John Legend has said he “wasn’t trying to be preachy” after receiving a backlash for updating Dean Martin’s classic Christmas song “Baby it’s Cold Outside” with lyrics about consent.
In October, the singer-songwriter released a version of the song as a duet with Kelly Clarkson, as part of his album A Legendary Christmas: The Deluxe Edition.
The updated lyrics include:
Clarkson “What will my friends think.”
Legend: “I think they should rejoice.”
Clarkson: “… and if I have one more drink?”
Legend: “It’s your body, and your choice.”
In recent years, lyrics such as “Say, what’s in this drink?” from the 1944 original have prompted conversations about consent. Last year, radio station Star 102 Cleveland, in Ohio, made headlines after pulling the song from its Christmas playlist in response to complaints from listeners.
However, John Legend’s version was criticised by many including Martin’s daughter, Deana, who told Good Morning Britain she was offended by the changed lyrics.
“Absolutely,” she said. “You do not change the lyrics to the song. He’s [Legend] made it more sexual with those words he’s said. It’s absolutely absurd.”
She added: “It was a fabulous song and it’s been recorded by so many different people. My dad didn’t care about things like that. He was just such a great guy and [it’s] such a fabulous song that I think John should have just left it alone.”
Legend has now responded in an interview with The Guardian, in which he insisted the song was not supposed to be “preachy”.
“The song was supposed to be silly,” he said. “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 to.”
He added that it was “interesting” to see a backlash to the #MeToo movement: “People thinking we’ve gone too far speaking up for a woman’s right not to get raped or sexually harassed… I don’t agree. But people wanted the ‘Baby it’s Cold Outside‘ war to be a proxy war for that.”