When Frank Loesser wrote the classic Christmas tune “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” he couldn’t have predicted the outrage it would cause more than seven decades later. The song has been no stranger to controversy and critique. John Legend is responding to those complaints with a new, “updated” version.
John Legend is releasing an expanded version of his 2018 album A Legendary Christmas. As part of this album, he’s releasing several new Christmas songs, including a version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” with fellow The Voice judge Kelly Clarkson.
Their goal is to have a version that modern audiences won’t find so controversial. For example, one of the lyrics that went, “Say, what’s in this drink?” now has Clarkson asking, “What will my friends think?” followed by “I think they should rejoice” from Legend.
Clarkson will then say, “If I have one more drink?” and Legend says, “It’s your body, your choice.”
Another section changes the words from persuading the woman to stay to lyrics offering help such as, “I can call you a ride,” and “I’ll call a car and tell ’em to hurry.”
This song has earned a lot of critique in recent years. One Cleveland radio station even banned the song last Christmas over “date rapey” lyrics. It’s also been rewritten before by Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski, who changed lyrics to things like, “Been hoping you get home safe” and “Baby, I’m fine with that.”
Frank Loesser’s daughter has defended the song after it faced backlash and banning, saying that “I think my father would be furious at that.”
“People used to say, ‘What’s in this drink?’ as a joke. You know, ‘This drink is going straight to my head, so what’s in this drink?’ Back then it didn’t mean you drugged me.”
She went on to say, “Absolutely, I get it. But I think it would be good if people looked at the song in the context of the time. It was written in 1944.”
Many people think that while the song hasn’t aged well because we’ve lost the context of the lyrics, the song is more innocent than people claim. The song was written so that the writer and his wife could sing duets as holiday parties, not as a man unnecessarily pressuring a woman.
Some people even say that the song is a gesture of female empowerment because good girls couldn’t stay over a man’s house without supervision in 1944. The woman in the song still wants to and is going through what was, at the time, necessary objections before justifying staying the night. One writer, Helen Rosner, says the song is about a “sexually aware woman worried about slut-shaming.”
Regardless of the objections to the new lyrics and the old lyrics, the song is expected to do well. The press release calls the new lyrics, “a modern and irreverent narrative.” A Legendary Christmas: Deluxe Edition will be available for purchase on November 8th.