|Single by TLC|
|from the album FanMail|
|Released||August 10, 1999|
|Recorded||August 4–7, 1998;
Bosstown Recording Studios
|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 in August 1998 for the band's third studio album, FanMail (1999). 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. Two versions of the remix were made, one containing a rap verse by Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes and one without the rap.
The video begins with TLC 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 a full-figured teenager (played by actress Tamika Katon-Donegal). 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 actress Jade Valerie) 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 embrace her own natural body shape.
Another vignette features Watkins as a high school student who is harassed by two white kids because she is black (which is based on what she dealt with in high school), 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", another track on FanMail, to her friend in her car. 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 sign language.
The group's official YouTube 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 2005, a cover version appears in video game Donkey Konga 2 for the GameCube.
- Australian musician Anthony Callea covered the song for his album Backbone (2016).
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- 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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- "British single certifications – TLC – Unpretty". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved June 5, 2015. Enter Unpretty in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Select Gold in the field By Award. Click Search
- "American single certifications – TLC – Unpretty". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved June 5, 2015. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
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