Some of us count down the days until it’s socially acceptable to start blasting Christmas music from our car windows. Even if you’re a fan of the latest Michael Bublé or Justin Bieber holiday albums, you’re most likely listening to versions of traditional Christmastime classics. Many of the songs that pop stars cover today date back to the “good ole’ days,” as Grandpa would say. But upon closer inspection, some of the lines from these songs are cheesy, sexist or downright weird (wait — that song I’ve been singing since I was eight actually says what!). Unfortunately not all oldies are goodies.
“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”
Music & lyrics by Tommie Connor
“Oh, what a laugh it would have been, / If Daddy had only seen / Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night!”
As if the thought of seeing your mom kissing anyone wouldn’t already give you nightmares, imagine seeing your mom kissing the jolly, bearded man that leaves presents under your tree. Apparently the child that tells the tale in “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” is not the slightest bit fazed. He sneaks out of bed and watches the scene unfold from the staircase where he sees “mommy tickle Santa Claus/underneath his beard so snowy white.” Infidelity must be pretty comical in this household: the lyrics state it would have been a funny sight for the child’s dad to see his wife kissing Santa Claus. Even a kid that thinks Santa would make a cool dad should know this situation is not something to make light of. The original recording by 13-year-old Jimmy Boyd reached #1 on the Billboard charts when it was released in 1952.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
Music & Lyrics by Frank Loesser
“Put on some records while I pour / The neighbors might think / Baby it’s bad out there / Say, what’s in this drink”
Written in 1944, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has been recorded by too many artists to count, becoming a quintessential song for when temperatures drop and snow starts to fall. The duet is a playful tune with a male and female going back and forth, him trying to convince her to stay at his place rather than venture out into the snow, even worrying she may “catch pneumonia and die.” However the man’s intentions are questionable. It’s also debatable whether the woman is somewhat reluctant to stay because of what she fears it will do to her reputation or whether alcohol is hindering her ability to simply leave. Even when she asks, “Say, what’s in this drink?” he avoids the question by assuring her there are no cabs outside, resorting to complimenting her eyes, which are “like starlight now.” He goes on to ask if he can move a little bit closer and tells her, “Baby, don’t hold out.” As the song ends she insists once again that she can’t stay, but the audience is left wondering whose desires triumphed.
Written by Joan Javits & Philip Springer
“Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree for me / I've been an awful good girl”
“Santa Baby,” recorded by Eartha Kitt in 1953 and covered by pop superstars like Madonna and Taylor Swift, is a tune that portrays a gold-digging woman who teases Santa Claus while asking for expensive gifts. Calling him “cutie” and “honey,” she mischievously asks him to bring her a convertible, a yacht, fancy jewelry and a duplex. This scenario portrays women in a negative light, not only suggesting females use their sex appeal for materialistic gain but also that they are dependent on monetary assistance from men. However what often goes unnoticed is that in the first line, prior to asking for all of these lavish gifts, she asks for a sable. No, a sable is not the name for a tablet or smart phone of the 50s; it’s an animal often found in Russia harvested for its valuable fur, which is considered to be a luxury item. This woman is begging Santa “baby” to leave a live animal under her tree so she can skin it for money? Someone alert PETA!
“Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
Written by Bob Geldof & Midge Ure
“And the Christmas bells that ring there / Are the clanging chimes of doom / Well, tonight, thank God, it’s them instead of you”
It’s 1984 — any song featuring the likes of superstars like Sting, Bono and Duran Duran is sure to get people’s attention, especially those in the first-world who appreciate the all-star ensemble, Band Aid, serenading them into helping those affected by the Ethiopian famine. Effective as it may be, don’t you think a song with this grave of a message should sound a little bit more like tearjerkers “My Grown Up Christmas List” or “The Christmas Shoes” and not like a sing-along pop song? Good intentions, perhaps, but when you’re singing along with Phil Collins it’s easy to overlook the snobby nature of the song, which tells you to thank God others are suffering instead of you. It may have successfully raised millions for charity in the UK, but co-writer Bob Geldof has admitted the song is dreadful. “I am responsible for two of the worst songs in history. One is ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ and the other ‘We Are The World,’” he remarked. When the song asks you to pray for “the others” and “raise your glass for everyone,” are we being told to sympathetically donate our money or just drink our eggnog and think about how good we have it?