"You're Pitiful" is a parody of "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt written and recorded by American parody musician "Weird Al" Yankovic. It was released exclusively online on June 7, 2006. In the song, Yankovic chides a 42-year-old man who still lives a "pitiful" existence. The song was initially scheduled to be featured on Yankovic's twelfth studio album Straight Outta Lynwood as the lead single.
While Blunt himself had no issues with Yankovic recording the parody, Blunt's record label Atlantic did; they forbade Yankovic from commercially releasing the song at the last minute. Yankovic eventually released the song online as a veritable free single; furthermore, in music videos and during live performances, Yankovic has made reference to his dispute with Atlantic. Since the initial debacle in 2006, Yankovic has occasionally reached out to Blunt and his label see if he can release the song on compilations. However, each time that he has approached Atlantic Records, he has been denied permission.
According to music critic Nathan Rabin, "You're Pitiful" functions as "an amusing character study of the contemporary loser." In the song, Yankovic chides a 42-year-old man who still lives a "pitiful" existence. The man is described in the lyrics as living with his mother and having a job as a Slurpee machine operator. His hobbies include playing Halo 2 and dabbling in amateur Star Trek cosplay.
In early 2006, Yankovic began recording parody songs for his upcoming album Straight Outta Lynwood. Yankovic initially approached James Blunt and asked if he could record a parody of his hit song "You're Beautiful". Blunt was receptive of the parody idea, and gave Yankovic permission; on April 12, 2006, Yankovic began recording the song. When Yankovic and his record company announced that Straight Outta Lynwood would be released on June 27, 2006, Atlantic Records contacted Yankovic and said that they did not want the parody to be released.
Atlantic feared that "it was 'too early' in James' career for a parody, and [...] that focusing any more attention on 'Beautiful' at that point might lead to the perception of James as a 'one-hit wonder.'" Yankovic found this particularly odd, because in his experience, it was generally artists who were more willing to not want parodies recorded, not record labels (as parody songs generate royalties, which in turn generate more revenue for the label). According to Yankovic, "They didn't say I couldn't do the parody... they just said they'd let me know 'when the time was right'." As such, Yankovic and his record label postponed the album's release date and cancelled their upcoming tour. Finally, months later, Yankovic got a response from Atlantic: "The 'right' time, apparently, was 'never'."
Yankovic had a policy of obtaining approval prior to releasing his parodies from the original artist's record company, but after a miscommunication surrounding "Amish Paradise", a parody of Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise", he sought permission directly from the artist. Yankovic told NPR that this was the first time a record label has denied a release of one of his parodies. Given that Blunt had given his blessing to record the parody, Yankovic noted that there was no way Atlantic could legally forbid the parody: "James Blunt could still let me put it on my album if he really wanted to, but he obviously doesn't want to alienate his own record company [...] and my label could release the parody without Atlantic's blessing, but they don't really want to go to war with another label over this." In the end, Yankovic concluded that the issue was "more of a political matter than a legal matter".
However, because Blunt himself had no issue with the parody, and because the parody had already been recorded, Yankovic decided to release it online as a free digital download. "[I]f James Blunt himself were objecting," Yankovic told NPR, "I wouldn't even offer my parody for free on my Web site. But since it's a bunch of suits — who are actually going against their own artist's wishes — I have absolutely no problem with it." The song was later officially mirrored on a number of "Weird Al" Yankovic fansites and blogs, including Al-oholics Anonymous, WeirdAlForum, WeirdAlStar, WeirdAlShow, and AllThingsYank. Still needing a lead parody for his album, Yankovic recorded "White & Nerdy" (a parody of Chamillionaire's "Ridin'"). This single would go on to be Yankovic's most-popular song, and his first top 10 Billboard hit.
The digital single's cover art (spoofing the cover of Blunt's album Back to Bedlam) was the product of a fan named Aron Shay, which had been submitted to the fansite Al-oholics Anonymous as part of a calendar contest. The image was later used on Yankovic's official MySpace page, and has since become the de facto cover art for the single.
The video for Straight Outta Lynwood's second single, "White & Nerdy", depicts Yankovic taking revenge, of sorts, against Atlantic Records by vandalizing their English Wikipedia article by blanking all text and replacing it with the words "YOU SUCK!" in large letters. This particular revenge has since actually been repeatedly performed by online vandals. Yankovic has said that he does not approve of the vandalism, though he admits being amused by it. In addition, the video also shows Yankovic viewing his MySpace page and for a split second, "You're Pitiful" is visible as his profile song.
In 2009, while compiling the track listing for his then-upcoming greatest hits album The Essential "Weird Al" Yankovic, Blunt and his company were once again approached by Yankovic; this time, however, Yankovic was hoping that they would allow the long-shelved parody to be released on the compilation record. The request was denied, and Yankovic later tweeted: "In case you were hoping for 'You're Pitiful' to be included on my Essentials collection, sorry, this just in from Blunt's manager: 'Thanks for your email, but both James and I will never approve this parody to be released on any label.'"
In mid-2016, while preparing to release his career-spanning box set Squeeze Box, Yankovic once again reached out to Blunt to see if in the seven years he had changed his mind. Once again, however, Yankovic was denied permission to release the song, and he tweeted: "Sadly, [James Blunt] won’t let me include 'You’re Pitiful' on my box set."
Nathan Rabin wrote that the parody was amusing but that "it was nowhere near as strong as the geek anthem [i.e. 'White & Nerdy'] that would become the first single off [of] 2006’s Straight Outta Lynwood".
In April 2011, Blunt discussed Yankovic and the parody with Seattle Post-Intelligencer, saying:
I'm a fan of his, particularly the earliest stuff he did, though he got his notoriety and his fame for what were genius moments along the way, and they were really exciting. And for me, I've only been flattered by parodies of my own songs. There are some great ones out there. I have absolutely no problem with Al. I think it's a huge compliment for what he's done. At the same time, it's generally not my favorite of the parodies. I think it was a safe one. It wasn't as exciting as some others. There's one really special one which you should look up by a guy called Tom Gleeson, and it's just really clever. And for me, that was a more exciting one.
On the concert tour for Straight Outta Lynwood, Yankovic performed the song initially wearing a long-sleeved shirt, and progressively removing clothing to reveal different layers underneath (as Blunt does in the video for "You're Beautiful"). The penultimate T-shirt revealed says "Atlantic Records Sucks". During his 2010 tour, this shirt was modified from the original, stating "Atlantic Records STILL Sucks". The final T-shirt is the face of SpongeBob SquarePants. Yankovic then removed his pants to reveal boxer shorts with red hearts, a pink tutu, and fishnet stockings.Band members
Al Yankovic – vocals, keyboards
Jim West – guitars, keyboard programming, backup vocals
Steve Jay – bass, backup vocals
Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz – drums, percussion, drum programming, backup vocals
Al Yankovic – producer, arranging
Tony Papa – sound engineering, mixing