|Single by TLC|
|from the album FanMail|
|Released||August 10, 1999|
|Format||CD single, 12" single, cassette single|
Bosstown Recording Studios
|Genre||Pop rock, R&B|
|Writer(s)||Dallas Austin, Tionne Watkins|
|TLC singles chronology|
"Unpretty" is a song by American recording group TLC. It was produced by Dallas Austin and co-written by Austin and TLC member Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins for the band's third studio album, FanMail (1999). Built on a poem of the same name written by Watkins, which dealt with a woman's struggle with her self-image and unrealistic concepts of beauty, widely portrayed in the media, long time contributor Dallas Austin helped Watkins adapt the poem into an empowering song for their female fan base to overcome feelings of physical inadequacy.
"Unpretty" was the second single released from FanMail. It became the group's fourth US number one single on the Billboard Hot 100, spending three weeks atop the chart, and the second consecutive number one single in from the album, following "No Scrubs". A critical success, the song was nominated for Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards. A remixed version of the song, sampling Dennis Edwards & Siedah Garrett's "Don't Look Any Further", was produced by JayDee of 1208Ent. and "Mad" Mike Lewin.
Paul Hunter directed the music video for "Unpretty", which was filmed on June 21, 1999 in Valencia, CA, and cost over $1.6 million to make. The clip ties together vignettes of several different stories relating to the song's lyrics. The main set of vignettes features a young woman, portrayed by band member Chilli, whose boyfriend convinces her to get breast implants to augment her modest bust. However, after she sees another patient in the hospital (played by actress Jade Valerie) getting her implants painfully removed, the woman flees the hospital in fear, and is later shown fighting with her boyfriend.
Another prominent set of vignettes features Lopes as an inner-city woman who witnesses a gang fight and a murder. Several of Lopes' scenes are set to her verse from "I'm Good at Being Bad", another track on FanMail, instead of "Unpretty". Lopes also appears in the "Unpretty" performance shots reciting the song lyrics in sign language.
Other vignettes feature a full-figured teenager (played by actress Tamika Katon-Donegal) worried about fitting the "ideal" image of the petite supermodel and struggling with a bulimia as a result. Near the end of the video, however, she tears down the unrealistic images of models that she has tacked on her wall and changes into a bathing suit, a sign that she may be starting to embrace her own natural body shape. One last set of vignettes features Watkins as a high school student who is harassed by two white males because she is black.
The group official YouTube's channel contains a shortened version of the video, released to all-ages audience (as "Children's Version"), that removes both Watkins and Lopes' solo storylines, and some of the scenes considered as too explicit.
"Unpretty" was later covered by La Musique Populaire for their 2004 boxed set A Century of Song. In 2011, the song was covered by the hit television series Glee featuring Dianna Agron and Lea Michele (as Quinn Fabray and Rachel Berry, respectively) in a mashup with the song "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story in the episode "Born This Way".
In 2011, Entertainment Weekly's Chart Flashback retrospective gave the song the highest grade of A, stating "Way before Gaga, Katy, et al. made self-esteem anthems de rigueur, T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chilli offered their own excellent call to arms for girls emotionally shipwrecked by mean boys and beauty myths."
- Greenblatt, Leah (September 2, 2011). "Chart Flashback: 1999". Entertainment Weekly.
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- "Chartverfulgong > TLC > Unpretty – musicline.de" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH. Retrieved 2013-01-19.
- "Nederlandse Top 40 – TLC search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 2013-01-19.
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- "Swisscharts.com – TLC – Unpretty". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 2013-01-19.
- "TLC: Artist Chart History" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 2013-01-19.
- "TLC Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot 100 for TLC. Retrieved 2013-01-19.
- "TLC Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Pop Songs for TLC. Retrieved 2013-01-19.
- "TLC Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for TLC. Retrieved 2013-01-19.
- "Billboard Top 100 - 1999". Retrieved 2010-08-28.
- Geoff Mayfield (December 25, 1999). 1999 The Year in Music Totally '90s: Diary of a Decade - The listing of Top Pop Albums of the '90s & Hot 100 Singles of the '90s. Billboard. Retrieved October 15, 2010.
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