Wednesday 17 December 2014

[Duellng Divas] "Baby, It's Cold Outside"

Since it is the season, I thought this latest addition to the Duelling Divas series should be somewhat related.

We've already had a Christmas battle [See: O Holy Night], so this time I've found a winter classic that is pertinent to the coldest season of the northern hemisphere, but isn't holiday related. A bonus of this pick is that it's been covered by such a wide range of singers, over such a large period of time, that we'll get to deal with Divas who don't usually get a look in on the blog.

Before we get to the music, here's a quick blurb from Wiki on the song:

"Baby, It's Cold Outside" is a song written by Frank Loesser in 1944. Although popular during the Christmas and holiday season, it was written to be a romantic winter song such as "Winter Wonderland" or "Marshmallow World". Unlike the latter two songs, though, "Baby , It's Cold Outside" had been played on radio all year around throughout the 50's. Until the late 1990's, the song was considered more of a pop standard and not a Christmas song."

The Contenders:
Ariana Grande and Mac Miller - This was a surprise find for me! This is how I'd imagine two drunk/stoned teenagers to tackle the song, but it actually works really well. Modern and effortless. No showey vocals from Ariana, who keeps it all in first gear with a breathy timbre.

Betty Carter and Ray Charles - Definite version for me. Everything I want is here: vocals, emotion, chemistry and a sympathetic, living production. It also evokes a nostalgic feeling that I don't understand, but love.

Christina Aguilera and CeeLo Green - C'mon, you know what you're going to get even before you press play on the video! Still, it's a nice change in vocal styling from those that I've listened to up until now, so that's appreciated. Christina's melisma and vocal tics makes it hard to believe any of the words she's singing, so though impressive(ish) to behold, this version didn't move me. Ultimately this take is less a conversation between two people and more a couple with communication problems.

Dolly Parton and Rod Stewart - This version was always going to be a toughy for me, even before it started. Why? Because I detest Rod Stewart. Would my love for Dolly outweigh my dislike for the mullet man? It kinda did. The arrangement was an immediate, nice surprise- was totally expecting a hoedown- and Rod kept that rasp somewhat in check enough for me to get into Dolly's delivery.

Doris Day and Bing Crosby - I can't say I'm familiar with Doris Day's singing voice, but both use their acting skills admirably here to impart the narrative. Both do a good job, but neither voice blew me away.

Idina Menzel and Michael Bublé - This version shows how weak Buble is as a vocalist. The tone is nice and he knows how to "swing", but his voice is so one dimensional. Thinking I was being unfair for having these thoughts, I stupidly focused on his voice for the whole song *. I had not changed my opinion of him by the end.

* I only listen to each song once on these Dueling Divas post. I don't got TIIIIIIIME to listen to all these songs twice over*

Jessica Simpson And Nick Lachey - An upbeat version! Honestly, I was just waiting for Jessica to start shouting and holding notes. Perhaps unsurprisingly they saved both those tricks from her vocal arsenal for the song's conclusion. This version was made for a Hallmark Christmas film.

Kelly Clarkson and Ronnie Dunn - Classy take from Kelly! She shows how multi-tonal her voice is, reigning in the power for a softer vocal. Something about the tempo is a little off to me, as if Kelly was singing a slightly faster version than her dueting partner.

Liza Minnelli and Alan Cumming - Liza is Liza, so we know she's going to bring character to the piece. I could really hear Judy Garland in some of the notes, which made me smile. However, Alan Cumming was annoying/distracting me with things he was doing vocally. He did bring it home at the end though.

Norah Jones And Willie Nelson - This rendition is text book Norah Jones. Don't expect any sweeping crescendos or crazy vocals- this is a laid back affair. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any chemistry going on here, sounding as if the two recorded in separate studios and the finished product was spliced together on a computer. For that reason alone this version falls flat for me.

Sara Bareilles and Seth MacFarlane - It's Seth MacFarlane so we know this take is going to be heavy on the swing and orchestration. Sara sounds good (again), with her voice soaring above Seth's baritone. There's also some nice choices taken by the Diva- like how she handles the line "My brother will be there at the door at 1.49. Weirdly, Seth's voice sounds less impressive here than when I've heard him sing as a character on one of his animated shows.

( Off topic: That video thumbnail may follow me into my nightmares tonight. )

She and Him - I know there is a Zoey Deschanel fan out there somewhere on this blog. The version is nice enough, forgoing horns and orchestration for rhythmic guitar playing and (one of my pet peeves) whistling. This isn't going to be the song that turns anyone on to Zoey's voice, but it's pleasant enough.... in a vanilla sort of way.

So there we have it! Feel free to add any I've missed in the comments section, below! Also vote on which you liked best!


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