I wrote about Frank Loesser’s classic 1944 song, Baby, It’s Cold Outside, last year. His originally private party number portrayed a bit of romantic banter between him and his wife during a vastly different cultural climate. In today’s world, the lyrics don’t parse quite the same, and there have been creepy parodies, and even a “feminist-approved” parody.
According to CNN, one couple rewrote the song – in a serious vein – to remove any hint of coercion:
Singer-songwriters Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski, both from Minneapolis, said they were inspired to rework the song after bonding over a mutual dislike of the original’s lyrics …
I wonder what they think of Paradise by the Dashboard Light? Anyway, here is their version:
I really can’t stay/Baby I’m fine with that
I’ve got to go away/Baby I’m cool with that
This evening has been/Been hoping you get home safe
So very nice/I’m glad you had a real good time
My mother will start to worry/Call her so she knows that you’re coming
Father will be pacing the floor/Better get your car a-humming
So really I’d better scurry/No rush.
Should I use the front or back door?/Which one are you pulling towards more?
The neighbors might think/That you’re a real nice girl
What is this drink?/Pomegranate La Croix
I wish I knew how/Maybe I can help you out
To break this spell/I don’t know what you’re talking about
I ought to say no, no, no/you reserve the right to say no
At least I’m gonna say that I tried/you reserve the right to say no
I really can’t stay/…Well you don’t have to
Baby it’s cold outside
I’ve got to get home/Do you know how to get there from here
Say, where is my coat/I’ll go and grab it my dear
You’ve really been grand/We’ll have to do this again
Yes I agree/How ’bout the Cheesecake Factory?
We’re bound to be talking tomorrow/Text me at your earliest convenience
At least I have been getting that vibe/Unless I catch pneumonia and die
I’ll be on my way/Thanks for the great night
“You reserve the right to say no?” “Text me at your earliest convenience?” Seriously? I’ve done romantic banter, but I’ve never come out with something that sounds like the fine print on a service agreement.
Frankly these lyrics read like he wants her to get out, and keeps politely dodging any hint that she wants him to make the first move.
The Winter call and response song, Baby, It’s Cold Outside, was written by Frank Loesser in 1944 to sing with his wife at parties, but was popular enough that he sold it to MGM. In the film Neptune’s Daughter, Esther Williams sang the ‘mouse’ lyrics to Ricardo Montalban’s ‘wolf’ but later Red Skelton also sings mouse to Betty Garrett’s wolf.
I probably first heard Baby, It’s Cold Outside on the radio sung by Dinah Shore and Buddy Clark. I also remember hearing Louis Armstrong cajoling Velma Middleton at some point. Much, much later Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone did a nice version to close the film, Elf.
To my innocent ears it sounded like banter between a couple that were both interested but not yet all that intimate.The woman’s concerns about her reputation were still very real for the 1940s, but just nostalgic in an entertainment culture where most on-screen couples become sexually intimate almost immediately.
In the last few weeks, two versions make the song very creepy. One was on Saturday Night Live, with Kenan Thompson playing Bill Cosby, spiking Tina Fey’s drink. The other was on Funny Or Die with Scott Aukerman eventually tying Casey Wilson to a chair with duct tape, though she escapes and brains him with a fireplace shovel.
Are the lyrics actually creepy? Not to my mind, but they are open to criticism, starting with the first word. In one of the last lines of David Mamet’s case study of gender power dynamics, Oleanna, newly blossomed Carol hears her former prof on the phone with his wife, and directs him, “… don’t call her ‘Baby’.”
Clearly there is a persuader, the wolf, and a persuadee, the mouse, and the degree of persuasion is the object of contention. Yet another parody site has a supposedly ‘feminist-approved’ version of the song where she sings, “I really can’t stay,” and he says, “It’s totally fine. I’ll call you a cab.” But, “faint heart ne’er won fair maiden,” and a lot of what goes on between couples is delicate negotiation, often likened to a dance. I sang, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight to a girl once, and it worked out fairly well that night. But not in the long run.
One line of Cold Outside that always bothered me was, “What’s the sense of hurting my pride?” That makes it seem like the wolf is just counting coup.
I really can’t stay – Baby it’s cold outside
I’ve got to go away – Baby it’s cold outside
This evening has been – Been hoping that you’d drop in
So very nice – I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice
My mother will start to worry – Beautiful, what’s your hurry
My father will be pacing the floor – Listen to the fireplace roar
So really I’d better scurry – Beautiful, please don’t hurry
Well Maybe just a half a drink more – Put some records on while I pour
The neighbors might think – Baby, it’s bad out there
Say, what’s in this drink – No cabs to be had out there
I wish I knew how – Your eyes are like starlight now
To break this spell – I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell
I ought to say no, no, no, sir – Mind if I move a little closer
At least I’m gonna say that I tried – What’s the sense in hurting my pride
I really can’t stay – Baby don’t hold out
Ahh, but it’s cold outside
I simply must go – Baby, it’s cold outside
The answer is no – Ooh baby, it’s cold outside
This welcome has been – I’m lucky that you dropped in
So nice and warm — Look out the window at that storm
My sister will be suspicious – Man, your lips look so delicious
My brother will be there at the door – Waves upon a tropical shore
My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious – Gosh your lips look delicious
Well maybe just a cigarette more – Never such a blizzard before
I’ve got to get home – Oh, baby, you’ll freeze out there
Say, lend me your coat – It’s up to your knees out there
You’ve really been grand – Your eyes are like starlight now
But don’t you see – How can you do this thing to me
There’s bound to be talk tomorrow – Making my life long sorrow
At least there will be plenty implied – If you caught pneumonia and died
I really can’t stay – Get over that old out
Ahh, but it’s cold outside
Baby it’s cold outside
Brr it’s cold…
It’s cold out there
Can’t you stay awhile longer baby
Well… I really shouldn’t… Alright
Make it worth your while baby
Ahh, do that again…