World’s Worst Songs: “Baby It’s Cold Outside”
Between now and Christmas, World’s Worst Songs will single out some of the season’s ickiest perennials, starting with a song that has nothing to do with Christmas, but which gets most of its airplay this season. If you’d like to nominate something crappy for a future installment, please put it in the comments.
“Baby It’s Cold Outside” first became a hit in 1949—and not even in the winter. Johnny Mercer and Margaret Whiting had the most popular version, which first charted in May. Versions by Dinah Shore and Buddy Clark and by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan also hit the top 10 on the charts of that era, while versions by Sammy Kaye’s orchestra and rural parodists Homer and Jethro charted further down. The song had been around since 1944, but few people heard it until writer Frank Loesser sold it to MGM for the movie Neptune’s Daughter (and won an Oscar for it). Since then, it’s been recorded by dozens of artists. But 60 years of ubiquity doesn’t change the fact that it is one of the World’s Worst Songs.
And that’s because “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is about a sexual predator trying to score.
When Loesser wrote the song, he gave each of the two vocal parts a name: the male is the “wolf,” while the female is the “mouse.” It’s pretty clear who’s intended to have the upper hand. The wolf keeps insisting that the mouse stay a little longer, and the mouse keeps trying to get away. It all seems pretty innocent until the mouse says, “Gee, what’s in this drink?” A roofie, maybe? From that moment on, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is mighty uncomfortable to listen to. You find yourself wishing the girl would kick the guy in the groin and get the hell out of there before she ends up ravished.
On this year’s new John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John Christmas album, the two stars take a cue from last year’s A Very She and Him Christmas and swap the gender roles. Make me choose and I’ll take Zooey Deschanel/M. Ward version (if “neither” isn’t an option).