Beyoncé Knowles’ track “XO” from her new album Beyoncé begins with a six-second sample of NASA public affairs officer Steve Nesbitt’s commentary immediately after the space shuttle Challenger exploded in January, 1986. “Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation… obviously a major malfunction,” Nesbitt says in a monotone punctuated by the beep of a walkie-talkie. Then the song starts, never to return to that sample, or subject.
In the post-Christmas news vacuum, that brief sample provoked a trumped-up outrage. NASA press secretary Lauren B. Worley and June Scobee Rodgers, the widow of Challenger commander Dick Scobee, laid into Rodgers laid into Beyoncé for daring to refer to something that “should never be trivialized.” Beyoncé responded with a meaningless but suitably reverential statement that she and co-writers Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic and Terius “The-Dream” Nash “included the audio in tribute to the unselfish work of the Challenger crew with hope that they will never be forgotten.”
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