Raymond Arroyo: John Legend turns 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' into a clunky #MeToo anthem

This Christmas, John Legend is draining the romance and edge from the Christmas chestnut, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with a virtue-signaling rewrite. The tune, which has been performed by Dean Martin, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and even Will Ferrell and Zoey Deschanel in "Elf" has become a Christmas staple -- even though there are zero references to the season, and nothing is even vaguely sacred about the ditty.

Broadway composer Frank Loesser wrote the tune in 1944 as a duet to perform with his wife at parties. It is a wintry, romantic sparring set to music. And while generations of music fans saw it as a flirty song about two people trying to find an excuse to spend the night together, some contemporary listeners hear only a “date rape” song.

These lyrics are the ones often cited as offensive:


The neighbors might think (Baby it's bad out there)

Say what's in this drink? (No cabs to be had out there)

Now the lady in the song might simply be inquiring about the ingredients of her cocktail. But in the wake of the Bill Cosby drugging scandal, listeners imagined the male character as a predator and demanded that the song be pulled from radio playlists during Christmas.


Frank Loesser’s daughter, Susan, told NBC News last year that her father wouldn't appreciate the radio stations that have banned his song. "I think my father would be furious at that. People used to say 'what’s in this drink' as a joke. You know, this drink is going straight to my head so what’s in this drink? Back then it didn’t mean you drugged me."

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No matter. Enter John Legend to clean up and repair Frank Loesser for a new generation with a “newfound sensitivity” (according to a gushing Vanity Fair cover story). On his soon to be released Christmas album, he and Kelly Clarkson sing Legend’s #MeTooed lyrics, changing the following from the original:

I really can't stay (But baby it's cold outside)

I've got to away (But baby it's cold outside)

To this:

I really can’t stay (Baby it’s cold outside)

I’ve gotta go away (I can call you a ride)

And the original song's:

My mother will start to worry (Beautiful, what’s your hurry)

The neighbors might think (Baby it's bad out there)

Say what's in this drink? (No cabs to be had out there)

Have become in the Legend rewrite:

My mother will start to worry (I’ll call a car and tell ’em to hurry)

What will my friends think (I think they should rejoice)

If I have one more drink? (It’s your body and your choice)

Not only do the rewrites totally cut against the character’s intentions and the whole thrust of the song, but they’re also clunky and out of meter. (And isn’t the word "baby" derogatory?) Whatever the case, the Loesser estate should sue for disfigurement of a classic. Unfortunately, the song, this year, fell out of copyright and entered the public domain.

As for Legend’s heavy-handed attempt to protect women with his lyrics, one wishes he were equally as respectful with his words. The same Vanity Fair article that reported the song rewrite described Legend commenting on first lady Melania Trump: "'Hasn’t Melania opened the door for anyone to be a first lady?' says Legend, with his low chuckle. 'The biggest issue about this presidency is how they’ve just lowered standards for everything.'"


Thank goodness Legend has come along to raise the standards for rewriting classic songs. One only hopes he doesn’t discover other Frank Loesser tunes to maim with his politically correct pen. Those include "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition," "Standing on the Corner Watching All The Girls Go By," and the "Guys and Dolls" classic: "Sue me, sue me, shoot bullets through me, I love you."

Song lyrics should be evaluated and performed sensitive to the era of their creation, not distorted through the lens of contemporary political correctness or morays. And if Legend finds Loesser’s lyrics are so offensive, why not cast them aside and write all original Christmas songs for his upcoming album?  We’ll see if they attract audiences, or have any of the "heart and soul" or staying power of Loesser’s canon.