Monday, December 10, 2018

Baby It's Cold Outside

A number of people have asked me to comment on the recent flap where a Cleveland radio station banned the longtime American Songbook standard, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” because in light of today’s sensibilities the lyrics are potentially offensive to some. Now it used to be a reader would ask my opinion on something, I’d give it, and folks either agreed or disagreed with me.

That was then.

Today even a simple issue like “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is a loaded question. Because if I say, sure, play the record, I will be accused on condoning date rape, just as saying that Woody Allen once made funny movies unleashes a flurry of angry readers who will accuse me of condoning child molestation. A shout out to the “Honeymooners” means I’m all for spousal abuse. And I’ll be reviewing BLACKKKLANSMEN later this month. Take a guess what I’ll be labeled if I dare to not like that movie.

The point is, what should be a simple question is not. Not in 2018. So I ask you to take my answer at face value, not use it to label me, ostracize me, or blow it up into something way bigger than it is.

I happen to like the song. There’s a version played on (the best oldies station on the internet and planet) by Dolly Parton & Rod Stewart that I find charming. You can listen yourself at the bottom of this post (unless you’re in Cleveland — your ears need to be shielded). I’m all for #MeToo but I believe the spirit of the song is flirty not sinister. Yes, there are a couple of lines that today the lyricist might deftly avoid like “what’s in this drink?” But I never get the sense that he’s a dangerous predator. That’s just me. I don’t fear for Dolly’s safety.

I also understand the song "Kiss da Girl" from Walt Disney's LITTLE MERMAID was just taken off the 20 year repertoire list of a singing group due to 'concerns'. Huh????

I think you have to consider the context. Was the song considered objectionable before the #MeToo movement? A song I still hear all the time on Classic Rock and oldies stations is “Getting Better All the Times” by the Beatles from the classic Sgt. Pepper’s album. I’ve yet to hear an outcry to ban it. Ever listen to the lyrics?

I used to be cruel to my woman
I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved

To me that’s worse — even if it’s the Beatles and even if it’s a song on what many herald as the greatest rock album of all-time.

On the other hand, there is a song from the ‘60s sung by the Crystals called, “He Hit Me — It Felt Like a Kiss.” Now you NEVER hear that one on oldies stations (terrestrial or internet or wherever) and for good reason. Good God! A woman’s being abused and thinks it’s a good thing. Even when it came out people were saying “Really???” By the way, it was written by Carole King.

The line of acceptability changes as society does (although that Crystals song — Yikes!). Intent and era a song was released need to be factored in. If you don’t like “Baby It’s Cold Outside” or feel it’s inappropriate fine. But should it be banned from a radio station? Jesus, don’t we have bigger problems to worry about?


RockGolf (Not his real name) said...

Don't even get started on Beatles misogyny, until you read the lyrics of Run For You Life.

"I'd rather see you dead, little girl, than to see you with another man"

And the whole song is like that.

Anonymous said...

It is more a commentary on social norms. If you actually listen to the lyrics, she never says "No". She worries about appearances. She wants to stay, but is worried about what people will say. Even the line about the drink is (according to the internet) a common excuse of the time for when a woman would get caught going beyond social norms.
Overall, this has been the worst part of the meetoo movement - trying to reconcile past behaviors and situations. I remember when women were supposed to say no - even if they were the town tramp - and you would try again, and maybe it was yes. It was an accepted part of the dating ritual. It was not date rape, it was allowing the illusion, both to herself and the outside world, that she was a good girl. Part of the "game" was knowing when no meant no - because it rarely changed: for the true good girls, it always meant no, and for the others, it almost always meant yes.

Dan Sachs said...

The Beatles also have "Run For Your Life". "Every Breath You Take" could be added to the questionable content list.

Mike Barer said...

The Beatles "Run For Your Life" was shocking even when I first heard it in the 60s.

Roger Owen Green said...

But Getting Better, "Man, I was mean, but I'm changing my scene, and I',m doing the best that I can."
Also Getting Better has the most fascinating verse/chorus structure of any song I know.

Matt Barnett said...

The Cleveland radio thing? Smells like a radio stunt through and through. "Listener outcry" so we've stopped playing the song. Uh-huh.

But let's take it at face value: they banned the song because of it's lyrics. Ok. But as long as Cardi B's "Bodak Yellow" (look up the lyrics) can be a Billboard #1 hit, I'm gonna listen to "Baby It's Cold Outside" and tell you to shut your face.

Marsha said...

Hi Ken -
Believe me, I understand where you're coming from. Just one thing I wanted to mention about your post - the a cappella group that cut "Kiss the Girl" from its songlist did so less for the content of the song than for the shtick they have developed around it which involves bringing two people up to the stage (who are not audience plants and are not volunteers) and telling them to kiss at the end of the song. There are a lot of stories about how it felt very high pressure and people in the audience (particularly the women) often sat there thinking "please don't pick me." The song doesn't bother me at all, but dragging people on stage and urging them to kiss strangers is something that would make me uncomfortable as an audience member. I'm glad the group is taking the time to reconsider their shtick, and I can see why they would stop doing the song while they think about it.

Matthew said...

There's definitely some Yikes songs from that era. One I heard today (on RichbroRadio, love that station) is Little Miss Stuck-up by the Playmates. It's like an incel anthem!

mcalvie said...

Many things look different now than they used to. I am hoisting no pitchfork on either side of this argument. The way I see it, in light of current cultural awareness, it isn't surprising that many people now view the song as sinister.

But I'm also old enough to know that this is an old, old song, and if listened to in the context of its time, the 1940s, it comes across as flirtatious. Even the much maligned line "Say, what's in this drink?" could interpreted as simply asking how one makes that particular cocktail, this is how I think people have interpreted it up until today. I've also long felt that, really, the woman is the one really controlling the dialog. The guy is pleading his case, but she's the one who will decide whether she stays or not.

That said, if I were a woman who'd ever been slipped something in my drink, I'm sure I'd have a different take on it altogether. So I don't see this argument as having a right or wrong side, merely different interpretations. The only person who really knows what the song means is the guy who wrote it.

Janet said...

Actually, I found an alternative way to look at "Baby, It's Cold Outside,"

I'm one of those who disagreed on THE HONEYMOONERS but I believe we can have media criticism without becoming disagreeable or sinking to personal in our attacks.

As I said at the time, "But I believe we can discuss the issue and the content without taking shots at Ken.

"I have found Ken to deeply sensitive and thoughtful on a variety of issues."

Ken, you should keep writing what you want. There will always be some trolls out there who cross lines. If anything, you've been the grown up by publishing their comments.

But the comments are a sign of the success and popularity of your blog.

Oh and that Crystals songs? Carole King wrote that? What was she thinking?

Karan G said...

When you grow up in a society where some have an outlook of objectification, or even predatory behavior…and society seems to say “so what”….you essentially are taught that creepy behavior is acceptable. I don’t think that the standard has to be “criminal” I think that the standard can just be “creepy” or “non respectful of boundaries.” I’m glad that the song is being scrutinized and questioned, and I think it is healthy for us as a society to be questioning such things. If people want to listen to it, they can listen to it. The very fact that this song is even up for debate begs the argument that it may be a little creepy.

gottacook said...

The whole point of the lyrics of "Getting Better" is that the singer used to be a rotter and is now a better person ("Man I was mean but I'm changing my scene" are the next words after those quoted). The music itself expresses optimism. "Run for Your Life" from Rubber Soul makes "Getting Better" look benign by comparison.

Unknown said...

The song works both ways, as referenced with Red Skelton in the classic film, Neptune's Daughter. It is also my wife's favorite Christmas song, that little Mickey slipper. Keep up the good work, Ken. You gained a fan this year.

tavm said...

I saw a piece on this topic on "The View" and all the ladies agree with you. Though Joy Behar then noted another song called "Blurred Lines" is indeed about Date Rape. Also, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is about how Rudolph plowed through despite his being bullied (And "SNL" just had a sketch of how Rudolph likes to bully back, so it's all good), a high school production of The Sound of Music is now being performed without the Nazi flag for The Captain to rip up so some point will be lost on some members of the audience (unless they've seen the movie version unedited), and now some people are complaining about Franklin's position at the table in "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" after only 40 years of its broadcast? As anyone in the Peanuts gang would say, "Good Grief!"

Craig Gustafson said...

Speaking of the Beatles:

Well, I'd rather see you dead, little girl,
Than to be with another man,
You better keep your head, little girl,
Or you won't know where I am

You'd better run for your life if you can, little girl,
Hide your head in the sand, little girl,
Catch you with another man --
That's the end-uh, little girl.

That "end-uh." Hugely offensive. It's a one syllable word, for cryin' out loud. Unless it's a contraction of "of" -- "end o'." This must be protested.

Stuart Best said...

The thing that you miss, in your defense, is that in the era that song was written, a young unmarried woman would have to worry about "what the neighbors would thought" if she spent the night with a man. Giving in without being wooed would make her feel "easy" because that's how society trained women to feel. What's going on in that song is the kind of "negotiation," a verbal tango, that let the girl save face and blame it on the alcohol or something. She gets to feel she's not being cheap. When he goes to work or back to school the next day, he brags about it to his friends, but also protects her reputation by talking about the effort he put into it.

By the way, back in 1944, there were no date-rape drugs. When she says "What's in this drink?" she's referring to the amount of alcohol, not rohipnol or GHB.

The thing is, the feminist movement in the 1970s (or thereabouts) fought society's attitudes on this front and tried to empower women by saying that unmarried women shouldn't have to carry the burden of shame for "sleeping around" just as men did. If a single man could have a woman spend the night and get to brag about it in the locker room, that very woman shouldn't have to feel ashamed about it either. She shouldn't have to worry about what her parents or friends think. What was sexist about the attitude conveyed in that song (not the song itself) was that the woman didn't feel she had the freedom to say "Yes," not that couldn't say "No" (because she easily could have).

Feminism has been around since the 1960s. If it was such an objectionable song, it wouldn't have been sung for 60 years before a backlash started. It survived through decades of feminism, which makes me think that today's outcry is about something else. I agree that it probably shouldn't be played so widely today because the lyrics require context -- Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton remember what the old days were like, but young generations today don't get what's actually meant by "What's in this drink" and other lines. However, neither is it a date-rape song, and it should be appreciated for what it actually is (or was) rather than be unfairly mislabeled and presented without historical context -- that it is about a young woman finding her own sexual agency in the only way society allowed at the time.

Karan G said...

In the case of ‘sexual harrassment’ the Court uses a “Reasonable Woman standard.” i.e. would a reasonable woman consider this sexual harassment…. It’s interesting in a society that is taught certain social norms, that we may be resetting the “Reasonable Woman (or person) standard” by deciding that the social norms of the past that we found “reasonable” may be objectionable in a more awakened society.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

What I don't understand is why radio stations (and yes, it's more than just the one) are banning "Baby, it's Cold Outside" for being a "rape song" because of the MeToo Movement, but they're not banning Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" for literally blatantly promoting objectifying women and fornication because of the same movement. And what about all of the many songs Bruno Mars sings about getting his rocks off? "Locked Out of Heaven" is particularly sacreligious and blasphemous; and yet, we continue to hear these songs on the radio. All. The. Friggin. Time.

Covarr said...

"Baby It's Cold Outside" is interesting because its so-called problems largely stem from people today not understanding the historical context of the song. Not gonna get too far into that since it's been explained a million times by people more qualified to explain it than I am, but the thing is, if it meant what folks today often think it means, it really WOULD merit taking off the air. Yes, that interpretation is wrong and applies modern social conventions to another time where they don't fit, but if someone really does think that "what's in this drink" is referring to roofies or something, the response is understandable.

I can also sort of understand the response to "Kiss the Girl". Taken at face value without context, it is easy to see the argument that Ariel can't consent and therefore kissing her is an unacceptable advance. Again, though, it requires ignoring context. Her own body language should be more than enough to communicate that she wants it.

Patrick said...

A local Denver radio station also decided to ban the song after some listener complained, then put up a poll on whether or not they should play the song. It was 95% for playing the song, 5% against, so most people still reasonable on this sort of thing. (and by the way, something like 15,000 votes, so a pretty decent sample size)

JonCow said...

The song, written by the great Frank Loesser, was part of his nightclub act that he performed as a duet with his wife, before it was interpolated into the Esther Williams movie.

Andy Rose said...

Do you know how many radio stations this year have publicly confirmed that they are removing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from their playlists?

Two. TWO STATIONS. Out of more than 10,000 radio stations in the US. However one feels about the song, I can’t think of a bigger tempest in a teapot right now than this supposed “ban.”

Paul Gottlieb said...

The words to "He hit me (and it felt like a kiss)" were written by Gerry Goffin, as Carole King would be the first to tell you. He was an essential part of the success of the Goffin/King songwriting team, again as Carole King would be the first to tell you. Goffin had an amazing gift for expressing how young people, particularly young women felt inside. Not how they should feel, but how they actually felt. If you think that song doesn't express the way some young women understood relationships back then, and the stories they told themselves, you're kidding yourself. It's an uncomfortable song for a good reason

Jeff Boice said...

My favorite Christmas songs are those that remind me of my childhood Christmases- I suppose that's true for just about everyone. Baby Its Cold Outside was not one of those songs. So I was never interested in that one. However the Music Box Christmas album does it for me every time. And so does Burl Ives singing "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas". I'm more upset that no radio station plays Yorgi Yorgesson anymore. Pass the pickled herring.

blinky said...

You know the Archies "Sugar, Sugar" promotes an unhealthy lifestyle leading to diabetes and obesity. We must protect the children!

YEKIMI said...

Since I don't live that far from Cleveland, here's my take on the matter: It smells like a ratings stunt. There are three stations in the Cleveland market all playing Christmas music 24/7. WDOK [Star 102], a former CBS station now owned by Entercom, usually comes in 2nd in the ratings during the Christmas music season. So what better way to get some press coverage than manufacture a controversy over a song? Maybe listeners from the other stations will tune in to see what all the hullabaloo is about. They banned it by saying they got "complaints". You would have thought they had thrown a basket of puppies over a cliff into Lake Erie. People OUTRAGED that they banned a Christmas classic! Even though I am out of radio, I still have a few friends left and from what I heard from them it was ONE complaint; after they did that several more jumped on the band wagon bitching about it. They did a poll on their Facebook page whether they should dump it or play it and I think it was like 96% said PLAY IT! The poll disappeared off their page by the next day. [As an aside, using that logic if I call up and complain that they play commercials, then they MUST stop playing commercials!] Rumor also has it that they will be undergoing a format change once this Christmas music crap stops. Meanwhile their competitor iheart station has stepped up and is now playing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" even more by several different artists. I've listened to both [the third station has a religious format so a lot of their music is more religiously formatted but they do overlap with some songs on the other two stations.] The Iheart and Entercom station play almost the exact same songs, the difference being that the Entercom station basically has a robot telling you the name and the artist after the song while the iheart station has live or voice-tracked personalities. My biggest gripe [and why I rarely listen to either one] is that they play the same 70 songs over and over but by different artists. So what if I hear a jazzy "Jingle Bells" by Mel Torme and another version by Dean's still fucking Jingle Bells!. I have yet to hear any novelty tunes that they used to play years ago ["Santa Claus Is Watching You" by Ray Steven's; "Snoopy's Christmas" by The Royal Guardsmen, etc.etc.] Went online and obtained the playlists for both stations and they are literally the same songs over and over but by different artists. The one lone novelty tune that I saw listed that they had played and only on the iheart station...."The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" and that was played once. The brouhaha has mostly died down after getting national coverage. Not sure, but I think if their plan was to get some positive press coverage out of this it backfired on them but then again if it gets people talking about your station, any press is good press. Unless it's something like one of your DJs was caught molesting a hamster in a pet store.

cd1515 said...

Check out the lyrics to “Young Girl” by Gary Puckett... way creepier than anything listed here, and it’s on oldies radio all the time.

Y. Knott said...

Heard once every year or two, this is a song that's drolly amusing -- given a proper sense of context, and an appreciation of the song's sly send-up of 1940s behaviour codes. (The woman in the song is deftly finding a way to circumvent those codes, and is actually fully participating in calling the shots in a consensual way.)

The on-line streaming service I frequent ( played a charming version last night by Willie Nelson & Norah Jones.

kitano0 said...

My favorite version of the song is Willie Nelson/Norah Jones...just fantastic...

BruceB said...

It's interesting to see this song performed in "Neptune's Daughter," an MGM film from 1949 starring Esther Williams. It is first sung by Esther and Ricardo Montalbon with a lot of smiling and a clear message that it isn't to be taken seriously. In fact, if you are aware of Esther's screen personality, she comes off as quite in control at all times and Montalbon comes across as very aware of this and simply joking with her. Then, a bit later in the film, comics Betty Garrett and Red Skelton sing a reprise of the song, with the male and female roles reversed, with Red wondering what's in his drink as Betty tries to keep him from leaving. Now the song is shown to truly be a joke, and pretty funny as performed by these gifted comedians. It is never allowed to become creepy or a "#MeToo" moment. I assume, since this is where most of the world first heard this song, that this representation is exactly the way Frank Loesser meant it to be understood. I would certainly hope so. He wrote it to perform with his wife at parties. Certainly both of them were playing it strictly as an exaggeration to be laughed at. Loesser was famous for his funny, satirical lyrics for Broadway musicals. We are seeing this lyric with very different eyes, now, and maybe that's unfair to Frank and Lynn, his wife. They made a recording of it, and you can hear they are playing it for laughs. Again, I certainly would hope that to be the case.

J Lee said...

Blogger cd1515 said...

Check out the lyrics to “Young Girl” by Gary Puckett... way creepier than anything listed here, and it’s on oldies radio all the time.

12/10/2018 9:51 AM

"Carrie Ann" by The Hollies falls into the same category. And if you get into the background of how old Caroline Kennedy was when Neil Diamond wrote "Sweet Caroline", there are a lot of Boston Red Sox fans at Fenway Park who are going to have the outrage police down on their heads for continuously singing that song during home games.

YEKIMI said...

And here it is as if it were written today:

Mike Bloodworth said...

You're right, Ken. The terrorists have won.
I like "Baby its Cold Outside." I don't think it advocates date rape. The thing to consider is that at the time this song was written (the mid 40's) most women were still constrained by the puritanical notion that "Good girls DON'T." In other words, back then if a girl gave in too easily she would be labled a "loose woman," a "slattern," "floozy" or similar term. They didn't call it "Slut Shaming" back then, but that's essentially what it was. Therefore, I've always believed the woman in the song really DID want to stay. But, she felt that she had to make the man work for it so that she wouldn't get the reputation of being unchasted. Does this notion still apply in 2018? You bet.

Steve said...

I did see that some folks on the interwebs were pointing out that the line, "Say, what's in this drink" was a joking comment used at the time when someone said something a bit bold or shocking. They would add "What's in this drink?" to blame their boldness on the alcohol. And check out Holly Cole's version of Baby It's Cold Outside online. It's great.

Jim said...

Sheesh, who would have thought that a little radio station could make the Hays Office look progressive? "Baby Its Cold Outside" made its first appearance on film in the rather dull Esther Williams musical, Neptune's Daughter, sung by one of the weirdest quartets ever to appear on film: Williams, Ricardo Montalbán, Betty Garrett and Red Skelton. It was there as a substitute song. The writers had originally planned for them to sing "I'd Love to Get You (On a Slow Boat to China)", but someone from the censors read those lyrics, started foaming at the mouth and shouthing "Filth! Filth!" "Baby Its Cold Outside" was brought in as a safe alternative, to the disbelief of all involved.

CarolMR said...

Even though "Baby, It's Cold Outside" isn't a Christmas song, I always look forward to hearing it around the holidays. My favorite version is by Dean Martin and Marilyn Maxwell.

McAlvie said...

The outcry to ban the song, but not other much, much worse and more blatant songs? It's a song nearly everyone has heard and it gets played a lot this time of year. I mean, otherwise how would people know to complain? Broadcast radio being what it is these days, the other songs mentioned here are probably not on the radar for most people. Sadly, this will include The Beatles tune. Also, human nature being what it is, most people will consider it safe to complain about because it doesn't involve having to admit you listen to stations that play "those kinds of songs." Because the people who listen to "that kind of music" aren't the ones doing the complaining. And that really makes me sad.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Somebody stopped listening after "What's in this drink?" and missed the woman's "At least I'm gonna say I tried." They want the same thing but it's 1949 and "nice girls" have to pretend it was his idea and anyway, the weather...look, listen to the Betty Carter-Ray Charles version, which could melt several feet of snow.

Songs of this era contain something music has lost: wit. Social norms and censorship required wordplay and euphemism, even in the blues. When Robert Johnson told a woman he wanted to "get down in your wires and tangle with your gears" he was not thinking of working on a car. All those "jelly roll" references had nothing to do with pastry. Even Cole Porter shocked people with lyrics like "I've got you under my skin." If you've grown up on songs like "Some Girls" it must be like a foreign language. I listened to "Two Sleepy People" on YouTube and one bewildered commenter wrote, "Why don't they just sleep together?" Because in the past there was something called seduction, and people wrote songs for grownups.

Barry Traylor said...

Does that make the song White Christmas racist? Before anyone gets upset this was meant as a joke.

Mary Stella said...

I'll preface this by saying that I can personally type/tweet post about sexual harassment and add #MeToo based on personal experience. I am a huge supporter of women speaking up and speaking out - and for their abusers to be called out and punished.

I have issues, however, when it comes to banning creative arts on the say-so of some people.

Today a song, tomorrow a book. Or, maybe, it was yesterday let's ban a book, today let's ban this song, or that song. How far away are we from there being movies that don't get made, not because the creative forces of the movie wouldn't sleep with the studio executive, but because someone, somewhere finds something objectionable.

I've heard a whole lot of misogyny, violence, what have you glorified in some music genres. I switch stations. I don't demand that radio stop playing the songs.

I used to write contemporary romance novels with good, healthy sex scenes between consenting adults who weren't married. Back in the 70s, many historical novels had "forced seduction scenes" where the male protagonist didn't know the young innocent woman on the docks was fleeing a rapist, thought she was a doxie and seduced her anyway. But, in the grand scheme of things and the "happily ever after", after many trials and tribulations, they end up married and in love.

Jane Eyre comes thisclose to unknowingly marrying a bigamist and becoming an adulteress.

I actually do have a point. My books compared to, say, 50 Shades were really low key as far as the sex scenes. Yet, I still had at least one person pick up a copy at a booksigning, find out it was romance and throw it across the table, proclaiming, "I don't read trash!" Fine, lady, I don't write trash, but to each your own. You don't want to read/listen/watch, don't! But please don't decide that your opinion carries more weight than mine, or the next person in line, and decide that, therefore, a song should not be played, a book not published, a movie not made.

Times change and what seemed or sounded acceptable decades ago, might seem unacceptable now. I revere Bruce Springsteen who has been the major music cultural influence of my life. The lyrics to I'm on Fire didn't sound creepy to me when they came out in 1984. They might when sung by an almost 70 year old today. Still, I wouldn't advocate that stations stop playing it.

Then there's the whole issue of boycotting an artist for opinions shared in public. The Dixie Chicks had their entire career wrecked for criticizing George W. Bush. A couple of years later I was, unfortunately and unexpectedly, at a concert where Ted Nugent was the opening act. He stomped around the stage screaming that Democrats should die, John Kerry should die, etc. Where was the outrage over that?

Sorry for the rant, Ken.

Howard Hoffman said...

You don’t ban a song then put out a million press releases about it unless you’re doing it for the viral publicity. Otherwise, you just quietly stop playing it, period. They got their mileage. Now go listen to the song with the roles reversed.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Here, does this make everybody happy now?

Unknown said...

Since you decided to pull
“Baby it’s Cold Outside”
from playlists because
someone was offended,
I feel that these other holiday songs also belong on the chopping block...

1. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus: subjecting minors to softcore porn

2. The Christmas Song: Open fire? Pollution. Folks dressed up like Eskimos? Cultural appropriation

3. Holly Jolly Christmas: Kiss her once for me? Unwanted advances

4. White Christmas? Racist

5. Santa Claus is Coming to Town: Sees you when you’re sleeping? Knows when you’re awake? Peeping Tom stalker

6. Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Everyone telling you be of good cheer? Forced to hide depression

7. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Bullying

8. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: Forced gender-specific gifts: dolls for Janice and Jen and boots and pistols (GUNS!) for Barney and Ben

9. Santa Baby: Gold digger, blackmail

10. Frosty the Snowman: Sexist; not a snow woman

11. Do You Hear What I Hear: blatant disregard for the hearing impaired

12. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas: Make the yuletide GAY? Wow, just wow

13. Jingle Bell Rock: Giddy up jingle horse, pick up your feet: animal abuse

14. Mistletoe and Holly: Overeating, folks stealing a kiss or two? How did this song ever see the light of day?

15. Winter Wonderland: Parson Brown demanding they get married…forced partnership

16. I'll Be Home For Christmas: Not if you are homeless. That's just Insensitive

17. Grandma got ran over by a reindeer: Homicide. Extremely violent and promotes alcoholism.”
18. Winter wonder land .. sex slave industry... I'll ask if your married and you'll son no mam so you can do the job while your in town ... what a slut

...How did we all ever survive? ­čśé

Todd Everett said...

I'm surprised that you, as a radio guy, didn't flag this as an obvious publicity stunt (if it wasn't, they could just not play the song, right)?

Seems to be working. I'm just waiting for another station to play it back to back 24/7 -- which I'd certainly be doing.

Jon B. said...

Yes, let's take on Beatles songs for their questionable wording. That worked out well in the 60's, too, only it was a different group of offended folks. Can you hear yourself?

Jahn Gha said...

Daniel Sachs wrote:

"Every Breath You Take" could be added to the questionable content list.

Sting (at least) once commented on sentimental reactions to "Every Breath You Take" - viz:

"It's OUR song"
"We played it at our wedding"

He expressed incredulity:

"The song's about SURVEILLANCE!"

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Unknown You win the internet today!

Janet said...

Is there some reason my Yuletide *can't* be gay? Marriage equality has been upheld by the Supreme Court. Just saying :)

Yes, we can poke fun, whatever. And, yes, sadly Ken has been the subject of some trolls.

As a former journalist, I take the First Amendment seriously.

But as long as people are civil, I see value in thoughtfully evaluating and re-evaluating our media culture instead of simply consuming it no questions asked.

Frank Beans said...

Man I wasn't going to comment on this but I have to chime, because of so much Beatles discussion.

"Getting Better" and "Run For Your Life" are two diametrically different songs in terms of point of view, and condonement of abusive behavior. McCartney's narrator was distinctly NOT HIM--the song was told from the point of view of, we can imagine, a roughneck who was trying to turn his life around. It does not endorse violence against women in any way, but it does report it as an ugly reality.

I can't defend "Run For Your Life" in the same way, however, because I do believe it is really Lennon's voice in that song. Nevertheless, it also portrays a kind of cold reality--akin to some hip-hop and blues, I might add. Namely, that domestic violence and jealous, controlling, possibly murderous men are a real thing.

No, it isn't appropriate for all settings. I find the lyrics painful and repugnant as I think most people do. But I wouldn't censor or banish the song, because in addition to being well-written, it is actually saying something--even horrific depictions have a place in art, and always have.

If you can't even hear about things that are unpleasant but realities, you are immature or self-righteous, and really not capable of listening to or watching anything. Think of your favorite movies--is there violence, adultery, crime, or anything else that's unsavory and morally wrong? Or course there is.

We're such a childish and hypocritical country, it makes my head explode sometimes.

Ken said...

I've never really had a problem with the song. I agree it's more flirty than predatory. I just never could figure out how a song about a guy trying to get laid became a Christmas standard.

Anonymous said...

It's all about your current preconception and expectation in your head to be filled out.

Look at 1999 Tom Jones & Cerys Matthews - Baby It's Cold Outside

This same song tells a story slightly different to the unaware girl being talked into something she doesn't want.

And the music has a great Big Band vibe too!

Pamela Atherton said...

And how about those lyrics to "Under My Thumb" by the Rolling Stones?

Janet said...

Let's be very clear: as far as I know, this was not a government agency banning the was a radio station.

This is where I think we have given corporations too much power in our society.

Things were much more pro-consumer before media deregulation and one company is now allowed to own hundreds of radio stations.

DBenson said...

There's a long pop culture history of women supposedly craving cavemen / sheiks / "bad boys" over presumably "nice boys". It goes back to "Taming of the Shrew" at least. Despite its longevity, suspect it's much less true than the notion of men craving young bimbos whatever their interior content.

Anonymous said...

Enough already! Just play the Phil Spector Christmas Album, all 12 cuts and be done with it. That's the only Christmas music I want to hear....

Stephen Marks said...

Excellent post by Ken. I guess some folks are sensitive to the lyrics of "Baby" because a man is trying to take advantage of a woman. What if the roles were reversed? Impossible Stephen Marks, you're insane, why does Ken let your comments go through! Insane? Really? Try this out. After years of Andy Williams singing this song with his wife Claudine Longet on his corny Xmas specials, Ms. Longet shot and killed Spider Sabich in a ski lodge being warmed by a fire place next to a table full of booze and cocaine.

Apparently Ms. Longet was trying to get Spider-Man nicely toasted so she could indulge in some of the fantasies Mr. Williams found disgusting. An argument ensued, no doubt fueled by the booze and the coke and the lyrics, and Sabich was shot dead. So yes, let's ban this fucking standard before another man loses his life.

By the way Ms. Longet did NO jail time! Got off with a warning about gun safety. I'm getting really tired of this hash tag shit! I'm going over to Earl's blog, bye.

gottacook said...

It's also possible to argue that if the music is good enough that you'd want to hear it again, it outweighs the lyrics even if they're repellent. Perhaps sheer musical quality is the reason why "Baby, It's Cold Outside" endures, or why the Stones' "Under My Thumb" has received more play than "Stupid Girl" from the same era of their career, or why Jimmy Soul's "Treat 'Em Tough" wasn't the hit that "If You Want to Be Happy" was.

MikeKPa. said...

I saw HOLIDAY INN on TCM the other night and surprised there is no outrage over the blackface scene in it.

Regarding RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, from Wikipedia: "Lennon designated it as his "least favorite Beatles song" in a 1973 interview and later said it was the song he most regretted writing. Lennon revisited this theme in a more apologetic fashion with his post-Beatles song "Jealous Guy".

Regarding competing radio stations playing Christmas music, Philly had two stations WOGL (98.1 FM) and WBEB (101.1 FM) that played holiday music until this year. Entercom, which owned WOGL, bought WBEB in July. Realizing it was cannibalizing business, no more BLUE or WHITE CHRISTMAS on WOGL anymore.

Colin Stratton said...

Just tune to a different channel. Or do what I do: turn the damm thing off.

Coram_Loci said...

Anonymous has it right. Namely, you can always shift the level of abstraction and then mindread intent to come up with the interpretation that fits your intended conclusion.

A problem here is that the most passionate people are the ones who shift the Overton Window. It's not the Reasonable Man (or Woman) it’s the Most Easily Offended. These people abuse good people's desires to be...well, good, to be considerate. Rather than putting up a fight over an issue that matters little to all but the zealots, the good person relents. The ratchet turns, The Overton Window shifts.

Sure, the fact that some people suddenly take offense may be evidence that the song is problematic. But the fact that so many more people for so much longer a time period didn't take offense is also evidence..evidence that there isn't a problem.

Lastly, there is a world of difference between “advocating” and “tolerating.”

Kosmo13 said...

Maybe "1-2-3 Red Light" by the 1910 Fruitgum Company will be the next to set off the Political Correctness Goon Squad.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Stephen Marks You know what? I don't remember who did it, but I actually remember hearing a role-reversed version of "Baby, it's Cold Outside" at least once, where the man's part was sung by a woman, and the woman's part was sung by a man. Would it still be considered a "rape song" under and by the MeToo Movement with the roles reversed like that?

Unknown said...

Ken: "I just never could figure out how a song about a guy trying to get laid became a Christmas standard."

Heh, indeed.

But the fact that it is considered a Christmas song, is why you can't really compare it to those Beatles songs, or rap music, etc. For the record, I have no problem with "Baby" (I especially adore the music). But the hypocrisy that people always try to point out here doesn't quite work, IMO.

Because "Christmas" songs are thought to be, for lack of a better analogy, G Rated. Additionally, they are often "forced" on you everywhere you go this time of year. So forget the radio stations (which you can choose not to listen to), you are far less likely (if ever) to hear, say, "Getting Better" in a department store or restaurant... especially a version that includes the lyrics. But you and/or your kids might not be able to escape "Baby." Again, this is not my argument, but it's why I understand why some people might bristle, even if I think they might be overreacting a little.

Gary said...

"Go Away Little Girl" by Steve Lawrence can also be added to the list of songs with questionable lyrics. Just how little is she?

Buttermilk Sky said...

It's not a Christmas song, it's a winter song like "Winter Wonderland" and "Let It Snow." It just happens that Christmas occurs in winter in the northern hemisphere. In New Zealand they probably play surf music at this time of year. That doesn't make "Wipeout" a Christmas song.

Let's all take a deep breath and relax. And remember the words of Tom Lehrer: "Filth, I'm glad to say, is in the mind of the beholder."

Andy Rose said...

@MikeKPa: The blackface scene in Holiday Inn is very controversial (as are some of the lyrics in the song "Abraham"). No station other than TCM would air it, just as TCM airs plenty of other classic movies with problematic moments (The Jazz Singer, The Green Pastures, etc.) My junior high school music teacher actually screened "Holiday Inn" for us way back when, which would certainly never happen today.

Speaking of how things change, I happened to be watching a 1st season episode of Laugh-In last night. Of course, I expected casual sexism in a show from 1968, but there was a musical number with the female cast singing about how easy women have it in the legal system! The premise is that they can just flirt or cry their way out of anything. They even literally say that women can just claim "rape" if they regret a one-night stand. It's a genuinely astonishing song presented with no sense of irony at all. And Laugh-In was supposed to be a "progressive" show.

Mike Doran said...

Hey everybody!
When it's time to send the kids back to school, pull out your Doris Day greatest hits album and give a listen to Teacher's Pet, from the movie of the same name.
Then go to You Tube and check out some clips of Sing Along With Mitch, as the old chorus guys serenade the pretty young dancing girls.
(I recommend Diana Trask's cover of "A Guy Is A Guy", with the more senescent Singalongers in attendance …)

Pat Reeder said...

Digging into the history of pop culture is a large part of what I do, and I can't stand people who try to use their own current virtue-signaling values to censor works that they wouldn't have enough creativity to come up with in 10 lifetimes. Also not interested in hearing whining about the insensitivity of "Baby It's Cold Outside" from the generation that gave us rap songs glorifying rape and murder.

As many people have pointed out, the line, "Say, what's in this drink?" was a common expression women might use to remark on how much booze was in a cocktail, to signal that they had an excuse for what they were planning to do anyway. There were no date rape drugs then, but someone might "slip you a mickey." However, nobody ever mentions the woman's other line, "Well, maybe just a half a drink more." If she thinks she's being slipped a mickey, why does she ask for another one?

Tom Galloway said...

Example of how songs are changed to reflect the times: When's the last time you heard Dire Straits' Money For Nothing with all the verses as originally written, including the one that repeatedly uses the word "faggot"? (Note: No problem with the change here, as that particular word isn't significant to the song, nor is it any sort of commentary on its use).

DwWashburn said...

I've never liked the song. Even before ultra PC I found it creepy. But I use a unique approach to it. If it comes on the radio or television I change the channel.

Roger Owen Green said...

MikeKPa - I despise the Frebruary section of Holiday Inn

VP81955 said...

A line Lennon borrowed from Presley's Sun side "Baby Let's Play House." John later disavowed his song.

VP81955 said...

It's not a Christmas song at all -- there's not a holiday reference at all. Under such criteria, Irving Berlin's "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm" is a Christmas song, which is utter nonsense.

VP81955 said...

The same Frank Loesser who gave us the classic "On A Slow Boat To China."

VP81955 said...

And was produced by Phil Spector, the year before Lana Clarkson was born.

Jim Orson said...

Add to the list "Santa Clause is Coming for You, Little Girl" on A Very Special Christmas with The Doors.

VP81955 said...

Make a version today, and the singer should interpolate "It's down to that double standard" after the lyric "Her eyes are just kept to herself...while I, I can still look at someone else."

Tommy Raiko said...

The increasingly-uncomfortable quality of the lyrics to "Baby, It's Cold Outside" has inspired plenty of parodies and satires over the years. This new entry is very amusing:

"Baby, Just GO Outside"

and, of course, Key & Peele's take from a few years back is a classic

"Just Stay for the Night"

And, of course, some parodists can just appreciate the melody (I do think the music is lovely, regardless of the lyrics) and re-write toward some other story, like this one for the science-fiction fans:

"Regeneration Carol - A Doctor Who Christmas Parody"

As for role-reversal/gender-swapping versions of the song, I know there have been many, but whenever the topic comes up, the first thing I remember is when the song was performed on Glee by two male singers:

JonCow said...

"It's also possible to argue that if the music is good enough that you'd want to hear it again, it outweighs the lyrics even if they're repellent. "

The Deacon Moves In by Little Esther & The Dominoes

Jahn Ghalt said...

we have given corporations too much power in our society

Unlike Orwell's 1984 (with that nasty two-way screen in Winston's living room) - in America, which still has a relatively free market, no one "gives power" to corporations. This is especially true for media.

In general we TRANSACT with corporations - money goes to corps and goods/services come back.

(occasionally they flow in the other direction)

With media corporations it's not money - it's attention, eyeball time, brain space.

Thinking further - the consumers have the power with media. This seems too obvious.

Andy Rose said...

Further evidence that this was all a stunt: one of the two radio stations that stopped playing the song has reversed itself:

Anonymous said...

A long time ago, Hand Ballard and the Midnighters had sussesive hits. with "Work with me Annie" followed by " Annie had a Baby". Both got lots of air play on R&B stations.

MikeN said...

Should be banned as downplaying the threat of global warming...

Albert Giesbrecht said...

By the way, back in 1944, there were no date-rape drugs. When she says "What's in this drink?" she's referring to the amount of alcohol, not rohipnol or GHB.

Bill Cosby had a whole routine about "Spanish Fly" a substance that would make a woman's vagina itchy. The itchyness was misunderstood as horniness.

Janet said...

No, we do give power by weak or lack of regulations to protect consumers.

Remember Mitt Romney's ominous statement, "Corporations are people, my friend."

Kevin H. said...

The song "Pumped Up Kicks" is about a kid threatening a school shooting - and is from this decade. Not a lot of outrage.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Kevin Maybe not, but last year, when it was all over the news that three white teenaged boys lured a young biracial boy to a party and attempted to lynch him from a tree while hurling racial epithets at him, Fox News decided to report on a black rapper's new music video that depicted the lynching of young white boys from a tree, and they were like, "See? This is what real racism in America looks like!"

RyderDA said...

Mind blower: HE HIT ME was covered by a bunch of folks, including Courtney Love & HOL (on the 1995 MTV Valentine Special!), The Motels, an indy band called Grizzly Bear, Nicole Dollenganger (on her album "Embarrassing Love Songs", with even more twisted lyrics)... and more.

It was written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin (mostly Goffin, I understand), apparently about their babysitter Little Eva's (Locomotion) abusive relationship with her then boyfriend. Phil Spector gave it to The Crystals to record in 1962. Rumour has it The Crystals didn't want to record it... but actually had no choice. Spector deliberately arranged it in an ominous way.