John Legend has a message for those who are fuming over his new version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”: It’s all in good fun.
The singer, who was recently dubbed People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive,” released an updated version of the classic Christmas song featuring his fellow “Voice” coach Kelly Clarkson earlier this month.
During his Friday appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” Legend said he and Clarkson simply “thought it would be fun” to release a new version of the song amid wide controversy over its lyrics in recent years.
“We thought it would be fun, you know, we knew there was some controversy around the original lyrics, and looked at it with 2019 eyes,” he said.
Critics of the original 1944 “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by Frank Loesser argue the male singer is coercing the female singer to spend the night with lyrics like: “I really can’t stay (oh, baby, don’t hold out)” and “Say, what’s in this drink? (No cabs to be had out there).”
The song has sparked conversations about consent and so-called political correctness. Last year, some radio stations pulled the Christmas tune from the air. Like Legend and Clarkson, other artists have reworked the lyrics to be more consent-friendly over the years.
But as Legend explained on “The Tonight Show,” his remake is simply a 2019-appropriate offering — listeners are free to choose which version to play as they please.
“Some people are just so upset that we would mess with this sacrosanct version of the original song, and [say] ‘it’s politically correctness gone too far,’” he said.
“No one’s destroying your version of Dean Martin,” Legend continued, referencing Martin’s popular 1950s rendition. “Play it loud, and if you like our version, play that one too.”
Legend said he wrote the song with Natasha Rothwell, a former “Saturday Night Live” writer and a producer on HBO’s “Insecure.” The lyrics in the remade version emphasize consent, like: “I’ve got to go away, (I can call you a ride).”
The new version has been met with some backlash, including from “The Talk” co-host Sharon Osbourne, who said on her daytime show earlier this month that changing an “innocent lyric” was “ridiculous.”
Cookbook author and model Chrissy Teigen, who is married to Legend, responded to Osbourne’s criticism during her recent appearance on Clarkson’s own show, “The Kelly Clarkson Show.”
“Sharon assumed that you guys burned them all in the backyard or something, like they can never listen to the original again,” Teigen quipped.
“Apparently we killed Christmas,” Clarkson joked.