The holiday season is all about celebrating with family and friends, watching festive rom-coms, and coming to the horrible realization that “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”—that sweet, nostalgic holiday tune played in every mall across America from November to January—might actually be about date rape. Thankfully, John Legend and Kelly Clarkson are releasing a cover of the Frank Loesser classic, which is awesome news in itself. But even better, they’ve tweaked those problematic lyrics.
In his cover story interview with Vanity Fair, Legend revealed that he and Insecure writer Natasha Rothwell updated the lyrics to clearly state sexual consent. He and fellow Voice judge Kelly Clarkson then recorded the 2019-friendly duet, which will be featured on Legend’s upcoming holiday album A Legendary Christmas: Deluxe Edition.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which was written in 1944, takes the form of some (quote-unquote) playful banter between a man and a woman at a party. In a nutshell, the woman is pretty drunk and thinks she should go home, but the man is insistent that she stays with him and argues against every single one of her repeated protestations.
For example, here are real, actual lyrics from the original version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”:
Woman: “I really can’t stay.”
Man: “Oh baby, don’t hold out.”
But one of the most problematic lines is when the woman questions what’s in her drink, which, as modern listeners have pointed out, could imply date rape. Of course, it’s important to remember the context in which the song was written. Some journalists have even launched feminist defenses of the song, noting that modern listeners overlook the indication that the woman wants to stay the night, but societal expectations won’t allow her to act on her desires.
Still, the general consensus states that “Baby It’s Cold Outside” doesn’t hold up. It’s lyrics like “Say, what’s in this drink?” that impelled a Cleveland radio station to ban the song from rotation last year, and for Legend to reclaim the beloved song to suit the #MeToo era.
An updated verse in the Legend-Clarkson duet, for example, goes like this:
Clarkson: “What will my friends think…”
Legend: “I think they should rejoice.”
Clarkson: “…if I have one more drink?”
Legend: “It’s your body, and your choice.”
And another verse goes:
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 in paradise)
My mother will start to worry (I’ll call a car and tell ’em to hurry.)
Now, this is a classic fit for the new age.
In addition to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” 2.0, the deluxe edition of A Legendary Christmas will feature three new tracks: “This Christmas,” “My Favorite Things,” and “Christmas in New Orleans.” The full album will be released on November 8th.