I read once, long ago, that songwriter Frank Loesser didn’t intend for “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” to be a holiday song – instead, its narrator was asking the jackpot question way in advance, in the summer, perhaps, or maybe even the spring.
I always loved that interpretation. It paints a picture of nervous excitement, the desire to win out over all those “thousand invitations” that causes our hapless narrator to overshoot in the sweetest possible manner. “Oh, you have a date Friday? How about Saturday? Or next week? Or December 31?”
Even without that possible backstory, Loesser’s song is a gorgeous, cozy serenade. It’s a simple melody coated in jazzy smoothness and peppered with tender lyrics, effortlessly capturing that postwar crooner style.
“New Year’s Eve” has been covered dozens of times by some truly great artists (among them Ella Fitzgerald and Harry Connick, Jr.), but my favorites are a laid-back 1947 recording by Dick Haymes and the Les Paul Trio, and a popular 1949 R&B version by The Orioles.