From sample disputes to slurs, the release of Beyoncé’s seventh studio album, Renaissance Act 1, has faced some criticism – and the star is taking it in her stride and handling it like the pro that she is.
The project, released 29 July, has been a constant soundtrack for many of the singer’s fans and has swiftly become her most critically acclaimed album, topping charts and spawning praise from fans around the world who’ve been taking to social media to share their favourite tracks.
But among the celebrations were two things that have rocked the release and sparked conversation.
One of the tracks featured on the album, Heated, caused controversy last week, as the song included a lyric featuring a slur that is used to demean people with spastic cerebral palsy.
“Sp***in’ on that ass, sp** on that ass,” read the initial lyrics.
The term, derived from the word ‘spastic’, was used colloquially by Beyoncé to as a reference to ‘going wild’ or ‘freaking out’. Her use of the word came under fire globally, resulting in calls for the star to remove the use of the word.
At the same time, singer Kelis called out Beyoncé for using a reference to her 2003 hit single Milkshake on the track Energy, claiming that she never gave permission for its use and was not told that the song would be sampled.
After a fan account posted about Kelis being sampled on the album, the singer commented: “My mind is blown too because the level of disrespect and utter ignorance all 3 parties involved is astounding,’ she said. “I heard about this the same way everyone else did. Nothing is ever as it seems, some of the people in this business have no soul or integrity and they have everyone fooled.”
The song includes the “la la la” hook from Milkshake. However, Beyoncé only needed to seek permission from writers/producers Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, who penned the track. Kelis is not a credited writer on the hit song.
Kelis later took to Instagram, saying Milkshake is “one of the most licensed records of our generation”.
She added: “I am a creator, I’m an innovator, I have done more than left my mark on an era of music and style that will go down in history. But there are [bullies] and secrets and gangsters in this industry that smile and get away with it until someone says enough is enough. So I’m saying it today. I’m coming for what’s mine and I want reparations. Peace.”
While the two controversies may have impacted the album rollout, Beyoncé has seemingly dealt with both issues swiftly.
The song Heated has received a lyrical update, and no longer includes the slur.
In a statement on Monday, Beyoncé’s publicist said: “The word, not used intentionally in a harmful manner, will be replaced in the lyrics.”
In its place, Beyoncé now sings “blast”.
After the lyric change was confirmed, Warren Kirwan, a spokesperson for disability equality charity Scope said: “It’s good Beyoncé has acted so swiftly after disabled people yet again called out this thoughtless lyric.
“There’s a feeling of déjà vu as it’s just a few weeks since Lizzo also had to re-release a song after featuring the same offensive language.
“We hope this is the last time we see this kind of thing from anyone, let alone musicians with massive global influence.”
Meanwhile, the sample of Milkshake originally used in the background of Energy has now been reportedly removed from the mix.
Even amid the controversy, Beyoncé has managed to acknowledge and deal with the challenges head-on – and it seemingly hasn’t stopped the album from positively impacting audiences worldwide.
The album is set to become her fourth UK number 1 album, and it is currently outselling the rest of the top five albums combined.
It also continues to receive praise, particularly for centring the LGBTQ+ community at the heart of the album.
Image: Parkmount Entertainment Group