Not many holiday classics have stirred up quite as much controversy as “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”
A week after the song, which was first penned by Guys and Dolls writer Frank Loesser in 1944, was pulled from San Francisco’s KOIT radio station due to its contentious lyrics, it was reinstated on their holiday playlist lineup.
On Monday, KOIT said in a statement, “After hearing from thousands of Bay Area listeners via polling, phone calls, emails and social media, KOIT concluded that the vast majority consider the song to be a valuable part of their holiday tradition, and they still want to hear it on the radio.”
When the station had heard from some listeners who were concerned about the song’s lyrics, KOIT’s program director Brian Figula decided to place it on hold last week while seeking further listener feedback.
According to CBS News, Figula said the vote was not close and that KOIT found 77 percent of listeners were opposed to banning the song.
“KOIT’s listeners have spoken, and the overwhelming message is they do want to hear ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ on our station, as they have throughout the years,” Figula said in a statement. “More than seven out of every 10 listeners who responded said although some lyrics of the song may reflect a different era and a different sensibility than today, still they love the tradition and history of the song, and want to hear it as part of their holiday season.”
He added: “At KOIT, we always listen carefully when our listeners take time to comment. In this case, it was very obvious what they wanted us to do.”
While Loesser wrote “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” he later sold it to MGM for use in 1949’s Neptune’s Daughter, in which the song plays seriously between Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban, and gender-swapped for humor between Betty Garrett and Red Skelton. In the years since, the duet has become an enduring holiday classic, sung by everyone from Dolly Parton and Rod Stewart to Michael Bublé and Idina Menzel to Chris Colfer and Darren Criss on an episode of Glee.
Over the last several years, and particularly in the era of the #MeToo movement, many have called the song “date-rapey” in reference to the lyrics “Say, what’s in this drink?” The song details a back-and-forth, traditionally between a man and a woman, where the man tries to convince a woman to stay the night despite her continued protests, saying, “The answer is no.”
Radio stations in Cleveland and Denver have banned the song for the holiday season. In Canada, CBC Radio announced last week that it would join two other broadcasters in the country — Rogers Media and Bell Media — in keeping the song off their holiday playlists.
Despite the bans, several versions of the song surged in sales and streaming and continued to draw airplay on the radio in the latest tracking week, according to Nielsen Music.
Dean Martin’s version, which was recorded in 1959, soared to its highest rank on the list in over seven years (after leading the list for a week in October 2011) and reached 7,000 sold in the week ending on Dec. 6.
Martin’s daughter, Deana, recently spoke out about the controversy surrounding the hit and called it “outrageous.”
“I know my dad would be going insane right now,” Martin said during an appearance on Fox & Friends on Monday. “He would say, ‘What’s the matter with you? Get over it. It’s just a fun song.’ Because he was so sweet. He would never see anything bad in that. He was a great guy, fun guy, nice. And he wouldn’t want to do anything offensive; that wasn’t Dean Martin. So this has just been outrageous.”
Idina Menzel’s 2014 version with Michael Bublé re-entered the Holiday Digital Song Sales chart at No. 29, and sold 2,000 copies, according to Billboard. Also with 2,000 copies sold was Leon Redbone and Zooey Deschanel’s 2003 duet, from the Elf soundtrack, which debuted at No. 41 on the list.
On Billboard‘s Holiday Streaming Songs chart, Martin’s version of the song reached 8.2 million streams in the U.S. during the week ending Dec. 6.
Menzel and Bublé’s duet reached 4.8 million streams, and Brett Eldredge’s 2016 cover, featuring Meghan Trainor, hit 3.6 million streams.
When it comes to radio airplay, versions of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” both increased and decreased during the tracking week, according to Billboard.
Eldredge and Trainor’s duet reached 5.7 million impressions, while Menzel and Bublé’s fell to 3.7 million impressions. Martin’s also dipped slightly to 1.1 million impressions. Combining their airplay, the three songs’ audience for the week ending Dec. 9 totaled 10.2 million, which is slightly down from 10.9 million the week before.