August 15, 2022

Even when well-intentioned, changing lyrics can feel undeniably dystopian.

4 min read


Lyrics to two songs from Beyoncé’s new album Renaissance The updates were made as a result of discussions on social media. A poem on “Heated” was changed after activists noted it contained language that has been described as capable. Then, singer Kelis shared a series of Instagram posts expressing her disappointment that her hit “Milkshake” had been sampled on the album without her knowledge, describing it as “theft.” Both examples raise questions about the growing resilience of music as a digital product.

Already, albums of major musicians are updated frequently. Deluxe Edition featuring added songs, you’re never going to end donda 2, from the beginning of this year, dominated the internet via uploaded versions, perhaps the start of a new trend in music. Beyoncé’s song change follows roughly the same situation that unfolded with the release of Lizzo’s single “Grrls,” which the singer shared last month. Commentators online took issue with the use of the term “spasz,” which has been described as a slur used against people with disabilities, particularly cerebral palsy. Hannah Devinee, an activist who played a big part in the campaign to change the Lizzo song, published a column Guardian Condemning Beyoncé’s alleged surveillance. ,When Beyoncé dropped a similarly capable slur as Lizzo on her new album, my heart sank,” read the title of the story.

Other disability activists, such as Willissa Thompson, have argued that the language used in pop music can be criticized unequivocally. He did NPR. told That disability advocates should not overlook the power dynamics in play when a popular black female musician is being called out for language that equally exists in the catalogs of many male actors.

in a statement to Rolling stone, Beyoncé’s team noted that “a word not used in a deliberately harmful way will be changed.”

Conversations about competence are nothing new in pop culture. The Black Eyed Peas’ best-known single, “Let’s Get It Started,” was initially titled “Let’s Get R*tard”, with the original version featuring the slur sung in the chorus until it was released almost a year after it was released. Later it was changed silently. The edited version of the song would go on to win the group a Grammy in 2005.

The situation with Lizzo and Beyoncé recalls the beginning of the CD era when hip-hop first began to overtake the charts. Universal Music has essentially changed the lyrics to Eminem’s song Marshall Mathers LP Prior to its release to retailers to sell a “clean” version. At the time, Hilary Rosen, the former president of the RIAA, said new York Times That “I think it’s a combination of the two not wanting to stifle the cast, but wanting what I think is a very real sense of corporate and social responsibility.”

In those days, record labels were seen more for the big-box stores carrying CDs—and the parental concerns that came with them. Now, with the advent of streaming, the count has changed for artists and labels alike. Avoiding a protracted social media controversy in 2022 is akin to making sure your product can be displayed on K-Mart or Target’s family-friendly shelves in the nineties.

Following Kelis’ posts on Instagram and online attention, Beyoncé also changed a portion of the song “Energy”, which prefaced Kelis’ single “Milkshake”. Despite being the lead artist on the song, Kelis was not credited with songwriting for the track by producers Farrell and Chad Hugo, meaning he has no ownership of the copyright. “Milkshake alone is one of the most licensed records of our generation,” Kelis wrote on Instagram. “I have done more than leave my mark on an era of music and style that will go down in history.”

In the case of both Lizzo and Beyoncé, artists are expected to voluntarily alter their lyrics as a shift toward a more empathetic way of handling disputes, where unfairly treated people can speak out and effect change. can do. But a terrifying prospect looms large over the way major releases feel less permanent in general. Streaming platforms have managed to change the way we understand music, and now we’re in a unique position that, if you don’t get dizzy, might just be the album you’re playing on your phone today. Tomorrow may not be the same.





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