Like Lizzo a few months ago, Beyoncé had to re-record one of her songs because it contained a word deemed offensive by people with disabilities. For Lizzo, it was the song Grrrlswhich appears on the album Special and for Beyoncé, it’s the song Heatedtaken from Renaissance.
In both cases, it was the same word that caused the problem: ‘spaz’, a slang term derived from the pejorative word ‘spastic’, which in the UK can refer to someone with cerebral palsy. In a statement, a spokeswoman for Beyoncé announced that the singer would re-record the problematic word, assuring in an email that “the word was not intentionally used to hurt”. Lizzo said she “did not want to promote hurtful language” and said she was “proud to have listened and acted”.
Monica Lewinsky asks to remove her name from the song Partition
Steevy, who hosts Musicfeelings, a YouTube channel devoted to R&B and hip-hop, doesn’t necessarily agree with the decision to re-record: “It’s disproportionate. I can understand that people are offended by the use of a word but on social networks you always lose the context. Beyoncé used the word in an American context, where the word means “out of control”. I understand that in the English context this is seen as a kind of insult to people with disabilities. But the context in which Beyoncé wrote it is different. »
Since this controversy, Monica Lewinsky has asked Beyoncé on Twitter to remove the lyrics from the song Partitionin which she is named (“He popped all my buttons and he ripped my blouse/He Monica Lewinsky’d all on my gown”).
“I have two problems with that,” replies Steevy from Musicfeelings. The first is that music is art, whether we like it or not. You can criticize art. But asking people to re-record every time scares me. My second problem is where do we stop? Monica Lewinsky asks to re-record a song from 2013. But maybe we could re-record a song from 2003, too? We must recognize that we are in a society where art is not perfect, that it can hurt, that we learn from our mistakes and that’s how we evolve. »
Committed women particularly targeted?
If it often happens that the public or associations protest against the lyrics of a song, it is rare that artists return to the studio to solve the problem. Do we demand more from Beyoncé or Lizzo because they are women committed to the rights and recognition of minorities of all kinds?
Musicfeelings’ Steevy sees things from a different perspective. “I think we are in an era where we ask that of everyone. They, they give in because they already talk a lot to this public attentive to these questions. Others will be attacked, but since they are less engaged with this public, they will not withdraw their words. I would be surprised if a rapper implicated for this kind of thing re-records the songs. »
According to Guardian, the British association Sense, which had reproached the use of the word “spazz” to Beyoncé, moreover recognized that the singer was “committed for a long time to inclusiveness” and had not used this word “in purpose of doing harm”, but that “words have power and can reinforce the negative behaviors that marginalized groups face”. Sense thanked Beyoncé for changing her lyrics and encouraged everyone to listen to the album now.