This fall John Legend released a new and revised version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” originally written by Frank Loesser. Though this song originated as a playful song between Frank Loesser and his wife, under a modern light, the back and forth banter of the song and its lyrics take a much darker turn. Since the early 2000’s, people have been debating the darker implications in the lyrics with the repeated insistance from the male voice in the duet, the female’s eagerness to leave the house and most importantly, what modern listeners believe to be a rape reference.
Legend’s revision of the song exemplifies the importance in our modern society to revise our use of language in everything from our daily speech to the lyrics of songs, no matter their original intentions.
In addition, Legend also proves that as a society, we can correct ourselves while still staying positive and lighthearted.
Legend revised almost all of the male voices lyrics and a few of the female lines. The female lines were mostly just revised to modernize the song. The male lines, however, were revised in order to change the male character and his responses to the female character. In the original, the conflict was external with the woman wanting to leave while the man pressured her to stay. In the revised version, the conflict is internal for the female character. She knows she should leave, but she doesn’t want to. And the male character stays supportive of the woman for the whole song. This distinction, though seemingly insignificant, carries large weight in exemplifying the appropriate response to a situation like this. It no longer fantasizes pressuring women and instead maintains the flirty and fun attitude, while the male character supports and respects the woman’s decisions and ultimately leaves the decision whether to stay or leave to her. Legend accomplishes this effectively by introducing the cab driver into the song. After the first time Legend says “Baby it’s cold outside,” Kelly Clarkson, who sings the female lines, responds with, “I’ve got to go away” instead of insisting that she should stay like in the original; Legend instead offers to call a ride for her. This gives her the option and safe ability to leave the situation if she wants.
This is quality content, unlike the questionable “consent” given in the original after repeated pressuring from the male character.
The other majorly problematic lines were changed from the original and a few lines from the woman that were changed were the lines: “Say what’s in this drink?” and “I wish I knew how to break this spell”. At the time the song was written, these lines had no negative implications and were a simple and common inquiry to whomever made the drink as to what and how much alcohol was in a drink.
Now, however, since the #Metoo movement, lines like these strongly imply the use of a date rape drug in her drink and her inability to leave even if she really wanted to. Even though this is very much not an implication that the author of the song would have ever thought of, it’s still important to correct the lines in our current social climate. Legend seamlessly modernizes these lines while maintaining the authors original flirty intent and also adding in important points for our current time. The female instead says, “what will my friends think? If I have one more drink? Ooh you really know how to cast a spell,” and the male replies to each of these lines with, “I think they should rejoice. It’s your body and your choice”. This again reinforces that it’s her choice to drink or not while omitting the questioning of the drink.
With all of the changes to the lyrics, Legend is still able to maintain the funny and flirty tone of the song and he’s able to add new, funny moments. This proves that changing and updating things can be fun, even if the update comes from serious topics.