“The song was supposed to be silly,” Legend said in an interview with The Guardian published Sunday. “It wasn’t supposed to be preachy at all. I never disparaged the old version.”
The 1944 duet features an unrelenting man trying to convince a woman to stay the night because of bad weather, despite her repeatedly saying “no” and trying to leave.
“Say, what’s in this drink?” the female vocalist asks at one point.
The original was written by Frank Loesser and went on to win the Academy Award for “Best Original Song” in the film “Neptune’s Daughter.”
Clarkson now sings “I’ve got to go away,” to which Legend responds, “I can call you a ride.”
Other changes include Clarkson singing “what will my friends think,” and Legend replying, “I think they should rejoice.”
“If I have one more drink?” she continues.
“It’s your body, and your choice,” he answers.
The lyrics of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” have been scrutinized in recent years following the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements against sexual assault and sexual harassment over concerns it contained predatory undertones.
Legend called the controversy “interesting.”
“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 [Harvey] 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.”
Last year, the Christmas classic was removed from the holiday playlist of at least one radio station following complaints.
Susan Loesser, Frank Loesser’s daughter, responded at the time by saying that her father would be “furious” over the move.
“Way before ‘Me Too,’ I would hear from time to time people call it a date rape song,” she told NBC News. “I would get annoyed because it’s a song my father wrote for him and my mother to sing at parties.”
“People used to say ‘what’s in this drink’ as a joke,” she argued. “You know, this drink is going straight to my head so what’s in this drink? Back then it didn’t mean ‘you drugged me.’”
The daughter of actor Dean Martin, whose 1959 rendition of the tune is now a winter staple, recently accused Legend of actually making the song “more sexual” by changing the words.
“I think what he’s done is, he’s stealing the thunder from Frank Loesser’s song and from my dad. He should write his own song if he doesn’t like this one, but don’t change the lyrics. It’s a classic, perfect song,” Deana Martin told Good Morning Britain last month.
Legend quipped in the interview with The Guardian that he is still giving Loesser credit with his rendition.
“And, by the way, the original writer, or his family, gets paid for my version, too,” he said.