Beyoncé criticised by Challenger disaster families over audio sample

Space agency Nasa has reacted angrily to a new Beyoncé song that features an audio sample recorded just after the Challenger shuttle exploded on take-off in 1986, killing all seven crew members.

Nasa issued a statement after the pop star received criticism from Challenger families and others for using the sample that includes the words “major malfunction” as an allusion to a failed relationship. It appears on the track ‘XO’, from her new self-titled album.

“The Challenger accident is an important part of our history; a tragic reminder that space exploration is risky and should never be trivialised,” said the statement from Lauren Worley, Nasa’s press secretary.

“Nasa works every day to honour the legacy of our fallen astronauts as we carry out our mission to reach for new heights and explore the universe.”

The agency’s response came after Beyoncé explained the use of the snippet in a statement to ABC News that stopped short of an apology. The sample appears at the beginning of ‘XO’.

Among those critical of the sample was June Scobee Rodgers, widow of Challenger commander Dick Scobee. She told ABC she was disappointed and described the use of the sample as “emotionally difficult”.

Beyoncé’s statement said: “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.”

Beyoncé released her “visual album” last month. It featured 14 songs and 17 videos. Much of the initial discussion about the album had to do with its surprise release and platinum sales until the reaction to the Challenger sample began to circulate.

‘XO’ is about a failing relationship and taking the time to appreciate what one has in the moment because life changes.


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