No Hugs and Kisses for Beyonce’s Challenger Sampling in ‘XO’
Beyonce is facing criticism from former NASA employees, astronauts and family members of those lost in the Challenger disaster for sampling audio from that fateful day in American history for her single “XO.”
In the beginning of the video for the love song retired NASA public affairs officer Steve Nesbitt can be heard in the moments after Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center on January 28, 1986, killing all seven crew members: “Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously, a major malfunction.” (Full lyrics for the song could be found on Directlyrics.)
Beyonce issued this statement: “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.
“XO” was written and produced by Ryan Tedder and The Dream.
“The songwriters included the audio in tribute to the unselfish work of the Challenger crew with hope that they will never be forgotten.”
However, those closest to the tragedy don’t see it from Bey’s point of view.
Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, the widow of Challenger Space Shuttle Commander Dick Scobee, said: “We were disappointed to learn that an audio clip from the day we lost our heroic Challenger crew was used in the song ‘XO’. 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. Their dedication to education and exploration resulted in the creation of Challenger Center for Space Science Education and because of this we have been able to educate millions of students across America and beyond. We hope everyone remembers the crew for the inspirational legacy they left in the hearts of so many.”
Retired NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson told ABC News, “For the words to be used in the video is simply insensitive, at the very least.”
Former NASA employee Keith Cowing wrote on his website NASAWatch.com that Beyonce owes the families an apology: “The song that follows these words about Challenger is certainly catchy – but it has nothing whatsoever to do with Challenger and the sacrifice that their crew made that morning in January 1986,” he said. “Instead, the song has to do with the trivial life event of a girl breaking up with her boyfriend. The music video shows them playing at an amusement park. Having this audio included in such a song serves to mock the severity of the events and loss that these final words represent.
“This choice of historic and solemn audio is inappropriate in the extreme,” Cowling added. “The choice is little different than taking Walter Chronkite’s [sic] 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.
“If this was done with full knowledge of the origin of these words then this is simply repugnant. If this was done without due diligence as to the source of the words being sampled, then this is ignorance… I know the families of the Challenger crew very well. If you ask they will tell you with quiet dignity and purpose that they chose to focus not on how their loved ones died but rather upon how they lived – and how their legacy continues through the educational organization, Challenger Center, that they formed in their memory.
“Beyoncé was a little girl living in Houston in 1986 when her astronaut neighbors (including a school teacher) died on their way to work in outer space. She needs to apologize for using this audio clip and remove it from the song. Its absence won’t affect the song at all,” he wrote.
“Beyoncé could do something more to make things right – by doing what she does so well: create a song that speaks to the sacrifices (big and small) that explorers and teachers make every day as they seek to enrich us all.”
What do you think? — Was Beyonce’s use of the audio insensitive? Tell us in the comments below.