Been keeping me up for days
There is no nighttime
It's only a passing phase

And I feel pretty
Pretty enough for you
I felt so ugly before
I didn't know what to do

Is all I feel up to now
But it's not worth it to you
'Cause you gotta get high somehow

Is it destruction that you require to feel
Like somebody wants you
Someone that's more for real

Been keeping me up for days
There is no night time
Only a passing phase

And I'll feel pretty
Another hour or two
I felt so ugly before
(Ugly before)
I didn't know what to do
I felt so ugly before
(Ugly before)
I didn't know what to do
I felt so ugly before
(Ugly before)
I didn't know what to do
Ugly before
(Ugly before)

Lyrics submitted by sarahsavedlatin, edited by ian1774721, spinal

Pretty (Ugly Before) song meanings
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  • +5
    General Commentyeah, i can see all the drug angles and stuff, but here's what this song means *to me* when i listen to it...

    that brief moment of feeling worthy, feeling "pretty" enough for somebody else, feeling loved. you know it won't last long, it never does, because you always wind up being let down. no matter who it is, they always let you down.

    maybe you struggle with ugliness in the form of depression, or maybe you feel physically ugly, but either way, you don't know what to do about it when you feel at your lowest. you feel so stuck and like everything is a dead-end and there's no way out.

    ...but then you find somebody who erases all of that and makes you feel fine, makes you feel "pretty" ... makes you feel *okay*. makes you feel like there's hope again. however, almost as soon as it's in your grasp, it's gone again.

    this song is so bittersweet to me[the live version i have anyway], almost like it's being sung by someone who has seen into the future and is merely counting down the minutes until the inevitable happens, knowing nothing can be done to stop what's coming...

    funny how after someone actually succeeds at making you feel beautiful, when they leave, you feel about a million times uglier than you did before, because after all...if someone who claimed to find you so beautiful could turn around and leave without a sound, what's that say about you? it must say you're even more of a piece of trash than you thought must mean everything good they said was a lie.

    ...and you go back to feeling ugly, and you don't know what to do.
    delialon May 21, 2006   Link
  • +4
    General Commentto, me this song isn't particularly about drugs or love or something. it kind of just represents the moodswings of a very sensitive person. maybe even a person who suffers from this sensitivity, like a borderliner or something. he feels "pretty" in this particular moment, but he knows that it's only "a passing face". sounds pretty much like borderline moodswings to me. swinging between the extremes.
    circuit_rideron March 18, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI'm amazed there's so few comments about what seems to me to be the obvious intent of this song. It's about depression.

    Mood swings are common in depression, so that often for days or weeks at a time a person with depression feels terrible about themselves and their life. Sometimes that mood abates and the sunshine comes through, but for those with severe depression those times of happiness seem like a "passing phase".
    kruxon September 04, 2014   Link
  • +2
    General Commentevery elliott smith song isnt about drugs. you just have that in your head. nevertheless its a great song.
    rockisgroovyon November 17, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Commentduring the recording of "from a basement on the hill" elliott was clean, just to clear that up.
    Statbucksbabe28on January 09, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti think that it's about a bigger picture...
    Elliott seems to me like in almost every song
    he utilizes scenes or stories or snippets of a situation
    to get a bigger picture across, to describe or envoke a feeling
    or emotion.... he only uses these to get his message across
    which i like to believe is bigger or more complex than
    it all just being about drugs...
    lost_in_twlighton January 07, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"I just need to say that all these comments about his lyrics being about drugs are getting annoying to read."

    I totally agree man, but let's do a little reading. "Because you got to get high somehow." He doesn't just write about drugs, but they sure play a big part.

    Anyways, I don't think these lyrics are in need of such careful dissection. Elliott said on NPR that he didn't even know who David Berkowitz was before he wrote "Son of Sam." Jimi Hendrix claimed "Purple Haze" was about a dream he had and not about a kind of LSD. This music he makes is about me, man, because I said so.

    I say he wrote it about me and how I'm never enough for myself and I just want to feel like someone wants me for who I am. But I can't look for that feeling in so many places where I know it isn't. Things don't just appear out of nothing.
    runandplayguitaron August 16, 2007   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI think this song reflects the highs and lows of manic depression, which some think Elliott suffered from. During the manic phase, you stay up all night and feel "pretty". Then, when the depression phase hits, you feel "ugly".
    Redrockmdon May 01, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"Is it destruction that your required to feel"
    "I feel so pretty, pretty enough enough for you. I felt so ugly before I didn't know what to do"

    Definitly a song about drugs. I also think it has undertones of someone's struggles to stay clean and how they feel like they aren't enough without the high of the drug. That although they are being destructive by abusing drugs they really can't feel good enough when they are clean.
    Arwyenon December 11, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is obviously about drugs, "And i'll feel pretty for another hours or to". Clearly, it shouldn't even be a debate.
    ShoegazeBrianon April 21, 2014   Link

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