What’s in a Song?

Ah, the classics. Whether it be a book, or a song, we all have our favorites. When we read or listen to them again (and again) they never feel old or tired, but more like a comfortable blanket, cozy and warm. Winter is chock full of songs like that, especially around Christmas time, although I have to admit sometimes for me it’s as much about the style of how the song is being sung as it is about the song itself. I can rediscover a new twist on an old song and find it’s become a brand new favorite.

A few years ago a couple of movies came out that got a bit of buzz. I didn’t see them right away, but when I did I found a whole new genre of music I didn’t realize I would appreciate, a cappella choirs. Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2 were fun, peppy and silly, and if you’ve not seen them, they’re a good time, especially if you think you might like to sing along to something. Since then I found out my nephew joined a mens a cappella choir in college, and I’ve been able to see him sing, and I’ve also discoved a wonderful group called Pentatonix. If you’ve never heard of them, I’d encourage you to check out this video of “Hallelujah”, along with some of their other ones. I thought when I’d heard the version of Hallelujah sung by Espen Lind, Askil Holm, Alejandro Fuentes and Kurt Nilsen, that it was one of the most beautiful versions I’d ever heard and promptly downloaded it. Pentatonix brings an entirely new vision to it, and it’s amazing. I hope that Leonard Cohen would be proud.

Another song that I’ve always liked, and it seems we get a new iteration of this one every few years as well, is “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. Searching for it in iTunes brings up at least 100 different iterations, with a message at the bottom saying “less relevant items are not displayed”. We’ve all heard it hundreds of times…haven’t we? But what do you know about it?

The song was written by Frank Loesser in 1944, near the end of WWII, as a duet with his wife for their Navarro Hotel housewarming party as a way to signify to guests it was time to leave. According to  Wikipedia’s page about the song:

Frank would introduce himself as the “Evil of Two Loessers”, a play on the theme of the song, trying to keep the girl from leaving, and on the phrase “lesser of two evils“. Lynn Garland (his wife) considered it their song and was furious when Loesser told her he was selling the song. Garland wrote, “I felt as betrayed as if I’d caught him in bed with another woman.” He sold it to MGM.

Now, I’ve listened to the song, and heard the words, and never was very much bothered by them. Perhaps I should have been, or perhaps I’m not a deep enough thinker, because I ran across an article this morning where a couple from Minnesota has imagined the lyrics and changed this from a song of creepy coercion to one emphasizing the need for consent and my first thought was “huh?” I actually had to go and read the original lyrics (which you can do here) to fully understand everything they were talking about. I’d never learned all the words, and honestly, my impression of it was more one of gentle teasing between two people, probably because of how it’s always been sung. After reading the new lyrics they’ve come up with, I can see how – viewed through the lens of the world in which we live – the original lyrics are more disturbing than I’d realized.

Having said that, while I’ll use that to educate myself and become more aware, I’m also not going to stop enjoying the song when I hear it, and will probably continue to sing along. The mental movie that I play will be a cheery scene where the woman isn’t pushed or coerced, but is strong and confident and can leave any time she wants to, and the man is confident enough in himself as well to not stop her, as it all should be.



One thought on “What’s in a Song?

  1. One of my friends calls it “The Date Rape Song”, and the first time she said that I went, “WHAT?!?” I’d always thought of the song the same as you, as a gently humorous exchange between two people who don’t want their evening to end. But after listening to the words I can see how it might be misconstrued… or maybe I’m the one that’s been misconstruing it all along, who knows? But when Louis Armstrong and Velma Middleton sing it, it’s pure fun: https://youtu.be/0ZBFk-Y-4Jo 🙂


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