About two months ago, Emily Sprague, the singer-songwriter behind the New York-based indie collective Florist, received an email from her publishing company with the subject line “‘Thank You’ for Confidential Project.’”
When Sprague opened the email, she was shocked. “I started reading and saw Beyoncé’s name, and I was just like, wait a minute, what?’” Sprague tells Rolling Stone.
It turned out that Beyoncé’s team wanted to use Sprague’s 2016 song “Thank You” as an instrumental to be played during a climactic spoken-word Maya Angelou interlude between the songs “Single Ladies” and “Love on Top” towards the end of her forthcoming concert film Homecoming. “The scene was described in the email, with Maya Angelou’s voiceover going to be part of it, and yeah, I mean, I basically was just like, of course, like what the fuck?’” says the singer-songwriter.
Then came the waiting. Neither Sprague nor her record label or publishing company had received confirmation that Florist’s song “Thank You” would actually end up in the film before it came out. But on the morning of the film’s release, there it was, making it easily the most surprising and obscure song to be credited in the sprawling, two-plus hour Beyoncé concert documentary.
In the film, Florist’s song arrives at an emotional highpoint, with snippets of a 2013 Maya Angelou interview appearing right after Beyoncé narrates her own mission statement for the film. “What I really want to do is be a representative of my race, of the human race,” Angelou says, over Sprague’s light looping pedals and synths. “I know that when I’m finished doing what I’m sent here to do, I will be called home.”
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this film / performance is beyond beauty, beyond words. being a part of it in this small way with a piece of music that i made in maybe my most broken state, reaching for feeling and the intention of empathy for the world, is truly the greatest honor of my short life. thank u bey https://t.co/B7L4p7DtoF
— mle (florist) (@emyspraguemusic) April 17, 2019
Sprague had a full day of traveling planned for the film’s surprise release, and when she caught up with Rolling Stone, she was in the midst of watching Homecoming from the beginning and had not yet even seen the scene in which her song appears.
In its original version, “Thank You” includes a spoken word monologue from Sprague, who wrote the song five years ago while recovering from a bicycle accident that had left her largely immobilized. She was 20 years old and living at her first home in Brooklyn. “I started making these loops on a pedal because I couldn’t play any instruments, because I could only use one hand,” she says. “There was no record label. I didn’t even know I was making an album.”
Hours after the film’s release, Sprague still can’t quite believe “Thank You” has ended up in a Beyoncé film. “I have no words to describe how honored and grateful I am,” she says. “This film is like the 21st-century woman made wonder of the world. It’s truly the most profound work of art, and I can’t believe something that I made is incorporated into it. I’m in disbelief.”