Beyoncé's heart-bursting new single "XO," off her self-titled visual album, Beyoncé, is being met with criticism in response to the track's use of audio from the Challenger space shuttle crash, which killed seven NASA crew members in 1986.
The song opens with a sample captured shortly before the explosion: "Flight controller here is looking very carefully at the situation . . . obviously a major malfunction." It's clear why this is an emotionally charged moment for the loved ones of the crew members who died aboard the Challenger shuttle on Jan. 28, 1986. NASA, as well as many family members of the fallen astronauts, has responded to the sample use.
NASA's press secretary told the Associated Press, "The Challenger accident is an important part of our history, a tragic reminder that space exploration is risky and should never be trivialized."
While many have viewed the Challenger crash sample as insensitive in the context of a pop song, Slate's Forrest Wickman points out that the song is "about mortality and about the urgency of spending time with the ones you love before you lose them, because you never know when that could be."
The theme of transience is most evident in the song's second verse: "We don't have forever / Oh, baby daylight's wasting / You better kiss me / Before our time has run out."
In a statement to AP, Beyoncé herself acknowledged that "XO" "was recorded with the sincerest intention to help heal those who have lost loved ones and to remind us that unexpected things happen, so love and appreciate every minute that you have with those who mean the most to you. The songwriters included the audio in tribute to the unselfish work of the Challenger crew with hope that they will never be forgotten."
Give the track another listen below, and then take our poll: is the Challenger crash sample meaningful in the context of the track's lyrics — or is it insensitive to the legacy and loved ones of the fallen astronauts?