While Beyoncé’s album Renaissance, which initially dropped in July 2022, was widely met with praise, controversy sparked after listeners noticed the singer used the word “spaz” in the song “Heated.”
“Spazzin’ on that ass, spazz on that ass,” she sings on the original version of the track.
Medical professionals define the word “spastic” as a symptom of a disability that makes it difficult to control one’s muscles, including cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, strokes and spinal cord injuries.
“So @Beyonce used the word ‘spaz’ in her new song Heated,” disability advocate Hannah Diviney wrote via Twitter the day after the album release. “Feels like a slap in the face to me, the disabled community & the progress we tried to make with Lizzo. Guess I’ll just keep telling the whole industry to ‘do better’ until ableist slurs disappear from music 💔.”
While some argued that the word isn’t considered deeply offensive in the U.S., others noted that the “Crazy In Love” singer makes music for the whole world. “Don’t use it, it’s that simple. If you want to be ‘international,’ think of your ‘international’ fanbase when writing songs,” one critic tweeted.
Three days after “Heated” was released, the Texas native vowed to change the lyrics. “The word, not used intentionally in a harmful way, will be replaced,” Beyoncé’s reps told Variety in a statement at the time.
The correction was welcomed by activists like Diviney. “Waking up this morning to hear @Beyonce has heard and recognised the disabled community’s call to remove ableist language from her music is an incredible feeling,” the England native tweeted in August 2022. “Where she leads, the music industry follows. Big thank you to Bey + her team. I’m so grateful ❤️.”
The controversy came just weeks after Lizzo received backlash for using the same word. “Hold my bag, bitch, hold my bag / Do you see this s–t? I’m a spaz,” the flutist rapped on the song “GRRRLS,” released in June 2022.
“It’s been brought to my attention that there is a harmful word in my new song ‘GRRRLS.’ Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language,” she said in a statement via social media.
“As a fat Black woman in America, I’ve had many hurtful words used against me so I overstand the power words can have (whether intentionally or in my case, unintentionally),” the Michigan native added. “I’m proud to say there’s a new version of ‘GRRRLS’ with a lyric change. This is the result of me listening and taking action. As an influential artist I’m dedicated to being part of the change I’ve been waiting to see in the world.”
In the updated version of “GRRLS,” she sings, “Hold my bag, bitch, hold my bag / Do you see this s–t? Hold me back.”
Lizzo and Beyoncé aren’t alone in tweaking their lyrics. Scroll down to see more artists who swapped their lyrics after controversy: