A Cleveland radio station has nixed the popular holiday classic “Baby It’s Cold Outside” from its rotation, after listeners complained that the song was “inappropriate,” and management agreed, Yahoo News is reporting.
Lots of radio stations around the country play round-the-clock Christmas music this time of year, and WDOK-FM (Cleveland) is no exception. However, as you’ve probably realized by now, a lot of the “Christmas” songs that wind up on playlists this season aren’t actually about Christmas. “Jingle Bells,” “Sleigh Ride,” “Winter Wonderland,” and a host of others are about winter, and don’t mention Christmas at all.
Joining that list is “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” The song, written in 1944, doesn’t mention Christmas, but does delve into the realities of winter, such as dealing with knee-deep snow (“it’s up to your knees out there.”)
However, if you listen to the lyrics closely, you can see that there’s more going on than just a back-and-forth between a female vocalist and a male vocalist complaining about winter weather. Rather, it’s a conversation between a man who’s trying to convince the woman to stay, over the protestations of the woman, who wants to go home.
Digging even further, we see that the male vocalists attempts a little, shall we say, chicanery, in trying to convince the woman to stay. He plies her with alcohol, perhaps even adulterating her drink (“say, what’s in that drink?”) and even pressuring her (“baby don’t hold out.”)
The whole thing may not have even caused a batted eye in 1944. But in 2018, the era of the #MeToo movement, and an era in which consent is an important part of relationships, the song, at least to some listeners’ ears, strikes the wrong chord (so to speak.)
WDOK‘s management team is not the first group of people to look at the classic song in a modern light. In fact, according to a December 2014 Washington Post report, by some measures the song is an homage to date rape.
However, that same WaPo report also notes that the lyrics must be examined in light of their historical context. The female character, for example, never actually says she personally doesn’t want to stay the night; rather, she appeals to her reputation and how others would react. And in the context of 1940’s culture, when an unmarried woman spending the night at her boyfriend’s house would have scandalized the entire city, her protestations seem to come from a place of wanting to stifle whispers, not because she’s not in the mood.
Of course, WDOK, all other round-the-clock Christmas music stations, and you, the reader of this article, can avoid the entire controversy simply by removing your old versions of this song from your playlists and substituting them with this version instead, by Michael Bublé and Idina Menzel.
Since the video for this song includes adolescent children pantomiming the roles, the saucier lyrics were replaced with far more chaste lyrics like “was that a wink” instead of “what’s in this drink.” Enjoy.