SoCS: a musical controversy

There are radio stations here in the US that play Christmas or holiday music 24/7 for weeks before Christmas.

At least, that is what they say they do.

A lot of the music they play is secular but related to Christmas, being about gifts and Santa Claus and such. Some is more winter-themed than Christmas or New Year related.

There is a musical controversy this year about one piece that is often on the playlist, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

This is definitely one of those pieces that is not related to Christmas at all. It is a winter song though, so some people have conflated it with the holidays.

It is a decades-old song in the pattern of a man/woman duet and is familiar and typical and pleasant enough – if you don’t pay attention to the words.

If you do, as I did last year, you quickly realize that the sub-text – scratch that, text – is pretty creepy. The man, who is trying to get the woman not to leave for home, is trying to get her drunk, with the possible implication that something else has been put in her drink. He is also trying to make her think that she owes it to him to stay and do whatever. (This is a generally family-safe blog, so I won’t speculate on his expectations.)

In recognition of the loaded nature of the song’s text, some radio stations have pulled it from their playlists. Others and some people are adamant that it is just flirting and should be left in the mix.

I adamantly agree with those who want it kept off the air. In these days when consent is part of the conversation for intimacy, a song that flies in the face of that is not a good example for behavior. It is especially hurtful to pretend this is an example of Christmas music. Christmas is about true joy, love, and peace, not coercion and trickery.

I’d rather hear “Silent Night” or “Joy to the World” or any of the dozens of other carols that truly evoke the Christmas season.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “musical.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2018/12/07/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-dec-8-18/

Author: Joanne Corey

Please come visit my eclectic blog, Top of JC's Mind. You can never be sure what you'll find!

5 thoughts on “SoCS: a musical controversy”

  1. In discussion of this post on FB – by the way, if you haven’t yet “liked” my page, you can do so here: https://www.facebook.com/topofjcsmind/ and you might be my 100th like- I posted further non-stream-of-consciousness development of this post in comments on a friend’s post. I thought I’d copy here in case anyone is interested:

    I’m not a fan of fundamentalism in interpretation of texts. For example, in Biblical interpretation, I believe in using the historical context of the text as part of the toolbox for interpretation but using language in translation that gives the most exact rendering possible in connotation rather than denotation. As someone who was for many years involved in both liturgical and musical planning, I became a proponent in updating text to keep it out of the way of understanding among contemporary people. For example, I prefer to sing “Good Christian Friends, Rejoice” rather than the original “Men.” While knowing the literary history of the use of the “men” to mean “people”, English has evolved to the point that most listeners hear “men” as referring to adult males only, and I prefer not to put people through mental historical gymnastics to interpret the text.

    For me, this same principle applies to secular texts. For millenials and younger, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” runs counter to everything they are taught about consent. From my decidedly older perspective, it is a reminder of the days when men had most of the power in sexual situations and used various methods of seduction, some subtle, some not, to meet their sexual needs, often without considering the desires of the women involved or the consequences they faced.

    As my ethnomusicologist daughter pointed out, when they sing “My Old Kentucky Home” before the Kentucky Derby each year, they change some of Stephen Foster’s original text, which includes the word “darkies.” Interestingly, the song was written as an anti-slavery song, but the first verse with its alteration retains none of that original message. https://medium.com/@lousee/my-old-kentucky-home-original-lyrics-32bd8b7a5371

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  2. This controversy caught me unawares. I recognized the song when I read that Dean Martin sang it, but I never considered it a holiday song, and I’m not sure the last time I heard it. For me, this puts it in the category of “Why not get rid of it?” I balance the importance of something against the harm done and this is hardly beloved. Plus, Dean Martin was always this kind of creepy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is definitely has a nice sound and fits the voices well. It’s unlikely the copyright holders would give permission for it to be altered. The composer’s daughter is still alive – and definitely not amused by the controversy.

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