'Baby, It's Cold Outside' Heats Up On Charts After Lyrics Controversy

Kevin Kane/Getty Images for The Rainforest Fund
Idina Menzel performs onstage during The Revlon Concert for the Rainforest Fund 'Baby It's Cold Outside' at Carnegie Hall on Dec. 14, 2016 in New York City. 

After a Cleveland radio station banned the song, multiple versions gain in sales and streaming, while still drawing over 10 million in airplay audience.

A Cleveland radio station has removed "Baby, It's Cold Outside" from its playlist, but several versions of the holiday song surged in sales and streaming and continued to draw airplay in the latest tracking week, according to Nielsen Music.

At the end of November, Adult Contemporary chart reporter WDOK drew attention (including here, here and here) for its announcement to ban the song. "I gotta be honest, I didn't understand why the lyrics were so bad...until I read them," WDOK air talent Glenn Anderson told Cleveland.com. "I do realize that when the song was written in 1944 [by Frank Loesser], it was a different time, but now while reading it, it seems very manipulative and wrong. The world we live in is extra sensitive now, and people get easily offended, but in a world where #MeToo has finally given women the voice they deserve, the song has no place."

In the days since, however, the song's profile has swelled in multiple metrics, and encompassing multiple versions.

SALES

Most notably, on Billboard's Holiday Digital Song Sales chart dated Dec. 15, three interpretations of "Baby" appear, the most of any title, and they make the survey's three largest gains, respectively.

Dean Martin's version, recorded in 1959, is the chart's Greatest Gainer, soaring 23-2 for its highest rank in over seven years (after leading the list for a week in October 2011). In the week ending Dec. 6, Martin's take charged by 257 percent to 7,000 sold.

Plus, Idina Menzel's 2014 version with Michael Bublé re-enters Holiday Digital Song Sales at No. 29, up 165 percent to 2,000 sold, and Leon Redbone and Zooey Deschanel's 2003 duet, from the Elf soundtrack, debuts at No. 41, bounding by 130 percent to 2,000 sold.

The three tracks' sales gains of 257, 165 and 130 percent, respectively, far outpace the average increase of all holiday songs in the tracking week: 34 percent.

STREAMING

Different versions of "Baby" likewise leap in streaming. On the Holiday Streaming Songs chart, Martin's climbs 33-25, up 54 percent to 8.2 million U.S. streams in the week ending Dec. 6.

Just below the 50-position tally, Menzel and Bublé's duet also gains by 54 percent, to 4.8 million, and Brett Eldredge's 2016 cover, featuring Meghan Trainor, is up 36 percent to 3.6 million.

As in sales, the three versions' streaming gains are higher than the average for all holiday tracks (in on-demand streaming) in the tracking week: 32 percent.

AIRPLAY

As for radio airplay, versions of "Baby" both increased and decreased in the tracking week.

The top take, Eldredge and Trainor's, gained by 14 percent to 5.7 million impressions. Menzel and Bublé's, however, fell by 29 percent to 3.4 million. (Both versions topped the AC chart earlier this decade.) Martin's dips slightly, by 3 percent to 1.1 million. Combining their airplay, the three songs' audience for the week ending Dec. 9 totaled 10.2 million, down from 10.9 million the week before.

Programmers playing "Baby" maintain that the song remains a seasonal fit.

"We love it here. I have not had any listener complaints," says Emily Boldon, program director of WWLI Providence, Rhode Island, which played multiple versions of the song last week, led by Menzel and Bublé's (18 spins). "Last year, [morning hosts] Heather [Gersten] and Steve [Donovan] did a show dedicated to listeners' thoughts on the song and, overwhelmingly, our audience agreed that it is a delightful holiday favorite. I haven't looked back since."

"The topic has not come up again this year, and we have not received any complaints about playing the song," Gersten, also the station's assistant PD, says. "If anything, we've heard from listeners who are glad we're still playing it."

WRRM Cincinnati is also playing different covers of "Baby," including by Seth MacFarlane and Sara Bareilles, from 2014. "I have no qualms about playing the song, and have actually gotten compliments from listeners for doing so," echoes PD Brian Demay, who poses that "Baby" could be deemed a "feminist anthem, of sorts.

"Let me explain," he says. "Consider the lyrics: 'I ought to say no.' Perhaps the woman is not trying to fend off a man's advances as much as she is mouthing excuses so she can 'at least say' that she tried. I don't think she is being forced to do anything. She decides to stay for another drink. She decides to stay for 'half a cigarette more.'

"The reality of America [in 1944] was that a guy would not have been looked down upon for having a woman spend the night; the woman, however, would have been judged harshly," Demay muses. "In this song, the woman considers what her 'vicious' aunt, her 'suspicious' sister, the neighbors and her brother would think.

"The woman is balancing her desire to have a consensual evening with a good-looking dude with the effect it would have on her reputation, but ultimately, it is her choice.

"Pretty revolutionary lyrics for the 1940s!"