"Unfinished Sympathy" is a song by English trip hop group Massive Attack. Featuring vocals from British singer Shara Nelson, the song was released as the second single from the group's debut studio album Blue Lines on 11 February 1991. The song – produced by Massive Attack and Jonny Dollar – incorporates various musical elements into its arrangement, including vocal and percussion samples, drum programming, and string orchestration by arranger Wil Malone. Upon release as a single, "Unfinished Sympathy" topped the Dutch Top 40 and became a top twenty hit on the singles charts of countries such as Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Recognized as a pioneering song in the trip hop genre, "Unfinished Sympathy" was acclaimed by music critics for its unique production and Nelson's vocals. It ranked highly on several publications' year-end lists of the best singles of 1991. The song's music video, directed by Baillie Walsh, is a continuous shot of Nelson walking through a Los Angeles neighbourhood, detached from her surroundings, as the members of Massive Attack gradually start walking behind her. A cover version of the song by American singer Tina Turner became a top ten hit in 1996.
"Unfinished Sympathy" was produced by Massive Attack and close collaborator Jonny Dollar for the former's debut studio album Blue Lines (1991). The song was recorded in several locations, including the city of Dublin and the Coach House in Bristol; British music producer Wil Malone conducted and arranged the song's string section in Abbey Road Studios, London. Vocals were provided by English singer Shara Nelson, whom the group had known from their days as a part of sound system The Wild Bunch.
A trip hop song, "Unfinished Sympathy" incorporates drum programming and scratching performed by group member Andrew "Mushroom" Vowles into its arrangement; John Bush of Allmusic refers to these elements as references to the group's "b-boy past." The song's initial tone is set by "chilled hip hop beats" and samples of a percussion break from "Parade Strut (Instrumental)" by J. J. Johnson. Notably, the original album version of "Unfinished Sympathy" does not feature a traditional bass line. Vocal samples of a man singing "hey, hey, hey, hey..." – originating from John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra's "Planetary Citizen" – are present throughout the song. It also makes prominent use of a string section orchestrated by Wil Malone, which serves to compliment Shara Nelson's vocals.
Nelson has referred to "Unfinished Sympathy" as a "very emotive track to sing" and later recounted the song's recording process: "We recorded that with a full orchestra in Dublin... For me, as a singer, it was really difficult to follow someone waving a stick around!" Explaining the title "Unfinished Sympathy", group member Robert "3D" Del Naja explained: "I hate putting a title to anything without a theme, but with 'Unfinished Sympathy', we'd started with a jam... and added an orchestral score later. The title came up as a joke at first, but it fitted the song and the arrangements so perfectly, we just had to use it."
The music video for "Unfinished Sympathy", (a docu-fiction) was directed by Baillie Walsh, who had also directed the video for Massive Attack's previous single "Daydreaming", and was filmed in a single continuous shot from 1311 South New Hampshire Avenue to 2632 West Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. The video, filmed on Steadicam, begins with a shot of a street gang before moving to follow Nelson walking along the pavement unaware or uncaring of her surroundings, which include drunks, bikers, and disabled people. As the video progresses, first Daddy G, then 3D (having finished making a call on a public phone booth) and then Mushroom (pushing a cart) can be seen walking several paces behind her, slightly out of focus. At the end of the video, Nelson walks past the camera and off down the road into the distance. The video was originally supposed to conclude with an overhead shot of Los Angeles, but the scene was ultimately scrapped. Not all the people featured in the video were actors.File Hashes
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