There are some holiday songs that haven’t aged particularly well, like “Santa Baby,” which is apparently about a toddler woman who is very horny for Santa; or “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” about a nosy kid who narcs on his mom; and “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” which paints Santa as a creepy old dude who watches you while you’re sleeping. And then there’s the most infamous offender of all: “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” about a man who refuses to let a woman leave his house and go the fuck home. In the 75 years since it was first written by Frank Loesser, the festive track has been performed and recorded by various duos, including Ricardo Montalbán and Esther Williams, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, and Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera. There’s a version of this song for everyone—unless you don’t enjoy songs about a woman being held hostage by some guy who may or may not have drugged her adult beverage, wink wink. In this post-#MeToo world, who will give us a version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” that honors the festive tone of the song while respecting a woman’s bodily autonomy and removing any veiled references to roofies? Who will forsake the very idea of context? Who will make “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” safe for our children?!
According to The New York Times, Kelly Clarkson and John Legend have taken this most righteous burden upon themselves, with the help of Insecure’s Natasha Rothwell. Legend and Rothwell co-wrote the new, not-rapey version of the Christmas classic for Legend’s upcoming holiday album A Legendary Christmas: The Deluxe Edition. In the new iteration of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” when Clarkson sings “I’ve got to go away,” Legend chivalrously replies with “I can call you a ride,” and it goes on:
“What will my friends think,” Clarkson sings.
“I think they should rejoice,” Legend replies.
“If I have one more drink?” she continues.
“It’s your body, and your choice,” he sings.
So while this is definitely a new cover of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” it’s not necessarily “improved,” per se. It’s definitely the sort of Christmas song you might find playing in the home of a man who owns at least one fedora and constantly reminds you what a good ally he is to women, completely oblivious to the fact that he is centering himself in issues that are very specifically not about him, which is obnoxious and offensive in its own way—but hey, did you know that he’s seen Nanette three times?
Listen, if you find the original version a little too icky, that’s fine; as John “M’lady” Legend says, “it’s your body, and your choice.” But this is also exactly why it’s okay to pretend like this version never happened.