“Say, what’s in this drink?”
Since the president declared we can say “Merry Christmas” again, at long last I can confess: I love the holiday classic songs piped everywhere we go.
Every year I wallow in the Sinatra Holiday station on Pandora with timeless greats by Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Peggy Lee, Burl Ives, José Feliciano, Jimmy Durante, Judy Garland, Percy Faith and His Orchestra, Alvin and the Chipmunks and of course, Frank and his mic-drop version of every Christmas song he decided to perform. (Yes, Millennials, there really was good stuff before you were born.)
Except for Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” remakes of the classics usually are unforgivable offenses against taste and decency, to quote the legendary philosopher Ignatius Reilly.
For instance, Michael Bublé’s “Santa Baby” remake of Eartha Kitt’s sublime and, um, earthy rendition? Why? Why?! GOOD GOD, WHY?
The way Ms. Kitt performs the song, I’d gladly, as requested, fill her stockings with the sable, convertible, platinum mine, duplex and signed checks, Tiffany decorations and the ring she requested if I could afford any lavish gifts.
On the other hand, Bublé’s version (“Santa baby, slip a Rolex under the tree, for me/I’ve been an awful good guy”) belongs in a playlist in a circle of hell just below Dante’s Third where sinners must flail for eternity in a vile slush produced by a never-ending icy rain, like living in Boston.
Come to think of it, “vile slush” pretty much describes most holiday classic remakes.
Speaking of vile slush and Dante’s woeful realm, this year with Weiner and Weinstein and Franken and Affleck, Toback and Halperin and Lauer and Spacey, and all the other slime deer pulling a fetid sleigh loaded with wrong (note: Trump in this overwrought analogy is Rudolph), one holiday classic might finally be sent to the afterlife: Baby It’s Cold Outside.
You know the song. Woman is trying to leave guy’s place after a nice date. Smoothie guy is pressuring her to stay, hoping for shenanigans and whatnot:
I really can’t stay (but baby, it’s cold outside)
I’ve got to go away (but baby, it’s cold outside)
This evening has been (been hoping that you’d drop in)
So very nice (I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice)
My mother will start to worry (beautiful what’s your hurry?)
My father will be pacing the floor (listen to the fireplace roar)
Then the icky Cosbyesque part:
The neighbors might think (baby, it’s bad out there)
Say what’s in this drink? (no cabs to be had out there)
Then the guy plays the Weinstein whining guilt card:
You’ve really been grand (I thrill when you touch my hand)
But don’t you see? (how can you do this thing to me?)
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?)
I really can’t stay (Oh baby don’t hold out)
But baby, it’s cold outside
There it is, the usual old manstupid, clueless and lousy with sexist and sexual macro- and micro-aggressions.
The guy in the song sounds a little pathetic, but no matter: Every holiday season in recent years, this Oscar-winning 1944 song by legendary Broadway composer and lyricist Frank Loesser (“Guys and Dolls”, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”) becomes a political hacky sack.
Like the (updated) parable of the sightless men inappropriately touching an endangered elephant, everyone interprets “Baby It’s Cold Outside” from his/her experience and perspective.
For recording artists, the song has been irresistible. Duets over the years have run the gamut:
· The sublime: Dean Martin/Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald/Louis Jordan, Betty Carter/Ray Charles
· The awkward: Zooey Deschanel/Leon Redbone, Dolly Parton/Rod Stewart, Norah Jones/Willie Nelson
· The odd, hackneyed and needless: Sara Bareilles/Seth MacFarlane, Darius Rucker/Sheryl Crow, Lady Gaga/Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
· The demise of American culture: Idina Menzel/Michael Bublé.
For the politically woke, the song represents classic white Western patriarchal, phallocratic Weinstein-style sexual dominance and coercion, so the song should be abolished immediately from playlists lest our children grow up gender-insensitive and un-woke like we did.
For the politically tone deaf, the Weinstein Defense suffices; “all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.” The guy in the song was just innocently cajoling a gal he liked to possibly achieve sexual congress, just as our fathers did with our mothers to spawn us.
For the politically advanced, the song represents “an anthem for progressive women… and even [a] subversive message about woman’s sexuality in its own time,” a Washington Post guest columnist, a Georgetown University graduate student, explained in 2014.
Even if the woman in the song wanted to stay, she worried about slut-shaming by family and neighbors. “In this light, the song could be read as an advocacy for women’s sexual liberation rather than a tune about date rape,” the columnist noted.
To the politically regressive, the oversensitive safe-space snowflakes and PC Police are overreacting deliciously as usual.
Noting that Loesser wrote the song to perform with Lynn Garland, his wife and musical partner, at parties, a Daily Caller writer argued, “It was written in an era when seduction was not synonymous with sexual assault, you didn’t need to sign a consent form to hold a girl’s hand, and men weren’t assumed to be vicious predators. In fact, the only vicious one in this song is the woman’s aunt.”
To the comedy-inclined, the song has been ripe for parody, from SNL’s version with Jimmy Fallon imploring his date to stay and then to leave, to “Newer versions of the song [that] similarly manipulate gender roles in order to challenge its masculine message,” the Post guest columnist noted, citing Miss Piggy’s pursuit of Rudolf Nureyev in a steam room and an episode of “Glee” where two men perform the duet.
For me, the comedic approach is best because it’s fun and most of all, safest. The political battlefield is a minefield. One false move — left or right, woke or innocently asleep — and you’re troll meat.
So let’s keep “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Mock it. Rewrite and perform it ironically. Interpret it this way and that. Let the original be culturally appropriated to teach a new generation that coercion is always uncool.
Most of all, let’s relent with the politics, have a happy holiday season, and cuddle up because baby, it’s cold outside.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer