Beyoncé Faces Backlash on New Track, “Heated”

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Beyoncé released her latest album, Renaissance, on July 29—her first since Lemonade (2016). The “Drunk in Love” singer worked on the album during the pandemic from 2020 to 2021.

“With all the isolation and injustice over the past year, I think we are all ready to escape, travel, love, and laugh again,” said the singer.

The album was highly-anticipated due to the early release of the lead single “Break My Soul,” in which Beyoncé put a ’90s house spin on the track. Additionally, Renaissance is the first album in her trilogy project, so two more album installments are expected.

Fans embraced the album with open arms. One Twitter user said, “The best thing about Renaissance is how cohesive the album is. Individually each track is good, but hearing each song in the correct order really creates an EXPERIENCE. When Beyoncé said ppl don’t make albums anymore she was right bc we were definitely missing this!”

Another user worries about the magic that is Renaissance, and that it is too powerful for anyone to handle. “You know what worries me? Beyoncé is that type of artist whose songs sound even better live…just imagine what she’ll do w the whole Renaissance album live??? The vocals?? The production??? THE CHOREOGRAPHY???? I’m scared,” said the Twitter user.

In general, Renaissance received acclaim. However, Beyoncé is now facing backlash for using an ableist slur on the track “Heated,” which Canadian rapper Drake co-wrote. The word being called out is “spaz,” which she used twice in the song. The word has a history of derogatory use toward people with disabilities, especially those with Cerebral Palsy.

Beyoncé sings Spazzing on that *ss, spaz on that *ss / Fan me quick, girl, I need my glass.

The African-American Vernacular English—a variety of English spoken by most working and middle-class African Americans—adopted the word spaz to mean to “go crazy” or “fight.”

A representative for Beyoncé announced that “[t]he word, not used intentionally in a harmful way, will be replaced.”

Beyoncé isn’t the only singer to face backlash for the use of ableist language. Lizzo also included the same word in her new song “Grrrls.”

“It’s been brought to my attention that there is a harmful word in my new song ‘GRRRLS,’” Lizzo wrote on Twitter. “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).”

Lizzo agreed to change the lyrics after Twitter users called her out. Twitter user @hannah_diviney spoke of her own experience with Cerebral Palsy saying, “Hey @lizzo my disability Cerebral Palsy is literally classified as Spastic Diplegia (where spasticity refers to unending painful tightness in my legs) your new song makes me pretty angry + sad. ‘Spaz’ doesn’t mean freaked out or crazy. It’s an ableist slur. It’s 2022. Do better.”

Similar to the black female artists, Kendrick Lamar faced divided backlash on his song “Auntie Diaries” from his most recent album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. One user said, “please I need him to explain what tf he was thinking,” with a crying emoji, in regards to his latest lyrics using the derogatory word f**got in the song.

Another Twitter user took the opposite stance in regards to Lamar’s track.

“We are not about to ‘cancel’ Kendrick over Auntie Diaries,” wrote @sethism_. “The most powerful man in hip-hop wrote a whole song supporting trans rights and acknowledging the homophobia he participated in. In a genre that has a history of homophobia, this moves the convo in the right direction.”

With all the backlash, Lamar didn’t take direction from the public. He kept the track on the Mr. Morale album and didn’t change his lyrics.

Photo Courtesy of Sony Music

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