Beyonce explains use of Challenger audio in new song ‘XO’

Beyoncé films a music video on the Coney Island Cyclone in Brooklyn on August 29, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by James Devaney/FilmMagic/Getty Images)
Beyonce is taking heat for some samples on her new album. Credit: James Devaney/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Even Queen B can make mistakes.

Beyonce’s new single, “XO,” features audio from the day of the 1986 Challenger disaster. At the beginning of the song, NASA spokesman Steve Nesbitt can be heard saying, “Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction.”

It’s an excerpt from a statement he made to reporters as debris from the Challenger rained from the sky. The Challenger exploded on Jan. 28, 1986, and killed all seven astronauts onboard.

Is an audio sample from such a traumatic day appropriate in a pop song? The families of some of those lost that day don’t think so. “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 Shuttle Commander Dick Scobee, told ABC News. “The moment included in this song is an emotionally difficult one for the Challenger families, colleagues and friends. We have always chosen to focus not on how our loved ones were lost, but rather on how they lived and how their legacy lives on today.”

Beyonce stopped short of offering an apology, but she did issue a statement explaining the rationale behind the sample. “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.

“The songwriters included the audio in tribute to the unselfish work of the Challenger crew with hope that they will never be forgotten.”

“XO” was written and produced by Ryan Tedder and Terius Nash, aka The Dream. Maybe, as B says, they intended the sample as a tribute, but it still seems a little out of place alongside a video of Beyonce and her pals giggling on bumper cars at Coney Island.


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