Baby, it’s not that cold outside


Kate McCartney

It is really not that cold outside in Downtown Sioux Falls this December, either.

Kate McCartney, Staff Writer

Topping charts and racking up awards, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has been a household holiday carol since its 1949 release, but its modern interpretation may not be the kind of attention the song originally set out to have. 

The widely popular Christmas classic has been covered by artists from every genre in the last eight decades, but has been the center of controversy in recent years with rise of the #MeToo movement; #MeToo advocates for survivors of sexual misconduct to share their experiences with the hopes of creating change. Various versions with the traditional “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” lyrics have even become banned from many radio stations due to this dispute. Call-and-responses like “Say what’s in this drink / No cabs to be had out there,” “I ought to say no no sir – / Mind if I move in closer” and “At least I’m going to say that I tried / What’s the sense in hurting my pride” have lately been seen as offensive, although when written in 1944 that may have not been the song’s intent. As women’s rights have evolved, so has the modern understanding of consent and gender roles — therefore creating public concern that the lyrics do not translate into the current decade. 

Fast forward 60 years later when artist John Legend released a rather modern twist on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” as a part of his deluxe holiday album. Featuring fellow Voice coach Kelly Clarkson, the 2019 remake includes lyrics like “If I have one more drink? (It’s your body and your choice)” and “Oh, I’m supposed to say no (mm, I guess that’s respectable),” along with lines from the original. While it is seen by some as a refreshing, yet appropriate contemporary version, others view Legend and Clarkson’s catchy tune as tainting the classic.

“Both John and I have cut the original, we like the original, but we noticed that a lot of people didn’t, so we were like, ‘Let’s give them another option,’” said Clarkson in a 2019 episode of her talk show. “And apparently we killed Christmas!”    

Legend and Clarkson’s new spin on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” not only works to appeal to a 21st century audience, but alludes to shared reforms and goals of the #MeToo movement: to bring awareness to widespread sexual mistreatment. The social movement originated in 2006 with activist and survivor Tarana Burke, and was reignited in 2017 when actress Alyssa Milano’s #MeToo tweet, encouraging a response from survivors of sexual misconduct, went viral. Since then the hashtag has become a phenomenon, and the movement backed by celebrities in the media, fashion and entertainment industries alike. 

The many covers of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” have simply been about keeping up with tradition and spreading holiday cheer, certainly not a conscious effort to encourage offensive behavior. While Legend and Clarkson’s edits may have struck conflict with many on the other end of the music spectrum, their intent was to modernize the lyrics of their cover. Regardless of what version is most listened to this holiday season, keep in mind that any song’s purpose is to entertain and respecting others is what’s important.