Unfinished Sympathy

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(Critical acclaim)
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*EveryHit.com poll of poll, ranking #21
*EveryHit.com poll of poll, ranking #21
*Triple J Hottest 100 Of All Time 2009 (Australia), ranking #93
*Triple J Hottest 100 Of All Time 2009 (Australia), ranking #93

Revision as of 13:36, 19 September 2009

"Unfinished Sympathy" was the second single to be released from the album Blue Lines on February 11, 1991. It features Shara Nelson on lead vocals, and is generally recognized as a pioneering song in the trip hop genre. It is also one of the group's most successful singles, reaching #13 in the UK Singles Chart and #1 in the Dutch Top 40.


Track listing

  1. "Unfinished Sympathy" - 5:14
  2. "Unfinished Sympathy" (Nellee Hooper 7" Mix) - 4:33
  3. "Unfinished Sympathy" (Nellee Hooper 12" Mix) - 5:49
  4. "Unfinished Sympathy" (Perfecto Mix) - 5:17
  5. "Unfinished Sympathy" (Instrumental) - 4:08

Music video

The video for "Unfinished Sympathy" was directed by Baillie Walsh, and filmed in January 1991 on West Pico Boulevard between S. New Hampshire Avenue and S. Catalina Street in Los Angeles, California. Dan Kneece, SOC was the Steadicam Operator, Scott Ressler was the Focus Puller and John Mathieson, who later went on to shoot Gladiator for Ridley Scott, was the DP. It features Shara Nelson walking along the sidewalk, unaware or uncaring of her surroundings, which includes drunks, gangs, bikers and the three members of Massive Attack. It was one of the earliest music videos to use one continuous shot. The art director for the video was performance artist Leigh Bowery.

Critical acclaim

D and friend on the video shoot

In European media, "Unfinished Sympathy" has frequently been placed highly on lists of "the best songs of all time":

  • The TV Channel MTV2 in the UK ranked it #1 in a poll of the best songs of all time
  • Face Magazine (UK) - Singles of the Year, ranking #1
  • Melody Maker (UK) - Singles of the Year, ranking #1
  • New Musical Express (UK) - Singles of the Year, ranking #8
  • Iguana (Spain) - Singles of the Year, ranking #2
  • A BBC Radio 2 poll ranked it #44 in the best songs of all time
  • Reviewer Julie Burchill has described as her favourite song of all time.
  • Dance music producer Darren Tate has described as his favourite record ever
  • Mixmag (UK) - The 100 Best Dance Singles of All Time (1996) 10
  • New Musical Express (UK) - The Top 100 Singles of All Time (2002) 10
  • Q (UK) - The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003), ranking #37
  • Q (UK) - Top 20 Singles from 1980-2004 (2004), ranking #8
  • RDL (Spain) - The 100 Best Songs from 1990 to 1998 (1999), ranking #1
  • Rock de Lux (Spain) - The Top 100 Songs from 1984-1993 (1993), ranking #4
  • BBC Radio 1 (1998), ranking #1
  • Q Magazine (1998), ranking #15
  • EveryHit.com poll of poll, ranking #21
  • Triple J Hottest 100 Of All Time 2009 (Australia), ranking #93


  • The percussion loop is the "belly break" sampled from a Bob James' cover of Paul Simon's "Take Me to the Mardi Gras" which was also used by Run DMC on "Peter Piper."
  • The group was pressured to change its name due to the outbreak of the Gulf War in 1991. They were briefly known as simply "Massive," and it is the name which features on the cover of this single.
  • The voice at the beginning of the song is a sample of John McLaughlin, whose voice was sampled without clearance.
  • The song was remixed by Paul Oakenfold and Nellee Hooper. Both remixes feature on the single.
  • The song has been covered by Tina Turner for her 1996 album Wildest Dreams, and her version reached #9 in France.