Legend rewrote the lyrics of the song with the help of lyricist Natasha Rothwell, and he sings it alongside duet partner Kelly Clarkson.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, the award-winning singer revealed that some of the verses include lyrics: “What will my friends think? – I think they should rejoice / If I have one more drink? – It’s your body, and your choice.”
The full version of the song will be featured on Legend’s 2019 holiday album, an update to A Legendary Christmas, to be released on Nov. 8.
Over the years, the 75-year-old classic holiday tune has been heavily criticized, most recently by Karen Valby, the author of the profile, who describes the original song as “date-rapey.”
The duet is typically performed by a man who tries to persuade a woman to have another drink and stay at his place during wintry weather.
“My mother will start to worry – Beautiful, what’s your hurry?
“Father will be pacing the floor – Listen to the fireplace roar.
“So really I’d better scurry – Beautiful, please don’t hurry.
“Maybe just a half a drink more – Put some records on while I pour,” reads a verse.
“I ought to say no, no, no, sir – Mind if I move in closer?
“At least I’m gonna say that I tried – What’s the sense in hurting my pride?
“I really can’t stay – Baby don’t hold out.
“Ah, but it’s cold outside,” reads another.
In 2018, the song was pulled from some Canadian radio stations — including Corus Entertainment, Bell Media, Rogers and CBC Radio stations — amid concerns over what some people say are inappropriate lyrics in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
Just a few months later, CBC Radio returned the song to its holiday lineup, citing “audience input.”
While the full version of Legend’s song has yet to be released, that hasn’t stopped people from sharing their mostly negative opinions on social media.
One Twitter user pointed out that the song “isn’t about rape … it’s about empowering female sexuality.”
“She is trying to find excuses to stay when she knows the world will slut-shame her if she does; not accusing him of spiking her drink,” the comment continued.
Another person tweeted: “I love ya John but leave ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ alone! It’s not an offensive song.”
Others criticize the rewrite as “political correctness gone amuck.”
On the flip side, some of the singers’ fans are ready for this particular remake, with one tweeting: “It’s one of my favourite holiday tunes and I appreciate the very clever way in which they reworked the lyrics to address critics’ concerns.”
“People release covers — especially of Christmas songs — all the time,” another Twitter user commented. “If they want to make a more sensitive version, that’s fine.”
One on-the-fence fan pointed out that “there’s nothing stopping you enjoying the Dean Martin version and others enjoying the updated version.”
For some, the Grammy-winning original tune was simply a realistic sign of the times; a representation of women’s sexual repression in the 1940s and 50s, the Guardian points out.
Writer Chris William interpreted the song as a feminist work: “the story of a woman doing battle … with the expectations of a society that won’t take yes for an answer.”
This isn’t the first time the song has been reimagined. Lady Gaga and Joseph Gordon-Levitt flipped the gender roles in a performance for the pop singer’s 2013 holiday special with the Muppets.