It’s that time of year again.
Time for heated holiday debate over whether “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is genuinely problematic.
There’s the argument it was written during a different time. Frank Loesser debuted his song in 1944 with his wife, which some consider proof of its consensual nature.
In this #MeToo climateof new awareness and vigilance over sexual assault and consent, does preserving the historical context really matter?
“I’ve never really noticed the lyrics of that song, but they’re really Weinstein-level creepy,” said Charlie Klarsfeld, founder of LUCY, a New York-based music collective that creates soundscapes and mix tapes for brands such as Chloe and Glossier.
Some artists have found ways to celebrate the song with updated tweaks.
- Idina Menzel and Michael Bublé altered the lyrics to remove suggestive and alcohol references in their duet for a music video featuring two children.
- Lady Gaga and Joseph Gordon-Levitt performed it with a gender swap in her 2013 “Muppets Holiday Spectacular.”
- In 2016, Minneapolis-based musicians Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski rewrote the male callbacks on the track completely, keeping the woman’s lyrics mostly the same.
“It’s the man’s responsibility to change,” Lemanski said on their song’s intent.
But not all the attention was positive. “I would get periodic hate mail. Sometimes in the middle of May, someone would be like, ‘Kill yourself,’” said Liza, noting nearly all of the negative messages would come directly to her and not her male partner.
Most common was the argument that the song was written in a “different time.” “Contrary to what people think, we do know the context of the song,” Lemanski said.
They say they’ve received fan mail from listeners who said they replaced the original track with the updated version on their regular holiday rotation. While the events of 2016 — Brock Turner and the presidential election — drove the duo to their project, they believe their song is even more relevant this year, when the conversation around consent and sexual harassment dominates the news.