Pretty Hurts

Album: Beyoncé (2013)
Charted: 63

Songfacts®:

  • Beyoncé starts her self-titled fifth album with an assault on the pressures that women face to attain physical perfection. The touching opener was produced by frequent Kesha collaborator Ammo.
  • Beyoncé wrote the song with Sia Furler (Rihanna, Katy Perry, Britney Spears). The Australian singer-songwriter also co-penned "Standing on the Sun," which was debuted in 2013 by the Texan Pop Princess but didn't make the album's final tracklisting.
  • Harvey Keitel made an appearance in the video as an MC at a beauty pageant. The Melina Matsoukas-directed clip is a graphic depiction of the stresses suffered by models and beauty queens and concludes with home footage of a pre-teen Beyoncé accepting a singing award after a presenter mispronounces her name. The singer plays a beauty pageant contestant whose name "Miss Third Ward," is a reference to the Houston neighborhood where she grew up.

    Miss Third Ward does everything in her power to look flawless — but still can't achieve perfection. "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," Matsoukas explained to MTV News. "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."

    It was Beyoncé herself who suggested that Miss Third Ward loses in the competition. "[Originally,] I had her win and I had it mean nothing," Matsoukas said. "And then she didn't want to win. And then, actually, the woman who wins is an albino woman. And 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.'"
  • Beyoncé praised Sia during commentary for iTunes Radio. "It's really difficult to find a song with such a strong message that doesn't feel preachy," she said. "Sia is such a genius. 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 the song, this is my song!"
  • Beyoncé explained in a video the message she is communicating. "My message behind this album was finding the beauty in imperfection. I had this image of a trophy and me accepting these awards, and kinda 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?" she said.

    "You get this trophy, and you're like, 'I basically starved. I have neglected all of the people I love, I conformed to what everybody else thinks I should be. And I have this trophy. What does that mean?' The trophy represents all of the sacrifices that I made as a kid," she continued. "All of the time that I lost being on the road and in the studios as a child and I just wanna blow that s--- up."
  • Sia wrote this self-help ballad at her small apartment in the Angelino Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. She originally sent the song to her friend Katy Perry's computer, but the "Roar" singer didn't see the email. The Australian songwriter then passed the song onto Rihanna's manager, who held it for eight months without doing anything with it. Once Beyoncé got hold of the tune she immediately wanted it for herself. When Perry heard her recording, she asked her pal why she hadn't had first dibs on the song. Sia responded by saying, "Check your email."

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