Beyoncé’s ballroom-inspired Most Danceable Album of the Year, Renaissance, is intelligent, multilayered, and fun as hell, but it’s not all tens across the board. It’s more like 9.75’s. Points have been deducted for the use of an ableist slur on track 11, “Heated.” The song, a collaboration with Drake, features the lyric, “spazzin’ on that ass, spaz on that ass.” Determined not to let one offensive moment dull the album’s shine, Beyoncé will be removing the lyric from the track, Insider reports. “The word, not used intentionally in a harmful way, will be replaced,” a Bey rep said in a statement. The lyric has since been changed to “blastin’ on that ass, blast on that ass.” That means, within 24 hours of her representative’s statement, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter dropped what she was doing, did a quick vocal warm-up, and sang a variation of the words “ass blast” into a studio-grade microphone.
In an opinion piece for Hireup that was republished in The Guardian, writer and disability advocate Hannah Diviney expressed her disappointment in Beyoncé, writing that her artistry “doesn’t excuse her use of ableist language — language that gets used and ignored all too often. Language you can be sure I will never ignore, no matter who it comes from or what the circumstances are.” In June, a viral tweet from Diviney explained why the word is a slur: It derives from the word spastic, as in spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy.
This controversy comes around a month after Lizzo faced similar backlash for use of the same word on her song “GRRLS.” Lizzo issued an apology and replaced the lyric on the track.
However, as the Insider article notes, the word can mean “go crazy” or “fight” in African American vernacular English, “leading to confusion about the negative use of the word.” In both Beyoncé’s and Lizzo’s songs, it is used in the latter context.
Beyoncé’s quick response to the “Heated” backlash inspired Monica Lewinsky to get in on the lyric-change action, tweeting a link to an article about the controversy with the words, “Uhmm, while we’re at it … #Partition.” Lewinsky is referring to the lyric “Monica Lewinsky’d all on my gown” in “Partition,” a song that came out nine years ago. We’re not sure that’s how this works. After all this “Heated” debate, at least this story has a moral: Always double-check your work if you collab with Drake.
This story has been updated with additional information.