The controversy over the 1944 Christmas classic “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has led to boycotts from radio stations across the country over concerns that lyrics that once seemed quaint have a more sinister overtone in the wake of the #MeToo movement. “I ought to say no, no, no sir (mind if I move in closer?)/ At least I’m gonna say that I tried (what’s the sense in hurtin’ my pride?),” read the lyrics to the Frank Loesser tune.
The backlash kicked off when Cleveland radio station Star 102 decided to remove the song from its Christmas playlist after a listener complained about the song that details a conversation between a woman who is trying to leave a man’s house in a snowstorm as he tries to prevent her from going. According to the city’s FOX8, a listener called WDOK 102.1 to say that the song doesn’t align with the morals of the growing #MeToo movement.
And while the ban — which has reportedly spread to a number of other stations — has led to a handful of versions charting, and gaining big, on Billboard‘s Holiday Digital Song Sales chart, it has also spawned a new version from the viral-video-creating Holderness Family called “Baby, Just GO Outside.” The spoof song, which was released Monday, has already racked up more than 700,000 views on YouTube and another 54 million on Facebook.
“I really can’t stay/ OK, you’re free to go/ I’ve got to go away/ Understood. No means no/ This evening has been/ Super appropriate/ So very nice/ But I do understand consent/ My mother will start to worry/ Definitely text her right now/ My father will be pacing the floor/ Here’s the coat and there is the door,” the couple sing to each other. In this version, even though it’s cold outside, the man encourages the woman to go out into the cold and grab her Uber, offering to walk her to the curb amid their “totally consensual” interaction.
The family is best known for their 2013 “Christmas Jammies” parody video, and Penn Holderness tells Billboard that he and his wife Kim actually wrote the parody a year ago, in the thick of the #MeToo movement, but decided to hold off because it seemed inappropriate at the time. “If you look at the original 1944 video, that’s even creepy, with a lot of arm-grabbing and blocking of exits. And back then it meant something different, but it seems even creepier now,” he says. The couple wrote their take in the middle of the revelations about alleged sexual misconduct by former NBC anchor Matt Lauer but decided that the timing was not right, so they sat on it for more than a year.
“It’s never really funny, but it was so raw at that point… I was surprised when Kim looked at me and said, ‘I think people can take a minute to at least laugh at this song [now],'” he says, noting that “both sides” of the political fence seem to be enjoying their version.
In a blog on the couple’s site, Kim Holderness explained that they decided to put the song out now because both she and her husband have been sexually harassed. In her case, it was a male boss at a TV news station who cornered her in edit bays and punished her when she reported him, while her husband was cornered by a boss at a restaurant who groped him.
“In truth, Penn and I were nervous to publish this video,” she wrote. “Would victims think we’re minimizing their pain? Yes, we know the song was written at a time when women couldn’t stay with a man without being coy and being concerned about what the neighbors would think. I agree, the intent of the original song was not to promote date rape, but it is now 2018. We felt the song deserved a consent-update. Also, even after considering our own experiences, we thought what we wrote was funny.
“Do we feel the original song should be taken off the radio? Nah. There are much worse songs on the radio right now. We can turn the station. Did we write this song to mock the ‘PC movement’? Nope. We aren’t in the business of mocking people besides ourselves. Do we hope you can laugh at the new tune? That would be terrific.”
The original version was recently defended by Deana Martin, daughter of late crooner Dean Martin, who recorded the song in 1959. “I know my dad would be going insane right now… He would say, ‘What’s the matter with you? Get over it. It’s just a fun song.’ Because he was so sweet,” she told FOX & Friends on Monday. “He would never see anything bad in that. He was a great guy, fun guy, nice. And he wouldn’t want to do anything offensive; that wasn’t Dean Martin. So this has just been outrageous. It’s a sweet, flirty, fun holiday song. There’s nothing bad about that song and it just breaks my heart.”
Amid the controversy, the song’s profile has jumped up across a number of metrics thanks to several versions. On the Holiday Digital Song Sales chart dated Dec. 15, three interpretations of “Baby” make the survey’s three largest gains. Martin’s version, recorded in 1959, is the chart’s Greatest Gainer, rising 23-2 for its highest rank in over seven years; in the week ending Dec. 6, Martin’s take rose by 257 percent to 7,000 sold, according to Nielsen Music.
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. A number of versions also rise in streaming, including one by Brett Eldredge from 2016 featuring Meghan Trainor, which is up 36 percent to 3.6 million U.S. streams.