If Beyonce censors herself, is it Beyoncensorship? And when you’re done groaning, we should let you know that superstar and Grammy magnet Beyonce has chosen to alter her new album Renaissance in response to accusations of ableism directed at the track “Heated.” Variety reports that a representative from Beyonce’s team has confirmed that “[t]he word, not used intentionally in a harmful way, will be replaced.”
The words Beyonce’s representative refers to are “spazz” and “spazzin’.” In part of the song “Heated,” she sings, “Spazzin’ on that ass, spazz on that ass.” The slang comes from the word “spastic,” which refers to people with a specific disability that makes their muscles difficult to control. Along with a good deal of social media heat after the release of Renaissance, Hannah Diviney of The Guardian wrote an essay criticizing the singer for the lyric. Diviney expressed disappointment and frustration with the lyrics which included what she called “ableist language – language that gets used and ignored all too often.”
While to able-bodied people the controversy may seem like making mountains out of molehills, it’s particularly curious that Beyonce let the lyrics get through considering a similar controversy not only just unfolded, but — as Diviney points out in her essay — unfolded about the same exact word. In April, Lizzo released her new album, Special and the song “Grrrls” was met with criticism because of the use of the word “spaz.” In June, Lizzo tweeted that she was changing the lyrics, a change which she said was a result of her “listening and taking action.” You can see that tweet below.
Accusations of ableism don’t represent the only controversy Renaissance faces. After the album leaked online two days early, the singer Kelis accused Beyonce of creative theft for sampling the 2003 song “Milkshake” without telling Kelis first. Speaking of the sampling, Kelis said, “it’s not a collab, it’s theft.”
Regardless of controversies, so far Renaissance is a clear win for Beyonce. Fans and critics are over the moon for the new album, the singer’s first since 2016’s Lemonade. From the noise reviewers are making — like Billboard‘s Kyle Denis who calls who calls Renaissance an “absolutely stunning body of work” — it looks like the new album is bound to net her a new crop of Grammy’s.
Beyonce first rose to fame as a member of the all woman group Destiny’s Child. In 2003 she released her first solo album Dangerously in Love and from then on no one argued she should’ve stuck with the group. The track “Crazy in Love,” which featured Jay-Z, became her first solo single to hit #1 on the Billboard charts. She’s since released six other studio albums, including Renaissance.
Along with killing it on the stage, Beyonce has managed to impress audiences on the silver screen. She made her film debut in 2002’s Austin Powers in Goldmember and went on to widespread acclaim for her role in the 2006 musical Dreamgirls. Among other roles, she was the voice of Nala in the 2019 live-action adaptation of The Lion King, and we reported exclusively that she’s aiming to play Storm of the X-Men in the MCU.