Building a Mystery

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"Building a Mystery"
Single by Sarah McLachlan
from the album Surfacing
Released 19 August 1997
Format CD single
Recorded Morin Heights
Genre Pop rock
Length 4:07
Label Nettwerk (Canada)
Arista (US)
Songwriter(s) Sarah McLachlan, Pierre Marchand
Producer(s) Pierre Marchand
Sarah McLachlan singles chronology
"I Will Remember You"
"Building a Mystery"
"Sweet Surrender"
Audio sample

"Building a Mystery" is a song by Sarah McLachlan, from her multi-platinum album Surfacing, first released in 1997. At a live performance, Sarah explains the song as being "basically about the fact that we all... have insecurities to hide, and we often do that by putting on a facade." She also goes on to say that "unfortunately, if we just be who we are, that's usually the more attractive and beautiful thing".[1]

A fan favourite, the song was an immediate Top-40, Soft AC, and Hot AC hit which paved the grounds for her future songs "Sweet Surrender", "Adia", and "Angel", all from the Surfacing album. "Building a Mystery" debuted at number 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early September 1997, and peaked at number 13 a month later.

The album version of "Building a Mystery," and the live albums "Afterglow Live" and "Mirrorball" contain the line, "A beautiful fucked-up man." The radio version replaces this line with "A beautiful but strange man" or the original lyric garbled beyond recognition, and during performances on radio or television, Sarah sings the line "A beautiful messed-up man."

The video features a man, described as McLachlan's boyfriend, taking points of light from wherever he travels and stitching some sort of garment. When McLachlan investigates in his absence, she finds that he has been assembling a skirt so decorated as to be lit with stars. Mark Seliger and Fred Woodward jointly directed the video, but both later disowned it with the Allen Smithee credit.

The song was her biggest chart hit in Canada, spending eight weeks at #1 on the RPM charts and ranking as the #1 single of the year in the magazine's year end chart. It won the Juno Award for Single of the Year in 1998.

The track also made McLachlan the recipient of the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards of 1998, beating Mariah Carey, Shawn Colvin, Paula Cole and Jewel.[2]

The video for the song features Moist front man David Usher.

It was #91 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the 1990s.[3]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ ""Grammy Awards for Best Pop Female Performance" on". Retrieved 16 July 2015.
  3. ^ Ali, Rahsheeda (23 May 2013). "The 100 Greatest Songs Of the '90s". VH1 Music News. VH1. Archived from the original on 17 July 2015. Retrieved 16 July 2015.
  4. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 65, No. 22, August 04 1997". RPM. Retrieved 1 January 2011.
  5. ^ "Rock/Alternative - Volume 65, No. 23, August 11, 1997". RPM. Retrieved 1 January 2011.
  6. ^ a b c "Sarah McLachlan - Billboard Singles Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 6 February 2009.
  7. ^ "ARIA Chartifacts Week Commencing ~ 13th October 2008 ~ Issue #972". ARIA Charts. Retrieved 6 February 2009.
  8. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 66, No. 15, December 15, 1997". RPM. Retrieved 1 January 2011.
  9. ^ "Rock/Alternative - Volume 66, No. 15, December 15, 1997". RPM. Retrieved 1 January 2011.
  10. ^ "Billboard Top 100 - 1997". Archived from the original on 11 June 2009. Retrieved 28 August 2010.

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