"Baby, It's Cold Outside" is a popular song written by Frank Loesser in 1944 and introduced to the public in the 1949 film Neptune's Daughter. While the lyrics make no mention of a holiday, it is popularly regarded as a Christmas song owing to its winter theme. The song was released in eight recordings in 1949 and has been covered numerous times since.
During the 1940s, whenever Hollywood celebrities with vocal talents attended parties, they were expected to perform songs. In 1944, Loesser wrote "Baby, It's Cold Outside" to sing with his wife, Lynn Garland, at their housewarming party in New York City at the Navarro Hotel. They sang the song to indicate to guests that it was time to leave. Garland has written that after the first performance, "We became instant parlor room stars. We got invited to all the best parties for years on the basis of 'Baby.' It was our ticket to caviar and truffles. Parties were built around our being the closing act." In 1948, after years of performing the song, Loesser sold it to MGM for the 1949 romantic comedy Neptune's Daughter. Garland was furious: "I felt as betrayed as if I'd caught him in bed with another woman." The song won the 1949 Academy Award for Best Original Song.
The song is a call and response duet between two people, a host (called "Wolf" in the score, usually performed by a male singer) and a guest (called "Mouse", usually performed by a female). Every line in the song features a statement from the guest followed by a response from the host. The lyrics consist of the host trying to convince the guest that she should stay for a romantic evening because he fears her getting too cold outside, despite the fact that she feels she should return home to her concerned family and neighbors. In the film Neptune's Daughter the song is first performed by Ricardo Montalbán and Esther Williams, then by Betty Garrett and Red Skelton but with a comic parody twist: this time the man wants to leave and the woman is the host and wants him to stay.
In at least one published version the tempo of the song is given as "Loesserando", a humorous reference to the composer's name.
Don Cornell and Laura Leslie with the Sammy Kaye orchestra; recorded on April 12 and released by RCA Victor (peaked at No. 12 on Billboard's Records Most Played By Disk Jockeys chart, at No. 13 on Billboard's Best-Selling Popular Retail Records chart (lasting ten weeks on the chart), and at No. 17 on Billboard's Most-Played Juke Box Records chart in mid 1949)
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan; recorded on April 28 and released by Decca Records (peaked at No. 9 on Billboard's Most-Played Juke Box Records chart and at No. 17 on Billboard's Best-Selling Popular Retail Records chart (lasting seven weeks on the latter chart) in mid 1949)
Dinah Shore and Buddy Clark; recorded on March 17 and released by Columbia Records (peaked at No. 3 on Billboard's Records Most Played By Disk Jockeys chart, at No. 4 on Billboard's Best-Selling Popular Retail Records chart, and at No. 6 on Billboard's Most-Played Juke Box Records chart in mid 1949)
Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer; recorded on March 18 and released by Capitol Records (peaked at No. 3 on Billboard's Records Most Played By Disk Jockeys chart, at No. 4 on Billboard's Best-Selling Popular Retail Records chart (lasting 19 weeks on the chart), and at No. 8 on Billboard's Most-Played Juke Box Records chart in mid 1949)
Since 2009, the song has faced criticism among some listeners for the alleged implications of its lyrics, with certain elements, such as the line "What's in this drink?" and the host's unrelenting pressure for the guest to stay in spite of her repeated suggestions that she should go home, being described as suggestive of sexual harassment or even date rape. However, others have noted that cultural expectations at the time of the song's writing were such that women were not socially permitted to spend the night with a boyfriend or fiancé, and that the woman states that she wants to stay, while "What's in this drink?" was a common idiom of the period used to rebuke social expectations by blaming one's actions on the influence of alcohol. Susan Loesser, the daughter of Frank Loesser, blamed the song's negative connotation on its association with Bill Cosby after television programs such as Saturday Night Live and South Park depicted the song being performed by the comedian, who had been accused of sexually assaulting several women and later convicted in one case.
In 2018, the airing of the song was cancelled by a number of radio stations including Canada's CBC streaming service, after social media criticism and public pressure regarding the song's lyrics. On November 30, 2018, Cleveland, Ohio, radio station WDOKStar 102 announced that it had removed the song from its playlist due to its lyric content, based on listener input, "amid the Me Too movement". On December 4, 2018, the Canadian radio broadcasters Bell Media, CBC Radio, and Rogers Media followed suit. The decision was divisive among critics and the general public, with supporters arguing that the song's possible implications of date rape did not align with current societal norms, and others arguing that the decision was an appeal to political correctness. Station KOIT in San Francisco, having placed the song "on hold" pending listener feedback, returned it to the playlist after 77% of respondents opposed its removal. CBC Radio subsequently reinstated the song as well. Following the controversy, the song rose to the top 10 of Billboard's digital sales list for the week of December 22, 2018, with a 70% increase in downloads.
In 2019, vocalists John Legend and Kelly Clarkson also recorded the song with modified lyrics, written by Legend and Natasha Rothwell for a new edition of Legend's A Legendary Christmas album.Deana Martin, whose father Dean Martin recorded a popular version of the song in 1959, criticized the new interpretation as "absurd", saying her father would not have approved of altering the lyrics (which she maintained to be more sexually explicit in the new version than in Loesser's original) in order to appease contemporary sensibilities.