Editorial: Taking lyrics to task

What are holiday songs really saying?

Let’s have a chat about some Christmastime holiday songs.

Songs like Baby, It’s Cold Outside, which is now banned from many holiday playlists at radio stations for seeming to promote sexual assault. Santa Baby, with its…well, let’s call her avidly acquisitive…main character is also getting negative attention for promoting greed.

Even Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, the classic children’s holiday song, is concerning. Before you shake your head and stop reading, consider that the song is about a child bullied by children and adults alike, excluded from playing with others and shunned for being different, until his difference was useful one night. Then, suddenly “how the reindeer loved him.”

Sure. Now that we can use you for something, that is.

At this point, outrage is probably building out there, and visions of political correctness are dancing in your heads.

But PC or not, those objecting to these songs have a point. Though its composer, Frank Loesser, may have intended Baby, It’s Cold Outside to be a playful flirtation, it can be heard — and is by many — as a prelude to date rape.

Lines sang by the woman like “What’s in this drink?” don’t help its case, nor does Loesser reportedly labelling the two parts “Wolf” and “Mouse.”

And sure, Santa Baby is just a bit of fun. Seriously, how would Santa ever fit a yacht down a chimney?

Magic only goes so far. (That said, if the jolly old elf could drop off a ’54 convertible at a certain address…you know which apartment, Santa.)

But is it making fun of greed at Christmas, or promoting it?

The argument, and this goes for Rudolph too, is that these songs were written in a different time and we should just enjoy them as intended, innocent of our modern interpretations and values.

Some radio stations that banned Baby, It’s Cold Outside last year have adopted that point and subsequently returned the song to their 2019 playlists.

Others argue it’s better to leave them to the past and not promote attitudes opposed to modern values of respect, sustainability and inclusivity.

The question is, where does this review stop?

There are few songs out there, Christmas or not, that someone, somewhere, isn’t going to find offensive, at least in part.

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, for example. Annoying and offensive both.

In the end, it’s up to you. When are we reading too much into lyrics?

–Black Press

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