A song on Beyoncé's celebrated new album samples audio from the space shuttle Challenger explosion, and it isn't going over entirely well.
"Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction," were the words NASA officer Steve Nesbitt said as the nation watched the space shuttle Challenger crumple into a fiery mess in 1986. Those words are also on "XO," one of Beyoncé's newest and arguably her best song.
"We were disappointed to learn that an audio clip from the day we lost our heroic Challenger crew was used in the song 'XO'," June Scobee Rodgers, widow of Challenger commander Dick Scobee told ABC News. "The moment included in this song is an emotionally difficult one for the Challenger families, colleagues and friends," she added.
While Beyoncé and her producers thought using Nesbitt's description of a human tragedy fine for pop music consumption, Scobee Rodgers and other Challenger family members believe that the usage of the clip is not unlike sampling something from 9/11. To them, Nesbitt's audio should, for the most part, be untouchable. "The choice is little different than taking Walter Cronkite's words to viewers announcing the death of President Kennedy or 911 calls from the World Trade Center attack and using them for shock value in a pop tune," Keith Cowing, a former NASA employee told ABC.
The debate brings up questions of taste, respect, and the boundaries of pop culture, current events, and history (earlier this year, the upcoming X-Men film used the assassination of JFK in a marketing campaign). And it also brings up the infallibility of Beyoncé — she's weathered a controversial trip to Cuba, a lip-synching at the president's inauguration, and the greatest takedown penned by a misinformed colleague and still come through without a scratch.
And the way she's made controversies (and even former band members) go away is by singing her face off (see: the star-spangled banner). She can't do that here (I mean, we hope she doesn't sing Nesbitt's audio a capella). Beyoncé has apologized however:
My heart goes out to the families of those lost in the Challenger disaster. The song 'XO' was recorded with the sincerest intention to help heal those who have lost loved ones and to remind us that unexpected things happen, so love and appreciate every minute that you have with those who mean the most to you.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.