BY CASSI GORMAN
Changing lyrics to make them “politically correct” in the aftermath of the #Metoo movement, John Legend released on Nov. 7 a rewritten “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” sung with Kelly Clarkson. However, Legend fails magnificently in his task, paradoxically undermining proponents of the movement and their efforts.
Later winning an Academy Award, the song was written in 1944 by Frank Loesser as a duet for him and his wife to sing to guests during Christmas parties. The original lyrics have been subject to avalanches of criticism, as people claim the lyrics insinuate sexual pressure, even the use of date-rape drugs. This claim dates back to a 2004 article in Canada’sNational Post.
Controversy crescendoed last year after a Cleveland radio station pulled the song from their station because of public outcry, only to overturn that decision one week later due to—you guessed it—public outcry.
This brings us to November, when Legend released the deluxe version of his album “A Legendary Christmas,” the fifth track being the “Baby” rewrite. Co-written by Natasha Rothwell, the lyrics have Legend singing lines like “We’re both adults so who’s keeping score?” and “It’s your body and your choice.” The rewrite seems harmless, but Legend has misinterpreted the original song entirely. The original is an example of consensual, playful flirting that has become horribly distorted by trying to view it from today’s norms. Contrary to the criticisms, the truth is that the woman wants to stay.
In the 1940s, women having sexual desires was taboo, and women were not supposed to think about sex, much less actively pursue it. The story of “Baby” is one of a girl’s desires clashing with society’s expectations. The line “At least I’m gonna say that I tried” is incredibly telling. She’s decided to stay and understands that people will think differently of her.
There is a large base of criticism against Legend’s rewrite. Sharon Osbourne has spoken out in relentless opposition to the song and was supported by the daughter of Dean Martin, who recorded the most popular version of “Baby.”
So, you ask, what’s the harm in the new version?
Legend has a nice voice, and the rewrite may clear up confusion from cultural shifts over time. Firstly, Legend has given the spotlight to a fictitious problem with Loesser’s song. This removes focus from the real goal of the #Metoo movement. Let’s fix the real problems that people face when dealing with consent. It’s easy to fix a lyric. It is harder to actively pursue solutions to the real issues. Legend created a band-aid for one of the most prevalent issues in society today.
Secondly, Legend has validated the false claim that “Baby” is an example of non-consensual coercion. By doing so, the lines of consent are more confused than before. The rewrite is an insult to proponents of the #Metoo movement who have worked so hard to make the definition crystal clear.
There is no doubt in my mind that Legend means well. However, to gloss over and ignore common misinterpretations such as these is to further a deep misunderstanding that is socially and politically detrimental to society and, especially, to women.
The duty falls on us to correct these views and educate. I am proud to be part of a generation that has demonstrated unprecedented capabilities in transforming the political and social realm, and I look up to those who continue to speak out for the right to their bodies.
Have a consensual Christmas, everyone.