One of the by products of the new ban on Baby, It’s Cold Outside is that I can’t stop humming it. It’s so eminently hummable. It doesn’t help that we listened to four hours of Christmas music last night, or that I’ve heard everyone from Dolly Parton to Dean Martin sing it in cover versions going back to the 1940s. In our extensive seasonal music collection, we must have at least a dozen versions and there are many more.
I never minded this song. I always thought it was cute. It was clear, to me anyway, that the lyrics were bantering — joking, that is — about the same things that bother modern listeners today. Sure, there were guys who’d spike a girl’s drink, but in the context of this song, there was nothing in the drink and both of the protagonists, girl and guy, knew that. When she says there’ll be talk if she stays, that’s what she means. It doesn’t matter whether they make out or play tiddly-winks — people will talk. She isn’t going to stay, but it’s cold outside. She’s stalling as much as he’s cajoling. But does he intend to rape her on the parlor floor? I think not. She’s too nice to hang around with a guy like that, and he hardly seems the type.
That’s my take, for what it’s worth. Meanwhile, around the country, radio stations are on the front lines of the Baby, It’s Cold Outside flappery. One station in Colorado reported that in a survey run after they pulled the song from their playlist, 95% of respondents wanted the song reinstated. Said another station manager, lightly paraphrased: “don’t mess with people’s Christmas music.” Still another noted that people’s interpretations of the song differed from the more literal interpretation of the song’s detractors. (Read news story here.)
I get, you get, the songwriters got that date rape is bad. It’s just that not everyone thinks this is a song about date rape.
Will Baby, Its Cold Outside survive this attack on its decency and indeed, commercial viability? I’m going to guess yes, at least for the short term. As long as people still enjoy it, it will be played. But its days are numbered. A new generation of Americans, whose values were formed in the recent past and who haven’t the background to be able to do a nuanced interpretation of a song this subtle, will simply stop enjoying it. And then, it will go the way of Wheezy in Toy Story — back shelf, historical interest only.