The Dark Side of Pop Christmas Hits

Yesterday we were driving home after church. Our 3-year-old in the backseat suddenly said, “Why won’t he let her go?” It took me a minute to figure out what she was talking about. I figured out she was listening to the lyrics of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which was playing on the radio. I have not laughed that hard in a long time.

This particular version of the duet was sung by Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton:

I find it absolutely hilarious that this v…

  1. Byron Horatio

    That’s very interesting and darkly humorous that such an innocent song of innuendo would push a man over the edge to radical violence. That said, I love Christmas music, but have to bite my tongue at the silly lyrics of “War is Over” and “Grown Up Christmas List.” Utter claptrap even if a great tune.

  2. Whiskey Sam

    I have had that very conversation with friends when we were in college.  We loved the song, but viewed in a certain light, it can be really creepy.  It would probably make for a subversively funny soundtrack to a horror flick.

  3. DrewInWisconsin

    My favorite twist on “Baby, it’s Cold Outside” is this recent version by Jill Phillips and Andy Gullahorn. (Streaming available at the link above.)

    She tells him to get lost, he wants to hang around and watch football. 

  4. KC Mulville

    Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme is the version I have. Eydie’s just playing hard to get.

    Playing hard to get … do feminists let women do that anymore? I always remember George Will lamenting that the bureaucrats at some college thought it’d be a good idea to enforce strict rules for dating. The rules stated that the man had to specifically ask, “May I touch that?”

  5. Ryan M

    We have the James Taylor version.  This year my wife and I were listening to that album, and when that song came on, she said “remember when there was a time when you would be worried about what the neighbors would think if you had a girl over at your house late?”

    Mollie, your feminist friends see date rape and victimhood in everything. Just as Al Sharpton sees a racist in everyone but himself, they see everyone out to destroy women except those who do it most – themselves.

    That said, all of our Christmas standards are oldies.  White Christmas, Holiday Inn, Nutcracker (and I have at least 2 different versions of “Carols of King’s College” on vinyl…  along with much classical music) Maybe it is part sentimentalism, but I find Christmas to be the most Christmasy when you go back in time a little.  Not simply because I long for some golden era – Christmas is all about history and tradition, going back to the first Christmas that we’re supposed to think about every year.  Sure, we add memories (and even traditions) ever year; but Christmas is also unchanging.  Each year we go back in time a little.

  6. DrewInWisconsin

    The sexual revolution has a weird prudery about it. Women are practically encouraged to turn themselves into sex objects, but men are not allowed to view them that way. It’s a strange bit of cultural schizophrenia.

  7. The Mugwump

    I wasn’t aware until just now that Rod Stewart actually knew how to sing.  This version must have been recorded before he blew out his vocal chords.  I’ve always found it mindly annoying that so many “singers” could make a living without mastering their trade by doing something as basic as taking voice lessons.  It’s rather like a carpenter trying to make a living without ever learning how to swing a hammer. 

  8. EJHill

    A Mark Steyn backstory in Reader’s Digest form:

    Frank Loesser (Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed in Business…) wrote the song for himself and wife, Lynn, to perform at parties. She was furious at him for selling “their song” to MGM for the Esther Williams picture Neptune’s Daughter.

    For most people in Hollywood and on Broadway it was a case of “love him and hate her.” In fact her nickname was “The Evil of Two Loessers.”

  9. GingerB

    My 26 year old niece thought “date rape” too.

  10. Mollie Hemingway
    EJHill: A Mark Steyn backstory in Reader’s Digest form:

    Frank Loesser(Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed in Business…)wrote the song for himself and wife, Lynn, to perform at parties. She was furious at him for selling “their song” to MGM for the Esther Williams pictureNeptune’s Daughter.

    For most people in Hollywood and on Broadway it was a case of “love him and hate her.” In fact her nickname was “The Evil of Two Loessers.” · 6 minutes ago

    She probably softened up after he won an Academy Award for it, no?

  11. River Otis

    It always occurred to me that this song was about a date rape, but it’s the product of a different time.  It’s like a Pepe LePew cartoon; you’d never get away with it now, but people associate it with a time before anyone dreamed of such a thing as date rape. 

    Popular culture encouraged girls to play hard-to-get as recently as the 80s.

  12. Atavist

    Maybe it’s time to ask the meta-question: why was Sayyid Qutb ever allowed general access to ordinary citizens in a Western country? And while we’re on that, why was Barack Obama Sr. ever allowed similar privileges?

  13. Knotwise the Poet

      I felt slightly conflicted about the song when I listened closely to it and picked up the “What’s in my drink?” line, but the melody and cleverness of it wins me over.  It also helps knowing it started out as a cute husband-and-wife routine (I see EJ already brought up Mark Steyn’s bio of the song). 

      I really like this fun role-reversal of the song that GAP did a few years ago with Rainn Wilson from The Office and Selma Blair.

  14. Barkha Herman

    Mollie -

    I remember this one time when my daughter was very young and decided to fill out a form in a magazine.  She asked me what sex meant.  Clearly, she was stumped by the M/F check box title on the form – nothing more insidious than that.

    Inappropriate is what you want to make it.  Yes the words of the song are a bit dubious.  My response would be a simple “He really likes spending time with her” to “why won’t he let her go?”.

    I doubt the song was about date rape drugs.

    Why can’t we just all stop psycho analyzing everything and enjoy Christmas music?

  15. Barkha Herman

    Mollie -

    One more thought.  There will be plenty of “dark side” moments forthcoming as your kids get older, and they will be varying degrees of darkness.

    Enjoy the innocent time while you can.

  16. Sabrdance

    Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban did the number twice, and they traded roles.  In that instance, the song is remarkably even-handed.

    It still creeps me out.

    But we’ve established I’m a softee.

  17. N.M. Wiedemer

    I find the song tends to stand or fall by who’s doing the male vocals: James Taylor equals; sweet and playful, Rod Stewart; creepy and pathological.

    The melody and clever writting make it a clear winner though.

      But really, if this song and a church social is what drove ol’ Qutb over the brink, It was only a matter of time before anything threw him into a  full blown hissy-fit. If not a secular Christmas ditty, maybe Disney’s Lady and Tramp, or a Gil Elvgren pin-up would have sufficed.

    But then again, I get skeezed by the hyper-sexualized/commercialised “Santa Baby” in full on, gross-out, baby talk mode. But not enough to run off and create a militant theocratic movement over it .

  18. Crow
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.: Remember when our society had innuendo? Remember when social constraints made seduction sexy?

    Some of us of a certain taste still prefer it that way….

    As for the date rape, that’s a very dark reading–I always took it that the drink was merely strong, and that the song fell into the “male coaxing and suggesting”/”female shy and hard to get” variety–not male predator, female victim.

  19. notmarx

    “My feminist friends assure me that this really a song about date rape and roofies — the man is taking advantage of an unwilling victim.”


    I thought this was a joke.  If not, your feminist friends have put themselves beyond parody.  I like when HE tells her HER, “Your eyes are like starlight now.”  I’ve yet to hear a version I didn’t like.  My favorite  is by Ray Charles and Betty Carter.  Both the partners in the duet know exactly what’s going on — if not what will happen when the talking’s done.     

  20. EJHill
    Barkha Herman:  Clearly, she was stumped by the M/F check box title on the form – nothing more insidious than that.

    When I get to the check boxes next to “sex” on forms I am inevitably disappointed by the lack of “Yes!” and “Please!”

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