Shortly after ‘Renaissance’ was released last Friday (July 29), Kelis took to social media to claim that Beyoncé used elements of ‘Milkshake’ without her express permission. She alleged that Pharrell Williams (who wrote and produced ‘Milkshake’ with Chad Hugo as The Neptunes) would have cleared the interpolation as a “direct hit” at her, and that nobody from Beyoncé’s team had reached out to let the singer know her song would be referenced.
The original version of ‘Energy’ interpolates the “la la la la” refrain that’s first heard around the 30-second mark on ‘Milkshake’. The official credits for ‘Energy’ did indeed mention that the song contained an interpolation of ‘Milkshake’, and credited Williams and Hugo as songwriters. Kelis was mentioned as having “performed” the interpolated song, but she is not listed as a songwriter for ‘Energy’ in the same way that The Neptunes were.
Notably, Kelis was never credited as a songwriter on ‘Milkshake’ to begin with. Kelis has not formally addressed this aspect of the controversy, however in one of the video statements she posted last week, she called Williams out for allegedly taking credit for songs he did not write.
“When I was signed to [Williams’ label, Star Trak], I had the same manager that he had, and he has writing credits on my records – all my singles, coincidentally – and he never wrote a song [or] a lyric,” she said.
‘Energy’ has now been updated on Tidal and Apple Music to remove the ‘Milkshake’ interpolation from the song altogether. As noted by Rolling Stone, this wasn’t a particularly easy process: for a short while, Tidal glitched and would only play the vocal clip that was removed when listeners attempted to stream the song. At the time of writing, the original version of ‘Energy’ can still be heard in the song’s official lyric video and on Spotify.
Have a listen to the former below, then compare it to the updated version on Apple Music:
This is the second major change that’s been made to ‘Renaissance’ this week: on Monday (August 1), it was confirmed that an ableist slur would be removed from the song ‘Heated’. Similar to a recent controversy with Lizzo’s song ‘Grrrls’ (which was also amended shortly thereafter), Beyoncé caught flak for using the word “spaz” in one of the song’s lyrics.
While used colloquially in the United States with a similar meaning to “freak out” or “go crazy”, the term emerges from the word “spastic”, which is used medically to describe the spasms one might experience from a condition like cerebral palsy. The term is often used in a derogative manner to describe those with disabilities, especially cerebral palsy.
Following the backlash, Beyoncé’s publicist confirmed that the offensive lyric in ‘Heated’ would indeed be altered. When streaming the song on Apple Music, all uses of the slur have been replaced with the word “blast”.
It’s also been revealed that the album is part of a forthcoming trilogy. A fan who received a vinyl copy of the album shared an image from its accompanying booklet, wherein Beyoncé describes ‘Renaissance’ as the first of a “three act project” that was recorded “over three years during the pandemic”.