Beyoncé will remove the word “spaz” from one of her new songs, “Heated,” after she received criticism from disability advocates.
A rep for Beyoncé tells Rolling Stone, “The word, not used intentionally in a harmful way, will be replaced.” It’s unclear how the “Heated” lyric will be changed; as of publication, the original version of the song was still live on streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify.
Beyoncé uses the word twice on “Heated,” singing, “Spazzin’ on that ass, spaz on that ass.” Though the word was ostensibly used in a colloquial way to mean going crazy or wild, “spaz” — which is derived from “spastic” — has a history of being used as a slur for those with disabilities, especially cerebral palsy.
Just six weeks ago, Lizzo received similar criticism for using the same word on one of her new songs, “Grrrls.” In response to the uproar, Lizzo apologized and announced her own lyrics change, saying, “Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language. As a fat black woman in America, I’ve had many hurtful words used against me so I overstated the power words can have (whether intentionally or in my case, unintentionally)… This is the result of me listening and taking action. As an influential artist I’m dedicated to being part of the change I’ve been waiting to see in the world.”
Among the advocates who criticized Beyoncé’s use of the word was Hannah Diviney, who also played a role in bringing attention to Lizzo’s use of the word. In an op-ed for The Guardian following the release of Renaissance, Diviney praised Beyoncé’s stature, artistry, and “power to have the world paying attention to the narratives, struggles, and nuanced live experience of being a black woman.” But, Diviney added, “that doesn’t excuse her use of ableist language — language that gets used and ignored all too often.”
She continued, “Language you can be sure I will never ignore, no matter who it comes from or what the circumstances are. It doesn’t excuse the fact that the teams of people involved in making this album somehow missed all the noise the disabled community made only six weeks ago when Lizzo did the same thing.”