Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Monday, December 9, 2019

John Legend Rewrites Song "Baby It's Cold Outside" as a Song of Affirmative Consent

Why "Baby It's Cold Outside" Remains Controversial and Recently Got a Remake from John Legend [and Kelly Clarkson]

Every year, the anticipation of the holidays ushers in a return of winter classics on radios and streaming services across the United States, including the 1944 hit, "Baby It's Cold Outside."

 

The song continues to stir up controversy due to lyrics that some have considered questionable as they believe they advocate date rape.

 

Written by Frank Loesser, the 75-year-old song first became popular in 1949 as a twice-featured song in the MGM romantic comedy Neptune's Daughter.***

 

According to Rolling Stone, outrage over the song's lyrical content became prominent in 2007, following the emergence of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. However, the magazine also noted that frustration with the song had been brewing for a couple of years prior, with journalists and bloggers describing the depicted romantic encounter as "semi-consensual" or "a guy who hasn't taken 'no' for an answer."***

 

In 2014, a Washington Post opinion piece—drawing from a 2010 post from Persephone Magazine—noted in that the woman's lines in the song do not explicitly state her reluctance to leave for her own sake, but for the sakes of those who might worry about her or question her virtue.

 

The Post columnist, Marya Hannun, also mentioned that in 1944 the notion of an "unmarried woman staying the night at her beau's was cause for scandal," and that in the song, the woman lists her mother, father, sister and maiden aunt as the reasons for her departure.

 

"In this light, the song could be read as an advocacy for women's sexual liberation rather than a tune about date rape," Hannun wrote for the Post.

 

 Earlier this week, award-winning singers John Legend and Kelly Clarkson received both sharp criticism and high-praise from others for a revamped version of the song, which they performed Tuesday night on an episode of The Voice.

 

As Vanity Fair wrote last month, listeners can now hear Clarkson singing "What will my friends think?" and then Legend's reply: "I think they should rejoice." Clarkson continues by asking, "If I have one more drink?" Legend's answer: "It's your body, and your choice."

 

Legend chose to pen new lyrics to the song, sparking backlash from individuals who felt it shouldn't be changed.

Listen to it here.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/gender_law/2019/12/why-baby-its-cold-outside-remains-controversial-and-recently-got-a-remake-from-john-legend-and-kelly-clarkson-every-year.html

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