While it’s not quite time to crack open the eggnog, John Legend and Kelly Clarkson are already starting to spread the Christmas spirit with their festive new duet: a revamped take on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”
Last year the Oscar-winning holiday classic — written in 1944 by Frank Loesser and sung by the likes of Dean Martin, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and countless others — was banned from some radio station playlists after its lyrics were deemed “no longer appropriate,” as Cleveland’s Star 102 employee Glenn Anderson put it. The song features a male voice urging his female date to stick around and get “closer” despite her protests that she “really can’t stay.” While she sings “I ought to say no, no, no,” he responds, “What’s the sense in hurting my pride?”
The lack of consent implied has proved problematic in the #MeToo era, prompting Legend to team up with Insecure actress and writer Natasha Rothwell on tweaking the lyrics to give the female protagonist more agency and control. Her date is also more passive and less pushy.
Set to appear on Legend’s forthcoming Christmas album, A Legendary Christmas: The Deluxe Edition, the song now includes less threatening lines like “I really can’t stay (Baby it’s cold outside)/ I’ve gotta go away (I can call you a ride)/ This evening has been (so glad that you dropped in)/ So very nice (time spent with you is paradise)/ My mother will start to worry (I’ll call a car and tell ‘em to hurry).”
The Oscar-winning singer’s Voice co-star, Clarkson, lent her vocals for the female role. Elsewhere in the song, she asks what her friends will think if she stays for another drink, to which Legend responds, “It’s your body, and your choice.”
While enthusiasm for a Legend and Clarkson collaboration is high, many aren’t so sure about the song choice or its woke update. On one end of the idealogical spectrum are conservative critics who call it pandering to “snowflakes”; on the other, those who say the song and its date rape image are beyond saving.
“That was just a flirtatious, fun song on both sides,” she continued. “You have to look at the intent of the song back then. They’re flirting with each other, he doesn’t want her to go, she kinda doesn’t want to go and it’s just a fun song. But good on John Legend and Kelly Clarkson.”
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