People Are Coming for Beyoncé’s Lyrics

The superstar has agreed to change ableist lyrics on a Renaissance track, and regarding songwriting credits, Diane Warren is just asking questions.

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People Are Coming for Beyoncé’s Lyrics
Beyonce attends the Brooklyn Nets v Milwaukee Bucks game at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on June 05, 2021, in New York City. Photo:James Devaney (Getty Images)

Are you sick of hearing about Beyoncé’s new album Renaissance? Too bad! The critically acclaimed set that is headed to No. 1 on next week’s Billboard’s album chart is at or nearing the point of cultural saturation that tends to trigger heavy scrutiny. And scrutinized it is. After being called out for her repeated use of the word “spaz” on Renaissance’s “Heated” (co-written by Drake), Bey’s rep issued a statement to news outlets. Via Pitchfork: “The word, not used intentionally in a harmful way, will be replaced.”

“Spaz” derives from “spastic,” via spastic cerebral palsy. It’s also a word that Lizzo pledged to remove from her song “Grrrls,” after its June release saw backlash. I mean, this is the same situation all over again. You have to wonder whether anyone in Beyoncé’s camp was aware of the Lizzo controversy and hoping people somehow just wouldn’t notice the same word flying out of Beyoncé’s mouth. Well, people noticed.

Another thing people have noticed: famed songwriter Diane Warren noticing songwriting credits. Warren tweeted Monday, “How can there be 24 writers on a song?” She followed up to clarify that this wasn’t meant as shade, though that eye-rolling emoji in her first tweet did her supposedly intended tone no favors.

The third track on Renaissance, “Alien Superstar,” indeed lists 24 writers in its credits. After she tweeted, many pounced on Warren, as people do when so much as the impression of Beyoncé criticism is rudely expelled into the world, fouling up the air we breathe. The-Dream, a key Renaissance collaborator in terms of writing and production, broke it down like this:

A note on The-Dream’s note: The credits of “Alien Superstar” list an interpolation of Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy,” and samples of the Foremost Poets’ “Moonraker,” of Barbara Ann Teer’s “Black Theater” speech, and Danube Dance’s “Unique.” Together those songs are responsible for seven of the “Alien Superstar” credits, which leaves…17 songwriters who worked directly on the song: Beyoncé, Honey Redmond, Christopher Lawrence Penny, Luke Francis Matthew Solomon, Denisia “@Blu_June” Andrews for @NovaWav, Brittany “@Chi_Coney” Coney for @NovaWav, S. Carter, David Debrandon Brown, Dave Hamelin, Timothy Lee McKenzie, Danielle Balbuena, Rami Yacoub, Leven Kali, Atia Boggs p/k/a Ink, Levar Coppin, Saliou Diagne, and Mike Dean. That is a relatively large group of people. It’s more people than could comfortably fit in a minivan. It’s a group big enough that it would probably require a reservation at a restaurant that isn’t of the fast-food sort. It’s a big enough number of people to constitute a party, no matter what they’re doing or where they go.

That said, Beyoncé has been here before—the 15 credited writers on Lemonade’s “Hold Up” elicited similar discourse and this good explainer on how pop songs get made today. I’m sure it’s wild when you have worked with a handful of people, at most, on several songs that have gone on to become mega-hits, as Warren has, to survey the current landscape. But things change and it’s weird that a veteran songwriter somehow missed this? Warren could have been Googling stuff from six years ago if she was really curious as to how there could be 24 writers on a song.

Anyway, Diane Warren apologized.

Crisis averted.

  • Drake has covid and so the Young Money reunion concert has been postponed. [Page Six]
  • Marilyn Monroe’s estate is defending Ana de Armas’ Cuban accent. [TMZ]
  • In other estate news, Wynonna and Ashley Judd have been left out of their mother Naomi Judd’s will—but maybe, much like Diane Warren, she didn’t mean this as shade? [Los Angeles Times]
  • And in even more estate news, the long legal battle for the Prince estate is over. [Billboard]
  • Amazing headline: “Brad Pitt Explains Why He Wore a Skirt on the ‘Bullet Train’ Carpet: ‘We’re All Going to Die, So Let’s Mess It Up’” You’re wild, Brad. YOU’RE WIIIIILD! [Variety]
  • Oh goody, Travis Scott has signed on for a Vegas residency. [Rolling Stone]
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