“XO” is one of the tracks from Beyonce’s surprise pre-Christmas album. What has a lot of people upset is the sample that goes “Flight controllers here are looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction.” Those who remember the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster will recognize those words as coming from NASA public affair officer Steve Nesbitt, who was narrating the launch for television. This statement came seconds after the explosion following the “go with throttle up” command.
While samples taken from other news events have been used in song before–I’m thinking of anything Walter Cronkite might have said following the JFK assassinaton—Queen Bey’s use of this six-second snippet has made a lot of people really, really angry.
June Scobee Rodgers, the widow of Challenger commander Dick Scobee had this to say (Via ABC News):
Former NASA employee Keith Cowling also chimed in.
For her part, Beyonce says she’s sorry. Here’s her 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.
“The songwriters included the audio in tribute to the unselfish work of the Challenger crew with hope that they will never be forgotten.”
All this raises an important issue: At what point is it permissible to use an audio/video excerpt of a historic tragic event in the creation of a new piece of art? Debate that.
Read more here. Meanwhile, here’s the song: