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John Legend and Kelly Clarkson remake a classic holiday tune

The first thing you encounter during the beginning of the holiday season isn’t bright lights or snowmen; it’s holiday music. 

As winter break gets closer, millions of people are listening to their favorite Christmas songs. Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” famously gains millions of streams every December according to Billboard. However, one particular Christmas song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” written by Frank Loessner in 1940, has recently come under fire.

Some view the song as an anthem about finding independence from societal norms. From a feminist reading of the lyrics, one can argue that she is not trying to leave the date but rather struggling with facing public ridicule over her decision to stay. Lyrics are always up for a person’s own interpretation, and it is important to take into account the cultural context of when a work was created. 

However, looking back on the lyrics from a modern perspective, many have noticed its disturbing implications. The song begins with a woman singing, “I really can’t stay,” while a man pleads, “But, baby, it’s cold outside.” The woman continues making excuses to leave, singing, “I ought to say no, no, no” while the man sings, “Mind if I move in closer.” This interaction between the woman trying to leave the date and the man trying to persuade her to stay is a central motif, creating an uncomfortable and off-putting tone. It also brings into question consent, something that has been at the center of media since the #MeToo Movement began, paired with discussions of media’s portrayal of romantic relationships and its traditionally inconsiderate treatment of women. Throughout the song, the woman is clearly looking to leave but is repeatedly stopped by an insistent man — circumstances we have seen lead to harm countless times.  

Those who disagree with this modern analysis of the song say it is simply a Christmas song and should be enjoyed with a lighthearted perspective. Nonetheless, overlooking flaws within our society, or passing them off as unintentional or humorous, is sometimes just as dangerous. 

Recently, John Legend released an updated version of the popular Christmas song, co-written by Natasha Rothwell and featuring Kelly Clarkson. Revamping the lyrics, Clarkson sings, “I’ve got to go away,” while Legend sings, “But, I can call you a ride.” Later in the song, Clarkson asks what will happen if she has one more drink, to which Legend replies, “It’s your body and your choice.” After receiving backlash, Legend defended his rendition of the Christmas classic. In an interview with the Observer, he said that although he understands “that people don’t like people who are overly preachy,” he sees nothing wrong with caring “about people who are often undervalued and overlooked in society.” 

Ultimately, there are larger issues concerning the depiction of women in media. The release of a revamped “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” brings into question the necessity of such a change; it would be naive to disregard the capitalistic motive in which artists and influencers are gaining profit without making definitive change.

Many people have different interpretations of the lyrics — I personally believe the song is a product of the culture and time period, albeit outdated — but it is wrong to accuse those who have issues with the song of being hypersensitive. Examining and questioning the past is central to learning and progressing as a society. The critique of things from the past is not scrutinizing or being overly sensitive; rather, it is a necessary practice, shedding a light on the misogyny of the past and setting an example for generations going forward. 

By Sarah Aie, Online editor-in-chief
Cartoon by Joy Wang, Arts editor and Copy editor-in-chief

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