John Legend's 'Baby It's Cold Outside' Sparks Controversy
John Legend has released his version of the holiday classic “Baby It’s Cold Outside” featuring Kelly Clarkson with revised lyrics – and it has got a lot of people hot and bothered.
“Legend's targeted 'Baby It's Cold Outside' because it's an easy win for him,” fumed Piers Morgan in a column for the Daily Mail, “something guaranteed to get him lots of publicity and make women go 'awwwww, isn't he lovely?’
“Yet when it comes to the often disturbingly hateful women-shaming lyrics of so many of his contemporaries, gutless Legend remains silent.”
Morgan opined that the original “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is nothing compared to “the shockingly sexist and misogynist lyrics of so many current rap and pop stars.” But, he added, “John Legend hasn't suggested rewriting any of these songs. Why could that be? Oh wait, it's because they're all performed by his good friends?”
The song, penned by Frank Loesser in 1944, makes no mention of Christmas but has became a staple of holiday season playlists. It won the Oscar for Original Song after it was featured in the 1949 film Neptune’s Daughter, performed by Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalbán.
A long list of artists over the decades have recorded “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” including Canada’s Michael Bublé with Anne Murray and Virginia to Vegas with Alyssa Reid.
For many years, the musical back-and-forth between a man and a woman he’s trying to convince to stay the night because of bad weather has been accused of being an ode to date rape.
“Say, what’s in this drink?,” the women asks. Later, she declares: “I ought to say no, no, no sir.”
In the age of #MeToo, the song has been pulled off radio station playlists around the world. (iHeartRadio stations across Canada will reintroduce the song this season.)
Many don’t understand what all the fuss is about. “It’s not actually a song about rape,” opined someone who identified as a former English teacher and fan of ‘30s and ‘40s jazz in a Tumblr post. “In fact it’s a song about a woman finding a way to exercise sexual agency in a patriarchal society designed to stop her from doing so.”
The writer said the woman in the song wants to spend the night but knows that, at the time, it would be seen as scandalous. “Hey, what’s in this drink?” was an idiom in the ‘40s.
“It’s a joke about how she’s perfectly sober and about to have awesome consensual sex and use the drink for plausible deniability because she’s living in a society where women aren’t supposed to have sexual agency,” the post reads.
Legend announced last month that he and comedian Natasha Rothwell rewrote some of the song’s lyrics to reflect the controversy.
“I really can't stay (Baby it’s cold outside) / I’ve gotta go away (I can call you a ride),” Clarkson and Legend sing. “This evening has been (So glad that you dropped in) / so very nice (time spent with you is paradise) / My mother will start to worry (I’ll call a car and tell ‘em to hurry).”
The new lyrics also include: “What will my friends think (I think they should rejoice) / if I have one more drink? (It’s your body, and your choice).”
The daughter of the late Dean Martin – who, in 1959, released one of the most popular versions of the song – has slammed Legend.
“He should write his own song if he doesn't like this one, but don't change the lyrics,” Deana Martin told Good Morning Britain. “It's a classic, perfect song.
"[My dad] would say it's absurd. I think that John should just have left it alone.”
Sharon Osbourne agrees. On her show The Talk, she compared rewriting lyrics to adding a bikini top to famous nude paintings that hang in museums.
“To change an innocent lyric… What the hell are you on about? That’s ridiculous,” said Osbourne. “I love John Legend. He’s an amazing artist that I really respect. Why are you doing this? That’s not right. If you don’t want the song, don’t record it.”
Chuck Arnold of the New York Post wrote that Legend's woke remake "feels a little silly and gimmicky."
Fox News contribution Raymond Arroyo opined: “Song lyrics should be evaluated and performed sensitive to the era of their creation, not distorted through the lens of contemporary political correctness or morays. And if Legend finds Loesser’s lyrics are so offensive, why not cast them aside and write all original Christmas songs?”
There are mixed reactions to Legend’s version on social media.
“Don't like the song, dont sing it! But dont rewrite it,” tweeted Howard R. Trigg. Another person tweeted: "They overcorrected so hard it's still insanely cringe-worthy." Tweeted Marcia Ramirez: "People gotta chill. Stop twisting an innocent lyric into what it was never meant to be."
But, Amy Lewis tweeted: "I actually DO prefer the lyric change. Folks, really, go listen to this song and look at the lyrics."
Listen to the new version of "Baby It's Cold Outside" below:
Listen to music from John Legend & Kelly Clarkson