For a tune every wife loves to sing along with at Christmas to remind their husband just what kind of loot ought to be under the tree come Christmas morning, “Santa Baby” is a pretty deep song.
On one hand, it’s a tongue-and-cheek exploration of the commercialization of the holiday. The narrator has some relatively simple items on her list (a sable coat, a ring, decorations from Tiffany) to some rather outlandish ones (a yacht, a duplex, a platinum mine).
It’s also a fairly good satire of said commercialization through its use of hyperbole. Plus, Eartha Kitt. (And if you’re not listening to the Eartha Kitt version, really, you should probably check yourself before you wreck yourself.)
But, alas, what are Christmas songs if not vessels for revisionist history? That question shouldn’t be rhetorical, sadly: They’re Christmas songs, and they’re fun to sing around the hearth with family, friends and a bit of spiced cider.
However, for Miley Cyrus — who’s positioned herself as sort of a new-age destroyer goddess sent to obliterate anything enjoyable — that question is very much rhetorical, since the song implies women aren’t independent enough and need stuff from Kris Kringle.
Oh, and sexual harassment and stuff. That too. Not sure what that has to do with the song, but why not throw it in there?
And lo, we are left with “Santa Baby 2018,” Cyrus’ take on the Kitt song with a ham-handedly feminist spin, which she debuted on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”
“Santa, baby, I hear you’ve got some presents / For me, Miley / I’ve been an awfully good girl, Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight,” the song begins. Which, OK, whatever. Needs more autotune, but so far so eh.
“Santa, baby, I don’t fancy any fancy jewelry, not me / I’ve got something else in mind / Sant baby, and I don’t need your presents tonight.” Probably not, since you’re a highly paid entertainer.
She continues talking about how she “don’t want diamonds, cash or stocks” because she can buy her own “damn stuff.” We get the point.
So then we get to the fun part.
“Listen Santa to what I say / A girl’s best friend is equal pay,” she said. “Stop interrupting me when I talk / And don’t text me pictures of your –“
Without quoting studies about the gender gap and how it has to do with experience and work choices more than sexism, did she just accuse Santa of sending her a picture of his genitalia? Hope little Johnny didn’t sneak out of bed and turn on “The Tonight Show.” Oh well, don’t worry — it’ll be on YouTube in a few hours anyway.
“Santa baby, I’d love to know my a– won’t get grabbed / At work / By some ignorant jerk,” she continues. “Tell the dirtbags, to put away their chimneys tonight / Sorry, Santa, just put away your chimney tonight!”
I don’t particularly like to think of myself as an inveterate prude, as my Spotify playlist will no doubt attest to. Even if I were, we’ve kind of crossed a cultural Rubicon when it comes to vulgarity and we don’t seem to evince any signs of turning back.
In other words, I’m not going to sit here and feign shock that this sort of thing is happening on broadcast television.
What does disturb me to no small degree is the cheerfully indecent nihilism being presented to us. There are many ways to argue that we have too many depraved men who sexually harass and importune women without accusing Santa Claus of exposing himself to you.
This, let me remind you, was written by someone, performed in the readthrough and then recorded for rebroadcast several hours later. At no point did anyone in a position to stop this raise a red flag. In fact, Miley and Messrs. Fallon and Ronson seem to be having a gay old time.
I’m glad that Cyrus and company find “Santa Baby” problematic. I suppose takes on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” have worn a bit thin, after all, and now (as always) Miley is in need of some sort of attention.
But a word of advice for future gimmicks of this nature for pop stars trying to maintain relevance: Please leave Santa’s unmentionables out of it. America’s parents thank you in advance.
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