that society puts on us. I wanted to tap into the world of competition. Some of the things young women go through is just really heartbreaking for me."[6] The director noted that she wanted to create a documentary-type of a music video, with a lot of the shots occurring organically and previously unplanned.[76] She also spoke about the theme of the video,

"Well I think we definitely wanted to speak to as many women as we could and all the pain and struggle that we go through as women to maintain this impossible standard of beauty. We wanted to give it a darker edge and take it there and not give you the Disney version of that struggle. And Beyoncé was more than willing to go that far with it. And I applaud her for that."[74]

The clip was released on December 13, 2013 to iTunes Store on the album itself. On April 24, 2014 it was made available on Time magazine's official website to celebrate Beyoncé being on the cover of the Time 100 issue.[44][77] To further promote the release, she launched a website and a cammpaign titled "What Is Pretty", asking from her fans to post photos and videos on Instagram explaining their definition of beauty.[78] Later, that same day, the video was also released on Beyoncé's Vevo account.[79] A behind the scenes video was released on MTV and Vevo.[6]


"I had this image of these trophies and me accepting these awards and kind of training myself to be this champion. And at the end of the day when you go through all of these things, is it worth it? I mean, you get this trophy and you're like, 'I basically starved. I have neglected all of the people that I love. I've conformed to what everybody else thinks I should be and I have this trophy. What does that mean?' The trophy represents all of the sacrifice I have made as a kid, all of the time that I lost."

Beyoncé talking about the concept behind the trophies in the song and the video for "Pretty Hurts"[7]

In an interview with Vulture, Matsoukas said that Beyoncé was the one who initially proposed the concept behind the video to be about a beauty competition. Matsoukas accepted it and said, "I was like, 'Let's get into the toxic world and what we really do that is so damaging to ourselves, and use it as a microcosm for our society'. Obviously, those ideas don't just live in the pageant world; they live in our world. And that's what the song is about. And it felt like we had to take it there to make it have meaning, because otherwise it would be a superficial, preachy kind of song and visual."[72] Initially, several scenes had different concepts behind them. The scene where Beyoncé is preparing for a plastic surgery and takes diet pills and vomits were not meant to be included in the video. However she eventually decided to add them as they were only part of her role.[72] Another scene when Beyoncé is drowning in water as the host asks her about her aspiration in life, was originally meant to show her stepping onstage and falling. However it was not filmed as the crew didn't have enough time.[72]

Matsoukas also revealed that the video was supposed to show Beyoncé winning the contest, realizing it had no meaning to her. However, Beyoncé wished an albino woman to win the contest. The director elaborated, "We thought it was really important and interesting to break those ideas of what the classic beauty standards would be and to do this with this beautiful albino woman, I thought was really great. And to show 'Yeah she's not perfect, she doesn't always win and you put your best foot forward and you may still lose.'"[74] At first, the ending of the video was meant to show an archival footage of actresses Halle Berry and Vanessa A. Williams competing in a beauty pageant, further exploring the beauty of black people. However, Beyoncé sent a note to the director saying that she wanted to use a footage from her childhood as music video for "Pretty Hurts" was meant to be connected to the next one on the album, "Ghost".[72]

The scene where Beyoncé is seen breaking down a shelf with trophies "represent[s] knocking down... beauty standards and falling into a victim of that".[72][74] While creating the scene, Matsoukas was inspiried by an image of a young Beyoncé standing in front of a shelf of trophies she had won.[76] She explained that "[they] don't bring you happiness, [they] don't move you forward in life".[76] Jake Reed from The Daily Collegian interpreted the scene as realizing that the pressure of being "pretty" was not worth of the dedication spent on it.[80]

B. Akerlund served as a stylist for the video collaborating with the singer for the fashion. Beyoncé wore 1920s vintage bunny ears to bring "some sense of innocence to her character". Her look was complete with a We Are Handsome print bodysuit and a gold brace corset by Dolce & Gabbana as well as tiara, sash, underwear and socks during other scenes.[81][82]


The seven-minute long video depicts Beyoncé playing a beauty queen who represents Third Ward, the area of Houston in which she grew up.[83] It opens with a sound of a poignant piano and shots of Beyoncé with short hair looking at herself in the mirror with her face covered in make-up. It then transitions to shots of female contestants preparing for a beauty pageant backstage, combing their hair, fitting their dresses and analyzing their bodies; one scene during the preparations shows Beyoncé arguing with another model for a hair dryer. Multiple shots of the singer follow, with one showing her sitting on a floor and another one showing her coming out of the bathroom with a hand on her mouth indicating that she vomited.[81] The scene then shows the contestants looking tired and distressed behind the curtains of the stage.[32]

Harvey Keitel (pictured) makes a cameo appearance in the video as the host during the pageant show.

Beyoncé is announced by a host as "Miss 3rd Ward" and she appears on stage, smiling and singing the first verse of the song a capella. An applause follows from the crowd as the judges take notes about her. The music starts and Beyoncé is seen during the preparations for the show. She combs and sprays her hair, depilates her face and whitens her teeth with jelly. The scene transitions to a judge, played by the fashion model Shaun Ross, working with the models during which Beyoncé is seen taking diet pills.[84][85] He measures her abdomen with a tape and hits her thighs showing her how she should behave when she appears on the stage. The second verse follows during which she is seen exercising at home and measuring her weight appearing unsatisfied.

As the second verse finishes the host calls Beyoncé on the stage and praises her for her performance at the competition asking the crowd to applaud to the "beautiful and poised" ladies in the competition. He then asks, "Miss 3rd Ward, your first question. What is your aspiration in life?" the line which is also heard during the beginning on the album version. She replies, "Oh, my aspiration in life? That's a great question. I wasn't expecting that question" as her voice repeating the question is echoed and the scene transitions to her drowning in water and looking unhappy behind the stage.[84] After that, she answers "My aspiration in life would be to be happy".[84] The chorus starts again and Beyoncé is seen destroying all the trophies she had previously won, further emphasizing their meaningless.[72][74] She is also shown backstage, rubbing her face and smearing her make-up, vomiting in the bathroom. Another model is seen eating cotton.

During the bridge of the song, the pageant contestant is seen at a hospital with a plastic surgeon injecting botox in the previously drawn lines on her face. During that scene Beyoncé is wearing a white straight jacket to represent that she is trapped by society's beauty standards. She is then being spray tanned while wearing bikini. At the end of the video, Beyoncé loses the competition to an albino woman after which she happily congratulates her. The last scene shows her looking happy and smiling with little make-up on her face. The last thirty seconds of the video transition to a footage of Beyoncé as a child winning an award for Female Pop Vocalist on a television show. She appears onstage saying, "I would like to thank the judges for picking me, my parents who I love. I love you Houston".


Following the release of the album, the video for "Pretty Hurts" garnered the most attention.[82] Sal Cinquemani of the website Slant Magazine commented that the song sounded more "immersive" along its accompanying music video.[28] Similarly, NME '​s Emily Mackay who gave a mixed review for the song felt that "the accompanying video... saves the day" further commending the scene where Beyoncé smashes the trophies as "powerful".[18] Praising the "intense, touching" video and its "body-positive message "Jon Blistein from the Rolling Stone wrote that the "shots of her bashing her trophy shelf prove way more cathartic than any pageant victory".[81] Kitty Empire of The Observer commented that the video contained perspective in the scenes showing "painful depilating, pill-popping and toilet-hugging details".[12] Overally praising the whole video, Vanity Fair writer Michelle Collins felt that the singer managed to make exercising look hard and uncomfortable and further praised the scene where Beyoncé answers the judge's question about her aspiration in life.[84] Spin '​s Philip Sherburne alluded that the video was emotional and wrote that it offers "a story line that opens up a wealth of readings about race, skin tone, beauty standards, and her [Beyoncé's] own mutable image."[51] Whitney Phaneuf from the website HitFix praised Beyoncé's acting in the video and added that the vulnerability in the character she portrayed was palpable. Phaneuf commented that the footage of Beyoncé competing in a talent show as a child made it look more realistic.[86] Ryan B. Patrick of Exclaim! wrote that the video allowed Beyoncé to showcase her acting skills.[14] The editors of Out magazine compared the video with the films Magic Mike (2012) and American Hustle (2013).[87]

The cohesion of the lyrics of the song and the video was commended by critics, with Evan Rytlewski of The A.V. Club noting how it allowed Beyoncé to "[open] herself up in ways she's resisted before".[29] Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune who haied the song as a "soaring critique of the beauty industry", added that it was "enhanced by its troubling video".[42] Marc Hogan of Spin magazine commented that the video expands the album version of the song, hailing it as a "powerful piece of work".[44] Tris McCall of The Star-Ledger wrote in his review of the song that its "brutal" music video takes the critique of perfection and physical beauty further than the track.[34] Robert Leedham of Drowned in Sound felt that the video was significant as it narrated the song's lyrics unlike the other "immaculately conceived" shots which he criticized.[48] Calling it the best video on the album, Brandon Sodeber of the magazine Vice further described it as "an incredibly affecting mini-melodrama that underlines to Beyoncé's painful awareness that being black and female means you're never enough of something or other for mainstream America".[88] However, Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph felt that the video sent mixed messages.[16] Brent DiCrescenzo from Time Out also criticized its message as he felt that it came from "one of the most beautiful women in the world" but praised Keitel's appearance.[89]

Questions raised by critics mainly concerned the irony and hypocrisy of the lyrics of the song and its video.[47] Philip Cosores of Paste felt that Beyoncé herself did not respect and follow the message she sent through the song but felt that it was notable enough to stand on its own.[47] Amanda Hess of Slate offered further critique, questioning the sincerity of the song by juxtaposing the lyrics with those of a later track on the album, "Flawless" — "Beyoncé may by exposing how ridiculous this notion [of beauty] is, but we're still meant to believe that she really does 'wake up like this'."[35] Similarly, Shannon Kelley for TakePart who said that the song "offers an honest commentary on an important reality", believed that whilst the irony of the video was evident, it showed that "[Beyoncé is] not immune to the disease".[90] Randal Roberts from the Los Angeles Times commented, "She makes a convincing case, were it not for the string of nearly soft-core fashion shoots that follow [on the album]... As a first song on an album, 'Pretty Hurts' works. But as thematic opener to such a relentless visual seduction, the hypocrisy is hard to ignore."[40] Although Daisy Buchanan of The Daily Telegraph praised the message of the song and its video, she wrote in her review that the clip was "pure hypocrisy" as the singer was "promoting heavily sexualised and unattainable standards" with her body throughout her career.[91]

Awards and accolades[edit]

In 2014, Michael Cragg writing for The Guardian ranked the video in the ten best of Beyoncé's career. He praised Matsoukas' work, deeming the clip "gorgeously shot" with each scene being filmed as a magazine shoot "slightly subverted by barely veiled sadness and tight rictus grins".[33] At the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards, the video was nominated in four categories: Best Editing, Best Direction, Best Cinematography Best Video with a Message, ultimately winning the latter two.[92][93]

Live performances and other versions[edit]

Beyoncé performing "Pretty Hurts" during a stop in Seattle of the On the Run Tour (2014).

"Pretty Hurts" was part of the set list of Beyoncé and Jay-Z's co-headlining On the Run Tour (2014). For the performance of the song, Beyoncé wore a leather-studded jacket with the word Texas with capitalized letters emblazoned across the back along with denim short pants.[94] The outfits were designed by Nicola Formichetti taking inspiration from Beyoncé's videos, Bonnie and Clyde, outlaw motorcycle clubs and including references to her daughter Blue Ivy.[95] Billboard editor Leila Cobo felt that the inclusion of the song in the set list "stabs" at feminism and female empowering messages to the audience.[96] While reviewing a concert of the tour, Houston Chronicle writer Joey Guerra thought the song was oddly placed in the set list but noted that it "somehow worked perfectly as a late-set crescendo".[97] The Times-Picayune editor Keith Spera felt that the singer "lofted" the song while performing it live.[98]

Chloe and Halle Bailey uploaded a cover of the song on their YouTube channel on December 22, 2013. It was then shared by Beyoncé on her Facebook page describing them as "amazingly talented".[99] On January 14, 2014 American singer Sam Tsui released an acoustic cover version of "Pretty Hurts" on the iTunes Store.[100] An early instrumental of "Pretty Hurts" was used for Gucci's Chime for Change campaign in 2013 prior to the song's official release. At that time it served as an audio accompaniment for the campaign films.[101] On June 3, 2014, Dutch DJ R3hab released an uptempo electro house remix of the song complete with synths during a concert for Gucci's Chime for Change in honor of one-year anniversary of its launching.[101] Idolator's Mike Wass praised the "killer drop" and called it "on-point from beginning to end".[102] On June 11, 2014, another official remix of "Pretty Hurts" by a duo called I Am a Camera was posted online. Beyoncé's musical curator contacted the team asking them to remix the track after he had previously heard some of their material.[103] Brenna Ehrlich from MTV News praised their version, describing it as "pretty" and noting that "there need to be more remixes like I Am A Camera's spin on 'Pretty Hurts'".[104] On October 9, 2014, British singer Cheryl covered the song in a medley with TLC's "Unpretty", as part of an upload to her official YouTube page.[105]



Credits adapted from Beyoncé's website.[4]

  • Featuring – Harvey Keitel
  • DirectorMelina Matsoukas
  • Directors of photography – Darren Lew, Jackson Hunt
  • Executive producers – Candice Ouaknine, Kerstin Emhoff
  • Producers – Ross Levine, Candice Ouaknine, Karl Reid
  • Production company – Pretty Bird
  • Choreography – Frank Gatson
  • Stylist – B. Åkerlund
  • Additional styling – Ty Hunter, Raquel Smith
  • Additional feature – Shaun Ross
  • Pageant girls – Chloe Grade, Desiree, Naoumie Ekiko, Diandra Forrest, Maggie Geha, Jelena, Kaven, Gabby Kniery Kelsey Lear Lafferty, Veronica M, Renee Mittelstaedt, Jessica Novais, Sarah O, Talie Powell, Jae Ponder, Sarah Sarina, Jessica Sheenan Nikeva Stapleton, Stephanie Starface, Aster Thomas
  • Production designers – Jane Herships, Kristen Vallow
  • Editor – Jeff Seelis @ Bonch
  • Brand manager – Melissa Vargas
  • Hair – Kim Kimble
  • Additional hair – Neal Farinah
  • Make-up – Francesca Tolot
  • Nails – Lisa Logan
  • Color correction – Dave Hussey
  • Visual effects – Kroma
  • Photography – Nick Farrell


Chart (2013–14) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[106] 47
Belgium (Ultratop Flanders Urban)[107] 22
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[107] 8
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[108] 78
France (SNEP)[109] 133
Germany (Media Control AG)[110] 83
Ireland (IRMA)[62] 56
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[111] 87
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[112] 68
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[59] 63
UK R&B (Official Charts Company)[60] 8
US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles (Billboard)[113] 13
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[114] 36
US Hot Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[115] 1
US Rhythmic (Billboard)[116] 33

Release history[edit]

Country Date Format Label
United States[9] June 10, 2014 Columbia Records
Rhythmic contemporary radio
United Kingdom[10] June 23, 2014 Contemporary hit radio

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]