Fans had barely gotten through their first hundred listens of Act I of Beyoncé’s Renaissance when the album began to change. First, it was the removal of ableist language on the track “Heated.” Then, it was the excising of a controversial Kelis interpolation from “Energy.”
For better or worse, these changes wouldn’t have happened if the songs hadn’t gotten backlash from listeners. Whether you view it as graciousness or succumbing to pressure on Beyoncé’s part, the decision to retroactively edit her work has opened a door, and Monica Lewinksy is poking her head in and checking out the scene.
“Uhmm, while we’re at it… #Partition,” Lewinsky tweeted in response to an article about the “Heated” edit. The track from the singer’s self titled 2013 album, about getting busy in the back of a limo, included the lyric, “He popped all my buttons, and he ripped my blouse/He Monica Lewinsky-ed all on my gown.”
In 2014, Lewinsky–whose notorious affair with President Bill Clinton was highly publicized in the ’90s–wrote a reflection for Vanity Fair. She touched on the way her name, image, and experiences had been skewered in pop culture, adding, “Thanks, Beyoncé, but if we’re verbing, I think you meant ‘Bill Clinton’d all on my gown,’ not ‘Monica Lewinsky’d.’”
While she was frequently reviled in the press for her actions in the years after the scandal, recently public opinion has turned more in Lewinsky’s favor as perspective shifted. Her writing and activism, a well-received TED Talk, and last year’s American Crime Story: Impeachment caused people to re-examine the lopsided power dynamic between a 24-year-old White House intern and the 50-year-old President of the United States.
Those nuances are likely to be lost when the Beyhive has its hackles up, but a scroll through the “Monica Lewinsky” trending topic on Twitter saw users arguing both sides of the issue. Lewinsky herself sparred with fans who questioned why she was suddenly calling out Beyoncé out of all the people who have referenced the scandal over the years (because her name is in the news for editing her songs: critical thinking, people!), and those who declared she must be a hypocrite because of the self-deprecating “rap muse” description in her Twitter bio.
If there’s one thing that’s clear from the whole song revision situation, it’s that even Beyoncé doesn’t see herself as above criticism, so the Beyhive could stand to be a bit more gentle. Whether retroactive revisions are the right thing to do–particularly on a song that’s nearly a decade old–is another question entirely. (But “while we’re at it,” we may want to circle back on that “Eat the cake, Anna Mae” lyric from “Drunk In Love.”)