There should be only one 'Santa Baby'

December 10, 2012

One of my favorite TV shows is Community and one of my favorite episodes of that show was last year’s Christmas musical special, and one of my favorite songs from that particular episode was “Teach Me How to Understand Christmas”:

Clearly the whole sexy dummy Christmas baby bit is a parody of the holiday standby “Santa Baby,” wherein the lady singing takes on a disturbing persona of a whorish infant who sexily begs for expensive toys. For a nice example of how weird this is see Madonna’s version of the song, mostly because the concept of Madonna being cute or asking for something (instead of demanding it) or even condescending to celebrate something so pedestrian and suburban as Christmas is completely alien:

What’s worth noting, however, is that the original recording of the song isn’t nearly as disconcerting. Sure, it still focuses on materialism and an imbalance of gender, but that’s really not as much at play when Eartha Kitt purrs the song:

Notice how there is a complete absence of babyishness in her voice? Instead, we hear an actual woman singing, and the “Santa” in question sounds a lot like an actual man she knows and has a relationship with instead of some indistinct daddy figure. The singer in the original “Santa Baby” sounds like she can probably take care of herself and doesn’t really need Santa cutie to get her all those things she asks for (even though she’d really like them).

It’s just a novelty Christmas song, obviously, and not that deep, but it’s worth noting that “Santa Baby” is one of very few Christmas hits written by a woman (Joan Javits), so it's interesting how the song, depending on the singer, can either be tongue-in-cheek or needy and vaguely depressing. “Teach Me How to Understand Christmas” is only a few hops away from the sophisticated Kitt song, which is disturbing, so basically what I’m saying is, please, ladies, stop covering “Santa Baby,” and while we’re at it, let’s just eliminate all the non-Kitt versions of the song, so there's only the one. And really, that's not a lot.