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Beyoncé apologizes after criticism for sampling space shuttle tragedy on album

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Beyoncé Knowles has been criticized for sampling audio from the 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster as part of a new love song, titled “XO” on her newly released album, according to a Dec. 30 ABC News report. Some members of the NASA family have deemed the singer “insensitive” for alluding to the tragedy in where seven astronauts lost their lives when the Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center.

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Yahoo News reports that at the start of the song, one hears the voice of NASA mission commentator Steven Nesbitt describing the tragedy as it unfolded that morning. “Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction,” Nesbitt said from Mission Control in Houston as the nation watched the horrific scene of wreckage falling toward the ocean on live television.

Beyoncé used the six second audio clip to recount a troubled relationship in “XO,” which was written and produced by Ryan Tedder and Terius Nash, ABC News reports.

In response to the criticism, the singer told ABC News on Monday that “her heart goes out to those lost in the Challenger disaster,” and that “[t]he 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.” She added, “So love and appreciate every minute that you have with those who mean the most to you.”

According to Yahoo News, the Challenger crew and family members of the deceased remain unimpressed, however. “We were disappointed to learn that an audio clip from the day we lost our heroic Challenger crew was used in the song 'XO,'” June Scobee Rodgers, the widow of STS-51L commander Richard “Dick” Scobee and founding chair of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, wrote in a statement released Monday. “The moment included in this song is an emotionally difficult one for the Challenger families, colleagues and friends.”

Beyoncé maintains that “[t]he songwriters included the audio in tribute to the unselfish work of the Challenger crew with hope that they will never be forgotten.”

Noting the singer’s use of the audio for “shock value,” 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.”

His hope is that Beyoncé to removes the clip and apologizes to families of the Challenger crew.


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