His updated, pro-consent lyrics to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” — written with Insecure’s Natasha Rothwell and sung as a duet with Kelly Clarkson — has been accused of “destroying” Christmas , but John Legend is standing his ground.
“The song was supposed to be silly!” the singer says in a new interview with the Observer in the U.K. “It wasn’t supposed to be preachy at all. I never disparaged the old version. And, by the way, the original writer, or his family, gets paid for my version, too.”
That’d be Frank Loesser, who wrote the Christmas classic — deemed flirty by fans, and predatory by critics — in 1944. Since then, it’s been a holiday favourite sung by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Dean Martin, whose daughter Deana Martin called Legend’s new lyrics “absolutely absurd.” In Legend and Clarkson’s version, the male protagonist offers to call his date an Uber when his female date insists she’s got to go home.
“It would be fun, and it would be newsworthy,” Legend says of the thought process behind updating the song for his new Christmas album. “And — yeah — it was both.”
While he may have expected some raised eyebrows over his version of the song, the EGOT-winning star balks at accusations that it’s symptomatic of a virtue-signalling culture that has become too politically correct.
“It’s interesting,” he tells the newspaper, “this whole backlash to the #MeToo movement. People thinking we’ve gone too far speaking up for a woman’s right to not get raped or sexually harassed, when some would argue we’ve not gone far enough, when we have an admitted sexual assailant in the highest office in the land. People think that because some people have lost their jobs, or have been expelled from Hollywood, like Weinstein, that we’ve gone too far. I don’t agree. But people wanted the ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ war to be a proxy war for all that.”
The outspoken Trump critic — recently called a “boring musician” by the US President — also hit out at criticism that he is too liberal.
“I don’t know what virtue signalling is supposed to be,” he says. “I get that people don’t like people who are overly preachy or overly moralising. But, in my humble opinion, if you care about people who are often undervalued and overlooked in society, what’s so negative about that? There seem to be some who think that standing up for immigrants whose kids are getting locked up in cages is … some might call that virtue signalling and some might think speaking up against it is absolutely right.”
Legend also defended the song in a BUILD Series interview last month, saying, “They saw one line where she’s talking about having a drink, and I’m like, ‘It’s your body, it’s your choice.’ And I think they wanted it to be part of the political kind of culture wars. If you listen to the song, it’s really just a funny update.”