Christmas music III: Santa goes modern
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1949)
As the Santa-as-God metaphor broke down midcentury, new themes emerged, like Santa-as-Boss. His benevolence is not universal, as we learn that red-nosed reindeer are called names and systematically denied games. In a time of crisis, though, Santa’s a pragmatist, and Rudolph goes down in history just a year after Truman’s order to desegregate the military.
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (1952)
Jimmy Boyd (who had a perfect name for a white boy in the fifties) introduced this when he was thirteen, and coasted on it the rest of his life. Although I’d strongly suggest the Jackson 5 cover over the original, this is my favorite Santa song ever. Three reasons:
1. It captures the spirit of Christmas through a child’s eyes, as it exists in the real world. The sneaking around, the curiosity, the confusion that results when the adults you trust all tell you ridiculous lies.
2. It’s a Santa song that acknowledges Santa isn’t real. I’m a bitter skeptic, to the point where I get angry when movies have ghosts in them, and it’s nice to see a piece of Christmas media that reflects reality. And it can afford to do that because…
3. The chorus relies on a clever ambiguity. If you believe in Santa, the narrator’s tale is a fun fantasy. Once you don’t, it gets better.
Santa Baby (1953)
It’s like someone liked “Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and took all the wrong lessons. Too suggestive for children, too goofy for an adult to masturbate to, I don’t know who this song is for, but it’s not me. Props for asking for a platinum mine, though–Eartha Kitt knew the value of owning the means of production.
Mr. Grinch (1966)
Santa doesn’t appear at all in The Grinch; apparently the Whoville is also magic-free. But the naturalism isn’t the selling point here, it’s the burrrrrns:
You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch!
With a nauseous super naus!
You’re a crooked jerky jockey,
And you drive a crooked hoss,
You’re a three-decker sauerkraut
and toadstool sandwich,
With arsenic sauce!
It makes me wonder why Christians don’t replace more of their boring-ass praise hymns with scathing litanies against the devil.
Christmas in Hollis (1987)
Black Santa, a mischievous elf engaged in class struggle, and a pro-family, pro-integrity morality tale make this the best Christmas song released by any major hip hop group in the eighties. Check it out.