John Legend Updates ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ for the #MeToo Era

Legend and Kelly Clarkson replaced lyrics that some considered an allusion to date rape. Gone: “Say, what’s in this drink?” New: “It’s your body, and your choice.”

John Legend and Kelly Clarkson at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas. They teamed up to record a modernized version of the holiday classic.Credit…Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Maya Salam

For those who have deleted the holiday classic “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from their festive playlist in recent years, this one’s for you.

For his new seasonal album, John Legend teamed up with Kelly Clarkson for an updated version of the 75-year-old standard, removing some lyrics that have gotten harder for some to stomach in the #MeToo era.

The song, a duet in which the man tries to persuade the woman to stay at his place, using the weather as a pretext, was written by Frank Loesser in 1944 and has been sung by many pairs over the decades, including Ricardo Montalbán and Esther Williams; Idina Menzel and Michael Bublé; and Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett.

“I ought to say no, no, no, sir,” the woman sings in the original lyrics. The man asks to move in closer. “My sister will be suspicious,” she sings. “Gosh, your lips look delicious,” he answers. “Say, what’s in this drink?” she wonders aloud.

To many modern ears, those lyrics, which also have the woman telling the man she needs to leave about 10 times, have been interpreted as a lead-up to date rape, possibly aided by drug-spiked booze.

In the reimagined version, Clarkson sings “I’ve got to go away,” to which Legend responds, “I can call you a ride.”

“What will my friends think,” Clarkson sings.

“I think they should rejoice,” Legend replies.

“If I have one more drink?” she continues.

“It’s your body, and your choice,” he sings.

How ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ Went From Parlor Act to Problematic
Dec. 13, 2018

The new lyrics were written by Legend and the comedian Natasha Rothwell of the HBO series “Insecure.” The album, “A Legendary Christmas: The Deluxe Edition,” will be released on Nov. 8 by Columbia Records.

Last year, the debate over the tune reached a breaking point — arguments erupted on social media, and Fox News and CNN held multiple panels — while several radio stations pulled the song from the air.

To defenders of the original lyrics, the debate was a prime example of political correctness and revisionism gone amok. A San Francisco station that dropped the song reversed course after determining that most listeners wanted the song in rotation.

Last December, Susan Loesser, a daughter of Frank Loesser, told NBC News that her father would be “furious” that stations would pull the song. “Way before #Me Too, I would hear from time to time people call it a date rape song,” she said. “I would get annoyed because it’s a song my father wrote for him and my mother to sing at parties.”

“People used to say ‘what’s in this drink’ as a joke,” she went on. “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.”

Legend and Rothwell are not the first to modernize the duet’s gender roles, though Legend’s and Clarkson’s popularity could lend their recording more prominence. The singer-songwriter Lydia Liza wrote her own version of the song, which she performed in 2016 with Josiah Lemanski, who sings that she can leave whenever she likes. “Baby, it’s cold outside” became “Baby, I’m cool with that.”

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