Listening Party: When 'It's Cold Outside,' The Hams Cook We celebrate the cold snap in the only way we know how: with song!
NPR logo Listening Party: When 'It's Cold Outside,' The Hams Cook

Listening Party: When 'It's Cold Outside,' The Hams Cook

Baby, it's cold outside. iStockphoto.com hide caption

toggle caption
iStockphoto.com

It is that part of winter where light griping about the weather becomes intense griping about the weather; where those of us stationed at home in our warm socks gloat about telecommuting while those who brave the streets of, say, New York begin to feel that they have entered a book called Slushy Wet Feet On The Prairie, and they are in the chapter with the sleet storm.

Thus, it is time to listen to versions of "Baby, It's Cold Outside."

Yes, I know. The sexual politics are questionable. If full respect was shown for never pressuring people for smooches, it would be a very short song. ("I really can't stay / I totally understand / I got to go 'way / Okay, that's cool; talk to you tomorrow.")

For those of you who don't know it, the storyline of this particular song (words and music by Frank Loesser, who also wrote Guys And Dolls and lots of other delicious things) is this: the lady does not want to go home, but feels that she probably "should," and the fellow thinks she should not go home, but should hang around so that they can listen to records together. (What? That's what I get out of it.) More than that, however, he is concerned about her health and well-being and wants to ensure that she does not go outside and come to harm from, for instance, frostbite or a sleet-driven taxi accident.

This song requires (in the traditional formulation) a man and a woman, and it since it's a holiday novelty bit, it lends itself to somewhat campy presentations. Not always — the Ella Fitzgerald/Louis Jordan rendition is generally considered the standard, I think, and it's nothing less than delightful.

But it's a very stunt-friendly piece. The first time I personally heard it was when Sigourney Weaver and Buster Poindexter performed it on Saturday Night Live back when he was the bandleader. (Tragically, I cannot find this clip for you.) Done well, it's a marvelous winter confection.

But then there's ... Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson's version, for example.

Many scary things occur, after the jump.

I don't want to overstate the case, but ... this is a horror. For one thing, they both are panting so much that it sounds as if, not only is there no cajoling going on, but they were already listening to records before the song even started. If you get my drift.

The usual (but, of course, not mandatory) genders were switched when Rainn Wilson and Selma Blair did it as a Gap ad last year.

In one of the slowest-paced renditions you'll ever hear, Rod Stewart performs it with the always shy and hard to persuade Dolly Parton. At this rate, they're both going to fall asleep before they even get around to listening to records.

There's lots of narrative in this extremely corny version by Sammy Davis, Jr. and Carmen McRae.

If you've ever wondered what the song would sound like as an extremely mellow cha-cha slow jam, just ask James Taylor and Natalie Cole.

Hey, remember Bo Bice? No? Well, he came in second on American Idol the season that Carrie Underwood won. And he performed a very moan-intensive version with Joan Osborne for a Christmas special.

Just believe me: it's a long list. (There's even a version by Earth, Wind & Fire for those of you who associate that particular sound with seduction.) If you believe that Willie Nelson would spend a lot of time trying to talk Norah Jones into anything, you can hear them perform it.

Unfortunately, I do not have video to support the original version, which appeared in the movie Neptune's Daughter, where it was performed by swimming star Esther Williams and ... wait for it ... wait for it ...

Ricardo Montalban. Who (and I have heard it) sounds exactly like what he is: a young Ricardo Montalban, long before Corinthian leather. It was, however, also performed in that movie in the switcheroo segment by Red Skelton and the awesome Betty Garrett, who made her entire career as a second banana in movie musicals, most often as a person far more interesting than the alleged lead banana.

So drink some tea or something. Because baby, it's cold outside.