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MUSIC

Every Christmas song is creepy, when you get right down to it

A rewrite of Baby It’s Cold Outside has made us re-consider our favourite Christmas songs

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By Caroline O'Donoghue on

Another year, another Christmas, another reminder that Baby It's Cold Outside is a bit of a creepy creepfest. If you've ever been slightly too sober at an office Christmas party or slightly too tuned-in to the shopping-centre speakers while queuing outside Santa’s Grotto, you'll know what I mean. 

You could interpret basically any couplet in this song as a bit suspect, but I'll just grab a few at random. 

My mother will start to worry (beautiful what's your hurry?)

My father will be pacing the floor (listen to the fireplace roar)

So really I'd better scurry (beautiful please don't hurry)

But maybe just a half a drink more (put some records on while I pour)

The neighbors might think (baby, it's bad out there)

Say what's in this drink? (no cabs to be had out there)

Now, I just want to say a little something in defence of Baby It's Cold Outside. When it was written in 1944, the song had a completely different context: one where parental control over their daughters was fairly iron-clad, and where appearing to "want" to have sex was considered a sin in itself. Also, it came along bang smack in the middle of WWII, where women were breaking outside of the home in a major way. It's a code, really, for a woman who is in-between two places. It's the struggle between "I am a good Christian girl who belongs to her family" and "I am a liberated woman who is DTF." Plus, it's catchy as hell. 

But even so, in the context of today, where sexual consent is still (still! STILL!) something we need to spell out in massive Alphabet Land letters to even the most well-educated men (like, for example, judges) it's all a bit... off. Which is why, in 2016, singer Lydia Liza and her partner Josiah Lemanski rewrote the lyrics. 

The result is somewhat of a less turbulent story – it turns a song about sex and social anxiety into a "let's call you a cab!" song – but it made me laugh regardless. It opens with a breathy "I really can't stay..." followed by "baby, I'm fine with that" and follows up with innocent, wide-eyed punchlines like: "Say what's in this drink?" "Pomegranate Lacroix." 

The whole “Baby It’s Cold Outside” debate has made me think much more about Christmas songs. I worked in retail for five Christmases in a row, so I am intimately familiar with their festive swell. And when you’ve been on your feet for eight hours, every one of them sounds creepy and suspect. They're like the "It's A Small World" ride at Disneyland: so full of joy that they seem possessed by Lucifer himself. All that CHEER and GOOD WILL and LOVE and SLEIGH BELLS boils over into a syrupy mess of disturbing sentiment. 

Don't believe me? Here's just a few examples. 

Driving Home For Christmas

A man returns to his family after an undisclosed period of time. We don't know where he has been, or what has taken him away from his family away for so long. Does he have a second family, living in another state? If so, what are they doing for Christmas?

All I Want For Christmas Is You

Mariah Carey refuses to hang her stocking or acknowledge the many presents beneath her Christmas tree. She instead mopes around her home like a festive Miss Havisham, screaming that all she wants for Christmas is you. “I just want you,” she screeches. “For my own.” 

Mariah will not be sated until you are given to her. There are no guarantees on your fate after you are delivered to Mariah by a group of frightened villagers, who select an annual “You” from the town to be given up as sacrifice. 

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Judy Garland promises us that, from now on, our troubles will be out of sight. How can you know that, Judy? Are you some kind of omnipotent God, silently ruling over us all, doling out punishments as and when you see fit?  What have we, the human race, done to displease you for so long that only now can the Yuletide be gay? 

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

A child witnesses their mother engaging in an extra-marital affair. Some listeners maintain that "Santa Claus" refers to the child's father in costume. Those people are wrong. 

Santa Baby

The mother in “I Saw Mommy…” uses her sexuality to bribe a stranger for luxury goods. She is acquiring things she doesn’t need – a sable, a diamond – so that she may sell them and flee her horrible, over-curious child.

Fairytale of New York

Two drug addicts reflect on how they have ruined one another’s lives. No, I didn’t even have to try with this one. 

@Czaroline

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