An ableist slur called out online prompted a quick reaction from Queen Bey.
Beyoncé put out her first solo studio album since 2016’s Lemonade to wild fanfare on July 29, but the record also faced backlash on social media. The song “Heated” contains what some listeners found to be an ableist slur, as Bey sang, “Spazzin’ on that ass, spaz on that ass.” Medically, “spastic” references the inability to control one’s muscles, and those who face conditions that cause spasms didn’t appreciate the flippant lyric. Beyoncé’s team has already confirmed in a brief statement, though, that the lyric will be removed. “The word, not used intentionally in a harmful way, will be replaced,” they stated.
Over the weekend social media was abuzz with criticisms for the oversight. Writer Hannah Diviney even published a piece in The Guardian which lamented, “Beyoncé’s commitment to storytelling musically and visually is unparalleled, as is her power to have the world paying attention to the narratives, struggles and nuanced lived experience of being a Black woman… But that doesn’t excuse her use of ableist language.”
The upset comes just a few weeks after Lizzo made a similar move, removing the same word from “GRRRLS,” a song from her new album Special. She originally sang, “Hold my bag, bitch, hold my bag/ Do you see this shit? I’m a spaz,” with the new lyric being changed to, “Hold my bag, bitch, Hold my bag/ Do you see this shit? Hold me back.” Lizzo explained the change in a statement: “Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language. As a fat black woman in America, I’ve had many hurtful words used against me so I overstand the power words can have (whether intentionally or in my case unintentionally),” adding, “As an influential artist I’m dedicated to being part of the change I have been waiting to see in the world.”
It’s unclear what the lyric will be changed to or if Bey will release an apology, but it’s a step forward that it’s being removed. It’s surprising in 2022 that it was included in the first place, but it’s positive that artists are able to hear valid criticisms and change course to avoid causing harm to any communities. This latest Renaissance-related item comes during a wild news cycle for the album’s release. First the record was leaked days ahead of its scheduled entrance into the world — which Beyoncé thanked fans for ignoring and waiting to enjoy the music as intended — and the singer Kelis has accused Queen Bey of sampling her music without permission or the proper acknowledgments in a series of heated social media posts. Regardless, Renaissance will continue to influence the culture in a myriad of ways, and this alteration is a welcome change.