COLUMN: Taking a closer look at a seasonal song

The world has changed since 1944, when Baby, It’s Cold Outside was written

The festive season has its own special soundtrack of carols, winter songs, contemporary hits and holiday classics.

But at some radio stations, the playlist is a little shorter this year.

When listeners complained to Star 102 in Cleveland, Ohio about the song, Baby, It’s Cold Outside, the radio station announced it would no longer play the song.

In Canada, Rogers Media and Bell Media have also pulled the song at their stations.

The song, featured in the 1949 romantic comedy, Neptune’s Daughter, is a conversation between a man trying to persuade a woman to spend the night with him rather than go home in the cold.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside was written by Frank Loesser in 1944, and in the years following, he and his wife Lynn Garland sang it as a duet.

In 1948, Loesser sold the song to MGM.

It won an Oscar in 1950 for Best Original Song and it has been covered many times over the years.

Some of the performers covering it have included Don Cornell and Laura Leslie in 1949, Dean Martin in 1959, Barry Manilow and K.T. Oslin in 1990, Bette Midler and James Caan in 1991, Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton in 2004 and Amy Grant and Vince Gill in 2016.

But today, some say the lyrics are cold and manipulative, not warm and romantic.

In the last few years, there have been calls to let the song become a forgotten piece of history.

“I really can’t stay. I’ve got to go away,” the woman says.

But the man insists she stay inside with him.

“Well, maybe just half a drink more,” the woman finally agrees.

The next lines, if stated today, would seem uncomfortable and manipulative.

“Say, what’s in this drink?” the woman asks. “I wish I knew how to break this spell. I ought to say no, no, no sir. At least I’m gonna say that I tried.”

“What’s the sense of hurting my pride?” the man replies.

“The answer is no,” the woman says.

But the man continues to make his demands. “How can you do this thing to me? Making my life long sorrow.”

In the 1940s, this dialogue may have seemed light, flirtatious and perhaps a bit risqué. But in the seven decades since the song was written, the world has changed.

Today, when so-called date rape drugs such as Rohypnol, GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric) and Ketamine are sometimes used to assist in sexual assaults, the question, “What’s in this drink?” isn’t a cute line anymore.

In recent years, there has been a growing movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault, and the #MeToo movement which came to the forefront in October 2017 has been raising awareness of a problem which is far too widespread.

The lyrics to Baby, It’s Cold Outside seem out of place against the backdrop of current events and trends.

Glenn Anderson, show host at Star 102, has acknowledged that the song is the product of a different era.

“But now while reading it, it seems very manipulative and wrong,” he added. “The world we live in is extra sensitive now, and people get easily offended, but in a world where #MeToo has finally given women the voice they deserve, the song has no place.”

Pulling the song from a radio station’s playlist should not be seen as an attempt to rewrite history to remove the parts that are no longer in vogue.

It is simply about radio stations removing one song — a song with uncomfortable lyrics —from their playlists.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

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