A recent article sparked my interest, saying various popular songs such as Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello” and Grease’s “Summer Nights” have a creepy tone/implication to them. I felt strange, however, when I scrolled down to find “Baby It’s Cold Outside”.
As much as I call myself a critical thinker, I can’t help but wonder: are we overanalyzing some songs by calling them “rapey”?
For starters, we have to remember the background of “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. Written in 1936 by Frank Loesser, the song is a duet between a man and woman in a style similar to a cat-and-mouse game. The man tries to seduce the woman into staying with him overnight, while the woman refuses for various reasons. With lyrics such as “say what’s in this drink?” and “the answer is no”, the song can easily sound like a tone of rape. However, when you search for an analysis of the song, there are many who believe that the song is just about playful seduction, not to mention it was scandalous for a woman to stay overnight like that, despite how much she may have wanted to.
In the case of “Summer Nights”, the lyric “did she put up a fight?” comes into question. Some believe that it implies putting a fight against being raped, while others claim it’s just poorly worded to rhyme with the rest of the lyric and it simply questions whether or not Sandy rejected Danny and it pokes fun at his possible failed pursuits.
Because I’m no expert on song analysis, I honestly can’t say what each of the songwriters were going for. Do many of these lyrics sound a bit creepy? Definitely. Is it important to think critically when listening to songs, especially those that might encourage rape or other sexually abusive behavior? Of course. And yet, I hate to automatically dismiss songs just because I looked into them too much, especially if the lyrics were a result of unfortunate wording. The one difficulty with analyzing the lyrics to songs is that we don’t want our findings to ruin the innocent images we may have of them (e.g. when I became old enough to understand that “Magic Carpet Ride” was not in fact about a magic carpet ride). Although we may like a song without thinking about the lyrics, we must remember to think critically and not go out of our way to say a song is something that it is not, especially when the song’s meaning is as controversial as rape.
So what do you think, dear readers? What are your views on these types of analyses, or these specific songs?