Beyonce Criticized for Using Sample of Challenger Tragedy on New Album

Pop superstar, Beyonce, is under fire from astronauts and family members for sampling audio from the Challenger disaster on a video from her self-titled visual album.

On January 28, 1986, Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center. All 7 astronauts aboard were killed.

The video for the love song “XO” begins with a snip of a NASA official commenting on the disaster shortly after the nation watched wreckage fall from the sky, “Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction.” The clip is used in the video as a metaphor for a troubled relationship.

Beyonce, in a statement released to ABC News, insists the use of the clip was supposed to serve as a respectful tribute.  If you say so Bey!

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.”

The song was written and produced by Ryan Tedder and Terius Nash (The Dream) who appear to believe a national tragedy would make a cool metaphor for a dysfunctional relationship.

1986 is may be ancient history to the singer, but not to those who lost friends, co-workers and loved ones in the tragedy.  Anyone alive at the time and old enough to remember can tell you exactly where they were when they heard that the Challenger exploded.  Some saw it happen right before their eyes on television. Family members and loved ones were on the ground watching as the ship exploded and fell into the ocean. The terrible event should not be fodder for yo silly love song, girlfriend.

Folks connected to the tragedy aren’t buying Beyonce’s “tribute” either. ABC News also spoke with former and current NASA astronauts, employees and Challenger family members who felt the use of the clip in a pop song “mocks the crew’s sacrifice and opens fresh wounds.”

June Scobee Rodgers, the widow of Challenger Space Shuttle Commander Dick Scobee and a founder of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, told ABC News she is “disappointed” in the singer’s decision to include the clip.

“We were disappointed to learn that an audio clip from the day we lost our heroic Challenger crew was used in the song ‘XO,'” she said. “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.”

Keith Cowing, a former NASA employee who now runs the website, said, “This choice of historic and solemn audio is inappropriate in the extreme. The choice is little different than taking Walter Cronkite’s words to viewers announcing the death of President Kennedy or 911 calls from the World Trade Center attack and using them for shock value in a pop tune.”

Cowing wants Beyoncé to remove the clip and apologize to families of the Challenger crew.

Several current NASA astronauts, who are not authorized to speak publicly, privately expressed similar dismay at what they say is Beyoncé’s use of a tragedy to sell a pop song.

Retired NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson told ABC News, “For the words to be used in the video is simply insensitive, at the very least.”

NASA responded to the controversy in an official statement:

The Challenger accident is an important part of our history; a tragic reminder that space exploration is risky and should never be trivialized,” the agency said in a statement. NASA works everyday to honor the legacy of our fallen astronauts as we carry out our mission to reach for new heights and explore the universe.

Watch the XOXO Video below. What do you think? Was Beyonce’s use of the audio clip insensitive?

Via ABC News, Wall Street Journal

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  • pmreyn2010

    I’m not a fan (nor opponent) of Beyonce’s work… I think she’s talented but I don’t listen to her music. I will say this just feels awkward. What on earth does a NASA audio clip taken from one of the worst space exploration disasters ever have to do with a ‘rocky relationship song’? It just feels extremely out of place and a bit irreverent.

  • usedtobelucy

    Wow. Talk about tone deaf. Can’t imagine why it would even have crossed anyone’s mind to do this. Surely there were plenty of other things to sample without bringing any serious historical event at *all* into the pop song.

  • Amy Beth

    I bet if she had made a large donation to an appropriate charity before the song was released no one would have said a word.

  • sch

    She should do the right thing and just drop that intro.

  • listening

    Umm yeah i’m not buying Beyonce’s attempt at a positive spin on the use of the audio, It truly was a sad attempt. It would of been better to have simply said sorry didn’t mean to offend any one then to insult their intelligence by saying oh it was a tribute.

    Hmm I guess it was a tad insensitive to take a true life event word for word and use it for a relationship video. I must say I had no idea that was what the audio was from. I thought they just made it up to go along w/ the song. I have no idea why they used actual audio I would of just had some random guy saying the line or something similar.

    I know real footage of violence and dramatic events have made it into videos before and I didn’t find that insensitive. I saw it as just bringing light to a situation or express something deeply. I guess that would factor into whether something is insensitive is the type of song it was used in and how it was done.

    So going by that criteria Beyonce’s video wasn’t serious enough to get away w/ that without being thought of as at least a smidge insensitive.

  • Eilonwy_has_an_emu

    If it had been meant as a respectful tribute, it would have been part of the official promo in the big, serious way that big, serious songs get promo’d. The documentary voiceovers in the 1980s anti-Vietnam-war song “19” were a respectful tribute because the song was about the same issue as the documentary from which the samples were taken.

    This is just a sample in a giddy little love song. She could have used any sort of air-traffic-controller clip that wasn’t definitively linked to a terrible event.

    Maybe it’s her effort to shock everybody old enough to remember Challenger out of her audience so she’ll only be for the young ‘uns. She gets tons of press for this. The Baby Boomers and Gen Xers shake our paws in disgust, and she’s left with the more demographically desirable audience of people born after about 1982.

    Meanwhile, Miley Cyrus’ team is doubtless trying to figure out how which national tragedy should be sampled in the radio cut and video of her next single, since this brouhaha means Beyoncé has stolen the spotlight again. It’s probably down to a debate between the collapse of the World Trade Center and the Sandyhook shooting by now.

  • LA944

    It’s very inappropriate. Not to mention–just plain stupid. I doubt the clip was Beyonce’s idea–but she approved its use in her video. Not a fan or non-fan either-good voice–don’t care for the songs.

  • Tinawina

    As a side note, I have to tell you I laugh hard every time you do a Beyonce thread and use that little picture of Michelle Williams. The littlest things amuse me so. I am easy to entertain. Heh.

  • Tinawina

    I get it only because in a couple of places the song seems to allude to loving someone before your time is up… so in that sense referencing sudden unexpected death fits. That said, she should just take it off if the families are offended. Simply apologize and remove it from future versions of the album. It’s not on the single anyway.

  • Porfivor Nixon

    One problem with this is the writer is Ryan Tedder, who many people just see as a hack- not someone who thinks that deeply when he is churning out another song.

  • heartly

    Absolutely, positively not shocked to see Ryan Tedder’s name involved in this.

  • jmg887

    Tacky. The publicity is sure churning for her though, isn’t it? Simply tacky. This was the first real tragedy I remember as a kid and to sample it with a cheesy pop song feels gross.

  • elliegrll

    The thing that I fine strange is that even though this is one of the songs that has gotten a lot of attention, and one that radio stations are playing, it has taken 3 weeks for anyone to say anything. That makes it hard for me to take seriously the outrage of anyone outside of the friends and family of those who died, and other astronauts.

    That being said, Beyonce should remove the sample.

  • Darko_5

    It doesn’t even fit the spirit of the song which seems more whimsical then heart breaking.

  • LJ

    People make the biggest deal out of nothing. This, in my opinion, is in no way, shape or form disrespectful, and the song is about not taking things for granted because you never know what could happen.

  • Sassycatz

    Wow. How weird and random. They had to reach back 27 years for that. I would suggest that they didn’t think anyone would care but I’m of the opinion they didn’t think at all. Definitely a very self-centered group of people who think anything out there is free for them to appropriate. In fact, it sounds like they treated it like it was just one more sound bite, like crickets chirping or a dog barking.

  • Jake W.

    I can’t defend Beyonce on this move. Insensitive is the right word.

  • mjsbigblog

    The soundbite is only used on the video, not the audio, which may be why nobody noticed until now.

    When I finished typing this up I figured opinions would fall between people old enough to remember the event being put off, and those who are not wondering why the fuss.

  • mjsbigblog

    Maybe it’s her effort to shock everybody old enough to remember Challenger out of her audience so she’ll only be for the young ‘uns.

    Ha. I don’t know about that, but I suspect her young fans are rolling their eyes and asking “What’s the fuss?” So, a couple of days in the news cycle, and no effect on her sales or her rep.

  • James

    Is she and/or the people that put this together really that stupid?
    One would think someone with any sense whatsoever would have looked at this and thought that might not be a very good idea.

  • James

    And there are millions of other examples that could have been used to make the same point.

  • James

    Not thinking is exactly what went on.

  • Tinawina

    Come to think of it Beyonce herself is from Houston and was about kindergarten age when it happened, so she’s old enough to remember the event but perhaps not old enough to really grasp the full weight like say she would for 9/11. She totally joined #TeamBadDescisions on this one.

  • listening

    Double post

  • listening

    That’s exactly what I thought. I found it really random and out of place, with the booty popping and the kids dancing well everybody dancing for that matter. It was just unnecessary and since you’re getting complaints from the family members involved they should edit it out.

  • yaddabing

    It’s in my audio?

  • Bugme Nomor

    I know what you mean. For example, people making a big deal out of Beyonce dropping an album without notice.

  • Bugme Nomor

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

    ^ Distancing and spinning at the same time.

    They should have apologized, taken it down and put up a new version that didn’t have the NASA opening. It’s such a simple edit that would have taken them about 20 minutes.

  • breakdown

    I used to think that Beyoncé wore her fame and fortune well but a few things this year have changed my mind. The lip syncing at the inauguration showed disrespect and laziness. The trip to Cuba showed entitlement. This audio bit of a national tragedy showed a lack of empathy.

  • Kariann Hart

    What were they thinking to make this move. How shocking that Beyoncé would allow this on her record. Dumb, dumb, dumb…

  • Tess Herself

    Give Beyonce some credit…poor girl, she can’t think herself out of a paper bag without the help of those around her, probably doesn’t even know what the Challenger explosion even was. She’s the biggest tool in show biz.

  • weareallinnocent

    I’m going to blame Jay-Z… because I can… :-)

  • Ronnie D

    It’s distasteful.

  • HermeticallySealed

    I just don’t see how including the sound bite in a video for a song about relationship problems constitutes a respectful tribute.

  • Landon Cox

    Just when I was coming around to liking her again…ugh Beyowulf!

  • justmefornow

    My guess is she had no clue about the sound bite at all until the negative feedback, then had to have the Challenger tragedy, and what it was, explained to her.
    Just a hunch.

  • Corrine43180

    What gives you the Idea she’s stupid?? I’ve seen NOTHING to reflect that, on the contrary she seems to be pretty savvy in both her career and personal life.

  • Ronnie D

    She had no clue? I find that hard to believe lol. Most artists I know listen to a new album in it’s entirety before releasing it. She is so wrapped up in her own egotistical bullshit to think about others. I remember that day and it was sad. My teacher cried in front of the entire class. There is no correlation between a relationship and a space shuttle blowing up on national T.V. I actually am starting to find her and Jay-Z totally annoying.

  • Ronnie D

    Money can’t buy class.

  • Tess Herself

    Not only stupid but grossly uneducated, totally ignorant of cause and affect, a piss-poor interviewee, easily manipulated…the kind of person who depends on something other than savvy and intelligence to get them by. A pretty voice, face, and figure in an otherwise pretty empty shell.

  • justmefornow

    I actually agree with you. My post wasn’t an excuse for her, but rather a comment on how she appears, to me at least, to be a very self involved diva and rather dumb.

  • Corrine43180

    Wow. You and I obviously differ in opinions. On many things, I’m sure. :)

  • Ronnie D

    I think her daddy and husband actually run the business side of things, not her. lol She probably handles the choices in songs, clothes, videos ect.

  • Tinawina

    Se fired her father 2 albums ago. Jay Z does not manage her.

  • Tinawina

    I doubt it. The entire album features various music and vocal clips stragically placed between songs. There is very little dead space, there are sound bits and whatnot that lead from one tune to the next and they all seem to have meaning. A lot of it is clips from Beyonce’s childhood, musings on feminism, things that have personal meaning to her, This is especially true for the “visual” album. That clip was deliberately, purposefully chosen just like the rest. It’s her mistake to own.

  • jpfan2

    She broke with her fathers years ago and JayZ does not manage her. She had a pretty thriving career before she hooked up with him.
    This seems like an insensitive move but in a long career it’s one of the few missteps she’s taken.

  • jpfan2

    Isn’t being self involved the definition of a diva!
    She hasn’t really made many bad moves in a long career so she can’t be all that dumb either.

  • justmefornow

    You’re probably right about the definition of “diva” lol.
    But you can absolutely be a successful diva and also be dumb as a stump if you surround yourself with the right people.
    I’ll never forget Cher being pissed off at Sonny for an interview he did years after their marriage revealing that Cher once thought that Mt. Rushmore was a natural rock formation, LOL.
    Yeah, not the sharpest tool in the shed.

  • Corrine43180

    Her dad has nothing to do with her career and hasn’t for a very long time.

  • scoobynacks

    Ok I guess we can switch it out for a clip talking about the Twin Towers as they get hit or fall. Maybe one of the ones where they say something about the people jumping or from the plane that crashed in PA where people called home beforehand and left a message. That’d serve the same purpose and be a recent wound for the public and victims’ families, there’d be people who survived the towers who would end up hearing their painful experience again on the radio AND it would be tacky. Why pick something that’s just painful for the public and tacky when you could do one that has survivors to rub it in the face of too? Missed opportunity, Beyonce.

    There’s no way this isn’t a terrible idea. There are a lot of ways to reference losing someone and not taking things for granted without bringing up a real life situation from over 25 years ago where real people died. RIght now there are a lot of people who vaguely know about the Challenger explosion that are going to look it up. Great, you might say, now they’re more educated about it, but the thing is does it really serve the purpose she claims it does if a lot of her audience isn’t of the age for this to resonate as something they remember? The emotional memory of that isn’t gonna cover enough people to even justify using here.

  • Sophie

    I’m not a fan of hers at all. She’s so ignorant! First wearing FUR to a VEGAN restaurant, and then this! What an idiot.

  • Mafs95

    I personally like Beyonce’s songs and respect her as a vocalist and as an artist… but that was really a dumb decision. The best thing to do would be to remove that part (which is like 2-3 seconds of the video?) and apologize for the people who got offended. She had little common sense by using that sample.

  • Cary Gonzalez

    Stupid is as stupid does. With all the sound bites in the Universe, why in the world would anyone think that using a sound bite from a real life TRAGEDY be a good idea??