Baby, it's middle-of-the-road outside

Published December 21, 2019

Christmas Drinks

I had heard that a new version of Baby It’s Cold Outside was going to be released, with updated lyrics, but I hadn’t heard it until recently. Kelly Clarkson and John Legend have rewritten the old classic which has come under fire for some difficult lyrics that could be considered to fall on the wrong side of consent.

I do get why the old song is problematic for some people. That line “what’s in this drink” can absolutely be taken out of context and if you read the lyrics at face value, it does sound like a guy trying to coerce his date to stay longer than she really wants to. But that’s only if you want to read those things into it, because the other view to take is that it’s a song from 70 years ago and it doesn’t actually mean any harm. Of all the songs in the world, this one wouldn’t be my first choice to cancel.

Whichever view you take, I don’t think the new version of the song fixes anything. I love Kelly Clarkson enormously but what has she done? In this new take on the situation, the guy is truly respectful of the woman (“it’s your body and your choice”) which is good, although he takes it far too far (“Say, lend me a coat”, “keep it girl, I don’t care”) by giving away his wardrobe. It also means there is literally no conflict (“I’ve got to go away,” “I can call you a ride”) so what’s the point? Where’s the wonderful call and response flow of “I’m leaving now” “ok”.

I do quite like the fact there’s a new character on the scene though. Our Kelly’s Uber driver arrives and his name is Murray, apparently, and he gets not one, but two shout outs in the song. Who is this Murray, why is he so important, and what’s his backstory? I need to know more.

It’s easy to make fun of this rewrite, because even though the intention was good, there just doesn’t seem to be a need for it. People seem to be divided into two camps - love or hate the original - and making a sub-par cover really isn’t going to please either. Sorry Kelly and John, better luck next time?

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