Unpretty

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"Unpretty"
The three members are standing in front of a multi-colored wall, with thick black horizontal lines covering their bodies. The song title is positioned above them, while the group logo is positioned underneath.
CD single green cover
Single by TLC
from the album FanMail
ReleasedMay 17, 1999 (1999-05-17)
Recorded1998
Studio
  • D.A.R.P., Atlanta, Georgia
  • Bosstown, Atlanta, Georgia
Genre
Length
  • 4:08 (radio version)
  • 4:38 (album version)
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Dallas Austin
TLC singles chronology
"No Scrubs"
(1999)
"Unpretty"
(1999)
"Dear Lie"
(1999)
Music video
"Unpretty" on YouTube

"Unpretty" is a song by American group TLC, released on May 17, 1999, through LaFace and Arista Records as the second single from the band's third studio album, FanMail. It was written by Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and the producer Dallas Austin. Austin assisted Watkins in adapting the latter's written poem into "Unpretty" after feeling disgusted by an episode of American talk show Ricki Lake.

"Unpretty" was the album's fourth and final song to chart on the US Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked for three weeks. The song topped the chart in Iceland and peaked in the top 10 in Australia, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. An accompanying music video was directed by Paul Hunter, which depicts the band situated in three separate storylines. 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.

Background and composition[edit]

Tionne Watkins was in hospital when she conceived the idea of "Unpretty" after watching an episode of American talk show Ricki Lake, in which the men on the show called women "fat pigs". She wrote the song out as a poem and gave it to Dallas Austin to record in the booth. Austin wanted to incorporate TLC's music into a folk and alternative rock sound. He wrote "Unpretty" as an "acoustic-driven pop song" in order for people to conceive TLC as an established group.[1] Stacy Lambe of VH1 described the song as having an "alternative rock vibe".[2]

Commercial performance[edit]

The song peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, spending three weeks atop the chart.[3] It was the second consecutive number-one single from the album, following "No Scrubs". Worldwide, the song reached number one in Iceland for a week and peaked within the top 10 in Australia, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.[citation needed] It was nominated for Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards.[4]

Music video[edit]

Background[edit]

Paul Hunter directed the music video for "Unpretty", which was filmed in June 1999 in Valencia, California, and cost over $1.6 million in production.[5] A shortened edit of the video was created, which was released to an all-ages audience (as "Children's Version"),[6] that removes both Watkins and Lopes' solo storylines, as some of the scenes were deemed as too explicit.[5]

Synopsis[edit]

The video begins with the TLC members entering a meditation hut. As the three women begin to meditate, a probe camera is released to record images of struggles in daily life, which ties together vignettes of several different stories relating to the song's lyrics. Several shots of TLC meditating and in a pink and purple field of flowers are shown intermittently throughout the video.

The main set of vignettes features a young woman, portrayed by band member Chilli, and an overweight teenager (played by actress Tamika Katon-Donegal).[7][better source needed] Chilli's boyfriend convinces her to get breast implants to augment her modest bust. However, after she sees another patient in the hospital (played by singer Jade Villalon) getting her implants painfully removed, the woman flees the hospital in fear, and is later shown fighting with her boyfriend when she catches him reading magazines of busty women. The other girl is 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 accept her body shape.

Another vignette features Watkins as a high school student who is harassed by two white kids because she is a girl (which is based on what she dealt with in high school),[citation needed] only to be saved by her teacher, who sends the white kids away and retrieves her stuff for her. The last vignette features Lopes as an inner-city woman who plays her verse from "I'm Good at Being Bad" to her friend in her car.[citation needed] They come across a city gang, who are approached by a rival gang who begin to threaten them. The two gangs start fighting, which becomes so violent that knives and guns are involved and Lopes and her friend duck for cover as her car window is damaged. When the fight subsides, Lopes leaves the car to assist the remaining injured and barely conscious survivors. One of the survivors has been mortally wounded due to being stabbed in the heart, so Lopes applies pressure on his chest to stop the bleeding and prays as they wait for the police to arrive. Lopes also appears in the "Unpretty" performance shots reciting the song lyrics in American Sign Language.[citation needed]

Track listings[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits for "Unpretty" adapted from AllMusic.[16]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Certifications and sales for "Unpretty"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[65] Platinum 70,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[66] Gold 5,000*
Sweden (GLF)[67] Platinum 30,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[68] Silver 200,000^
United States (RIAA)[69] Gold 500,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Release history[edit]

Release dates and formats for "Unpretty"
Region Date Format(s) Label(s) Ref.
United States May 17, 1999 (1999-05-17) Urban contemporary radio [70]
July 27, 1999 (1999-07-27) Urban adult contemporary radio [71]
August 10, 1999 (1999-08-10) [72]
United Kingdom August 16, 1999 (1999-08-16) [73]

References[edit]

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