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Underneath It All

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"Underneath It All"
Underneath it all.jpg
Single by No Doubt featuring Lady Saw
from the album Rock Steady
Released August 15, 2002
Format CD
Recorded 2001
Length 5:02
Label Interscope
No Doubt singles chronology
"Hella Good"
"Underneath It All"
"Hella Good"
"Underneath It All"

"Underneath It All" is a song written by Gwen Stefani and Dave Stewart for No Doubt's fourth album Rock Steady (2001). The song features reggae production from Mad Lion and guest vocals from deejay Lady Saw. It received mixed reviews from pop music critics.

"Underneath It All" was released as the album's third single in mid-2002. It became No Doubt's highest-charting American single but was less successful elsewhere. The song won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the 46th Grammy Awards. The song was featured in the film 50 First Dates (2004).

Background and writing[edit]

The song was originally written by Stefani and Stewart during Stefani's visit to boyfriend Gavin Rossdale in London. The two used backward string samples to write the song in only ten minutes.[3] The song describes Stefani's relationship with Rossdale, and the line "You're really lovely underneath it all" comes from a journal entry that Stefani made after spending a day in the park with Rossdale.[4] Guitarist Tom Dumont commented that Stewart's experience helped them keep the song simple because he "would have way overthought those chord changes."[5] When the band was working on the album in Jamaica, producers Sly & Robbie called dancehall artist Lady Saw to have her contribute a guest toast.[6] After listening to the track, Lady Saw wrote and recorded her part on the spot.[7]

Music and structure[edit]

The song is a love song composed in the key of E major. It is written in common time and moves slowly at 69 beats per minute. Stefani avoids the heavy vocal vibrato that she often uses.[8] Her vocal range spans under an octave and a half during the song, from F#3 to B4.[9]

The song opens with a line sampled from Bob Clarke's Sunday radio show on IRIE FM.[10] The verses use a simple I-vi chord progression, alternating between a first inversion E major chord and a second inversion C# minor chord, played on the off-beats and switch to a IV-iii progression. Each verse is followed by the chorus, which uses a I-IV-V-IV progression. After the bridge, Lady Saw performs her toast.[9] Stefani then sings the chorus twice, and Clarke closes the song after Stefani repeats the line "Mm mm mm underneath it all" four times.[9][10]

Critical reception[edit]

"Underneath It All" received mixed reviews from music critics. Rolling Stone found its ska sound and Stefani's questioning whether or not Rossdale is her soulmate tired.[11] LAUNCHcast agreed the beat was one "that Sly & Robbie can do in their sleep" but added that the song "keeps its modern edge thanks to Lady Saw's cooling rap."[12] Kitty Empire writing in NME also gave Lady Saw's toast a positive review, stating that it "does an excellent job of sexing up all the sugar."[13] Stylus Magazine was pleased with Stefani's performance on the song, stating that "she lets her voice ride gently on top of the melody, pushed along by the gentle steel drums in the background."[14] PopMatters commented that "No Doubt isn't afraid of working with new ideas" but that the dancehall of "Underneath It All" was unsuccessful and sloppy.[15] In its review of The Singles 1992-2003, OMH Media described the song as "an embarrassingly self-conscious reggae pastiche, unimproved by a guest rap from Jamaican dancehall queen Lady Saw."[16]

Chart performance[edit]

"Underneath It All" peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks,[17] becoming No Doubt's highest charting American single, since "Don't Speak" was not allowed onto the Hot 100 because of a technicality.[18] It was successful in mainstream music, topping the Top 40 Mainstream and reaching number two on the Top 40 Tracks. The song was also successful in the adult contemporary radio market, reaching number two on the Adult Top 40 chart with a 2004 re-appearance atop the Top 40 Adult Recurrents and peaking at number twenty-seven on the Adult Contemporary chart. It had some crossover success on urban contemporary and Hispanic rhythmic stations, reaching the top forty on the Latin Pop Airplay and Rhythmic Top 40 charts and number twenty-three on the Latin Tropical/Salsa Airplay.[19] At the 2004 Grammy Awards, "Underneath It All" won for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.[20] The song fared poorer on the Canadian Singles Chart, where it peaked at number thirty-five.[17]

"Underneath It All" debuted at number eighteen on the UK Singles Chart but was unable to reach a higher position. It was unsuccessful across Europe, only reaching the top forty in Austria and Sweden.[17] On the ARIA Singles Chart, the song peaked at number twenty-eight and remained on the chart for seven weeks.[21] In New Zealand it peaked at number eight for two consecutive weeks and stayed on the chart for over four months.[22]

Music video[edit]

The song's music video was directed by Sophie Muller and directing collaborative Logan.[23] It opens with a sequence of Stefani, as shown on the cover of the CD single, removing several pieces of clothing and later lying on a bed. After a scene with her in front of a white heart with roses, bassist Tony Kanal and drummer Adrian Young play basketball while Stefani stands against the wall. Stefani is then shown against a sparkling sky, followed by a scene of the whole band bicycling during Lady Saw's toast. The video closes with a scene of Stefani jumping on a bed in white undergarments and without makeup.

Muller wanted to add more sexual themes to the look of the video to contrast with the innocence of the song's lyrics. The original idea for the video was to show Stefani with heavy makeup "really over done like a stripper" and have her remove her clothing throughout the video. Muller found that this complicated the video too much, so each sequence shows Stefani with progressively less makeup instead. Muller decided to use a color scheme with bright colors such as orange, lime green, and pink, and the contrast was increased using Symphony in post-production. The bicycling scene was to originally show footage that the band shot while recording in Jamaica since Stefani wanted to include a Jamaican theme. Instead, the scene was created by filming the individual band members on a twelve-foot turntable in front of a bluescreen. Tracks were used to shoot two members riding next to each other, and Logan used computer-generated imagery to show the entire band bicycling in Jamaica.[23]

The music video was successful on video channels. It debuted on MTV's Total Request Live October 7, 2002 at number seven.[24] It reached number five on the countdown[25] and was on the program for twenty-four days.[24] "Underneath It All" peaked at number two on MuchMusic's Countdown in September 2002.[17] The video received nominations for Best Pop Video and Best Cinematography at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, but lost to Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me a River" and Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt" respectively.[26]

Track listing[edit]

Maxi single[edit]

  1. "Underneath It All" featuring Lady Saw (Album Version) – 5:03
  2. "Underneath It All" (Radio 1Live Acoustic Version) – 3:44
  3. "Just a Girl" (Radio 1Live Acoustic Version) – 3:30
  4. "Underneath It All" Video – 5:03

2-track single[edit]

  1. "Underneath It All" featuring Lady Saw (Album Version) – 5:03
  2. "Underneath It All" (Radio 1Live Acoustic Version) – 3:44

Cover versions[edit]

Release history[edit]

Country Date
United States August 15, 2002
Worldwide September 10, 2002


Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (2002–03) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[28] 28
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[29] 34
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[30] 13
Canada (Nielsen SoundScan) 35
France (SNEP)[31] 71
Germany (Official German Charts)[32] 42
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[33] 49
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[34] 8
Romania (Romanian Top 100) 27
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[35] 39
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[36] 54
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[37] 18
US Billboard Hot 100[38] 3
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[39] 27
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[40] 2
US Latin Pop Songs (Billboard)[41] 36
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[42] 1
US Radio Songs (Billboard)[43] 4
US Rhythmic (Billboard)[44] 38

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (2002) Position
US Billboard Hot 100[45] 71
Chart (2003) Position
US Billboard Hot 100[46] 59


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  2. ^
  3. ^ "Underneath It All". Montoya, Paris and Lanham, Tom. The Singles 1992-2003. Interscope Records. November 25, 2003.
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  5. ^ Edwards, Gavin. "No Doubt Make Party Music". Rolling Stone. October 16, 2001. Retrieved October 22, 2007. Archived October 2, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
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  7. ^ "Deeper with No Doubt". VH1. January 24, 2002.
  8. ^ Sanneh, Kelefa. "'Just a Girl,' Or Wishing To Be More?". The New York Times. October 26, 2002. Retrieved October 28, 2007.
  9. ^ a b c Sheet music for "Underneath It All". Hal Leonard Corporation. 2001.
  10. ^ a b Rock Steady (liner notes). This same sample closes the song, but proceeds to become slowed down after a few seconds in. Interscope Records. December 11, 2001.
  11. ^ Scheffield, Rob. "Rock Steady : No Doubt : Review". Rolling Stone, issue 887. January 2, 2002. Retrieved August 4, 2007.
  12. ^ Oliver, Lisa. "No Doubt - 'Rock Steady'". LAUNCHcast. February 14, 2002. Retrieved August 4, 2007.
  13. ^ Empire, Kitty. "No Doubt : Underneath It All". NME. September 19, 2002. Retrieved October 28, 2007.
  14. ^ Delaney, Colleen. "No Doubt - Rock Steady - Review". Stylus Magazine. September 1, 2003. Retrieved August 4, 2007.
  15. ^ Miller, Eden. "No Doubt: Rock Steady". PopMatters. December 10, 2001. Retrieved August 4, 2007.
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  17. ^ a b c d "No Doubt Underneath It All". Retrieved August 14, 2007.
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  20. ^ "List of Grammy winners". CNN. February 8, 2004. Retrieved January 22, 2007. Archived May 7, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
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  43. ^ "No Doubt Chart History (Radio Songs)". Billboard.
  44. ^ "No Doubt Chart History (Rhythmic)". Billboard.
  45. ^ "Longbored Surfer - 2002". Retrieved June 21, 2017. 
  46. ^ "Billboard Top 100 – 2003". Archived from the original on March 4, 2009. Retrieved August 28, 2010. 

External links[edit]