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Lydia Liza voices frustration at Netflix 'Baby It's Cold Outside' that sounds a lot like her 2016 rewrite

Josiah Lemanski and Lydia Liza at The Current in 2016. (Nate Ryan/MPR)
Josiah Lemanski and Lydia Liza at The Current in 2016. (Nate Ryan/MPR)Gabler, Jay

by Jay Gabler

November 08, 2021

Minneapolis singer-songwriter Lydia Liza has taken to Twitter accusing Netflix of “stealing my version of Baby It’s Cold Outside” for their new holiday film Love Hard.

In the film, the song is performed as a duet between the characters Natalie (Nina Dobrev) and Josh (Jimmy O. Yang). After Josh volunteers the duo as carolers to honor a request for that song, Natalie hisses, “That is, like, the sexual assault theme song!” In response, Josh cooperates with Natalie to perform an impromptu version of the song in which Josh defers to Natalie’s hints that she needs to leave, encouraging her to go right ahead and get home safely.

As Liza noted, the Love Hard version bears a distinct resemblance to a rewritten version of the song she and Josiah Lemanski released in 2016. Although the Love Hard version doesn’t have any precisely matching lyrics, it comes close when Natalie asks, “What’s in this drink?” Josh sings back, “It’s just lemon LaCroix!” In the Liza/Lemanski version, Lemanski answers that question with, “pomegranate LaCroix!”

In the film, Natalie’s delighted at the new version. Liza was less so. “I wish people would talk to ‘the little guy’ and bridge that gap without gatekeeping or avoiding paying out,” she wrote in an e-mail. “I'm tired of seeing that happen to creators. It's just ridiculous.”

Though the Liza/Lemanski version has become one of the most widely-known rewrites of "Baby It’s Cold Outside,” the 1944 Frank Loesser song has been reimagined numerous times, particularly in recent years as the #MeToo movement has prompted renewed criticism of the assumptions implicit, however jokingly, in the original.

Scott Herold, whose label Rock the Cause released a professionally recorded version of the Liza/Lemanski “Baby” after an early demo went viral, wrote in an e-mail that “ultimately the [Loesser] estate and the publisher own the composition rights. The publisher can grant permission to anyone to create a derivative work. Although there are some similarities to the Liza and Lemanski version, ultimately the publisher and the estate own the composition to the song. They can do whatever they want. Liza and Lemanski own their master recording. Netflix did not use it.”

The 2016 rewrite landed Liza and Lemanski in the culture wars, with interviews on both CNN and Fox News, but a year later they said they had no regrets - particularly since proceeds from their version go to support organizations working to prevent sexual violence. “People are super militant about their Christmas classics,” said Lemanski, “but also militant about the beliefs that they’re stuck in."

The Love Hard version, named “Maybe Just Go Outside,” is credited to producers 5 Alarm Music, JD Adams, Steve Schebby, Evelyn Wong, and Jonathan Lane with executive producer Michael Turner. Netflix representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.