Hey Maca…wait a second!
Recently two songs have come back into our cultural consciousness. One being an old classic Christmas song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” written by Frank Loesser in 1944; the other, “Macarena” by Los del Rio, released in 1993. Both have come to light as songs that were secretly not what you thought they were.
As Christians we need to be ever vigilant to think on things that are pure and right and excellent, like it says in Philippians 4:8; so if we just let something slide by, it can be dangerous. Such was the case with many people on the internet, whether of faith or not. They stopped to really examine the lyrics behind these songs they had grown up listening to. And some are surprised they were even allowed to listen to them as children at church or at weddings. If you aren’t familiar with the lyrics (like many others were not), let’s take a look at “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
I really can’t stay (but baby, it’s cold outside)
I’ve got to go away (but baby, it’s cold outside)
This evening has been (been hoping that you’d drop in)
So very nice (I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice)
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)
I wish I knew how (your eyes are like starlight now)
To break this spell (i’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell)
I ought to say, no, no, no sir (mind if I move in closer?)
At least I’m gonna say that I tried (what’s the sense in hurtin’ my pride?)
I really can’t stay (oh baby don’t hold out)
But baby, it’s cold outside
I simply must go (but baby, it’s cold outside)
The answer is no (but baby, it’s cold outside)
Your welcome has been (how lucky that you dropped in)
So nice and warm (look out the window at this dawn)
My sister will be suspicious (gosh your lips look delicious)
My brother will be there at the door (waves upon the tropical shore)
My maiden aunts mind is vicious (gosh your lips are delicious)
But maybe just a cigarette more (never such a blizzard before)
I’ve gotta get home(but baby, you’d freeze out there)
Say lend me a coat(it’s up to your knees out there)
You’ve really been grand (I thrill when you touch my hand)
But don’t you see? (how can you do this thing to me?)
There’s bound to be talk tomorrow (think of my lifelong sorrow)
At least there will be plenty implied (if you got pnuemonia and died)
I really can’t stay (get over that old out)
Baby, it’s cold
Baby, it’s cold outside!
Taken from Google Play Music
Rethinking the Cold Outside
Note that this song was written as a duet call and response, where a woman is meant to sing the first part of the line and a man is meant to reply in the parentheses. Reading these lyrics with all the modern knowledge we have about date rape drugs and the horrible treatment of women that can occur around the world, it seems like a song that is in very poor taste if not completely deplorable. The most provocative lyric to our socially conscious ears has to be, “Say what’s in this drink?” But a little back story and context may prove helpful in tempering some who are already fuming.
This song was written by a man to sing with his wife at the end of big Christmas parties in the swinging era of Hollywood, to signal to the guests that the event was wrapping up. Despite what you may think about how women were treated in the 40’s, accounts don’t point to the wife being forced into performing with husband as if she were forced to sing lyrics she found obscene against her will; in fact, it seems the opposite is true. Sources say she was upset when her husband sold “their song” to MGM. If you watch a movie from that period, you may notice that women who wanted an excuse to do something that society frowned on would use the question, “what’s in this drink?” to blame their actions on unexpected inebriation. “Oops! I had one too many last night and did the craziest thing.”
So if that were the phrase that made the whole tone of the song kind of “rapey,” we can scrap that idea. Now, I’m also not going to say that a song about an unwed couple using the weather and access to alcohol as an excuse to spend the night together is pure or excellent either. So is it as scandalous as it could be? No. But should we make it a staple on our personal playlists? No.
The other song has been played at innumerable roller rinks, children’s parties, and even weddings. Now, it’s easy to see how this one could be overlooked, considering most Americans don’t understand Spanish well enough to translate the lyrics; so here’s an English translation for you.
Give happiness to your body Macarena
’cause your body is for giving happiness and nice things to
Give happiness to your body Macarena
Heeey,… Macarena! Aaay!
Macarena has a boyfriened who’s called…
who’s called the last name Vitorino,
and while he was taking his oath as a conscript
she was giving it to two friends …Aaay!
Macarena , Macarena , Macarena
you’re popular the summers in Marbella
Macarena , Macarena , Macarena
you like the guerilla excesses …Aaay!
Macarena dreams of the English Tailor*
and buys the latest models
She would like living in New York
and seduce a new boyfriend… Aaay!
Taken from Lyrics Translate
Rethinking the Macarena
There are two translations on the website that are both pretty accurate. In the last verse it makes more sense that she dreams of the name of some high end department store. Unlike the first song, there is not much of a context or cultural translational issue. When the lyrics say she’s “giving it” to his two friends it means she is having sex with them. Not only that, but she is doing this while the poor guy is getting drafted into the army.
The first part of the song, along with the chorus and the two verses after, paints the picture of a materialistic girl with little regard for men except as playthings. So is it as scandalous as you thought? Probably more so. Is it something you should play at your wedding, at church, or at the roller rink full of children? If you can find an instrumental version or an edited version that just says, “Hey Macarena!” maybe, but playing the original is sending a pretty bad message to anyone who understands it.
Moral of the cultural story? If we are sending messages to the younger generation, either by raising them as our own children, teaching them in schools, or just by being an example to them as adults, we need to be careful that we don’t pass on messages that we grew up with just because we grew up with them. It’s the difference between redeeming culture, and just receiving it. Know what culture you’re experiencing, and whether or not to pass it down.
Just because it was fun to listen and (poorly) dance to the Macarena doesn’t mean it is something the next generation has to experience…at least without some guidance about what is good and pure and excellent, and what is not.
Merry Christmas from Redeeming Culture!