Baby It's Cold Outside rewritten by John Legend to remove 'date-rape' lyric

A new version of the 1944 duet, whose gender dynamics have long been argued over, will appear on Legend’s forthcoming Christmas album

Baby It’s Cold Outside, the beloved Christmas song that has lost some of its sparkle in recent years, has been rewritten by John Legend to make its lyrics less controversial.

Penned by Frank Loesser in 1944, the song is a duet where a man tries to convince a woman to spend the night at his place – ostensibly because of the weather – and she gives a series of hesitant excuses why she must leave. Stars who have performed it include Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Dean Martin, Lady Gaga and Tom Jones.

The song has long been controversial, but has come in for special criticism in the wake of the #MeToo movement that heightened awareness of sexual violence and coercion against women – particularly the line “Say, what’s in this drink?”, which has been read as a date-rape attempt.

In 2018, numerous US radio stations took the song off the air. Dean Martin’s daughter criticised the decision, saying: “It’s a sweet, flirty, fun holiday song … I know my dad would be going insane right now.”

Listen to Dean Martin’s 1959 version of the song

In the wake of the controversy, Legend, along with lyricist Natasha Rothwell, has rewritten the song for a duet with Kelly Clarkson. An interview with Legend in Vanity Fair reveals that the new lyrics 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 new version will feature on an updated version of Legend’s 2018 album, A Legendary Christmas, to be released on 8 November.

The author of the Vanity Fair profile, Karen Valby, describes the original song as “date-rapey”, and a Salon article in 2012 described it as a “date rape anthem … icky at best, at worst reprehensible”.

Others have read the song as a knowing portrait of a time when women were not allowed to be openly sexual. Writing in Variety in 2018, Chris Willman has described it as “the story of a woman doing battle – not with a guy who won’t take no for an answer, but with the expectations of a society that won’t take yes for an answer,” while a 2010 essay by Slay Belle, published by women’s website Persephone, calls it “a song about the desires even good girls have”.

Contributor

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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