Saturday, December 16, 2017

D. G Hart at Old Life broaches the topic of the song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and an in-bad-taste send up of a well-known holiday song about Santa


https://oldlife.org/2017/12/13/a-song-unfit-for-a-time-such-as-this/

Now as a musician and hobbyist composer I'd say that if we don't lead with the observation that the song was written by Frank Loesser and Lynn Gardner, an at one point husband-and-wife team who wrote the song as a playful party skit and that Loesser was one of the better known composers of what we now know as the Broadway musical, then the whole date-rapey dread people understandably have about this song in the 21st century misses the history lesson that explains how the song ever became a hit.

For those with just enough familiarity with the conventions of the American musical you have to hear this song within that context to understand what's going on.  It's a shrewdly economical musical play in which conventions are upheld long enough to subvert them in the end.  The woman puts up resistance but, as is shown by song's end, wants to spend the night with her beau at his place, even though "people will talk". 

Hart gets there soon enough, really, but with some necessary prep for those who, being non-musicians, wouldn't already know this song's interesting backstory.  We're looking at what might be one of the most brilliant microscopic operas in the American songbook.  An entire narrative plays out not just within in a single act but a single song. 

I've been thinking about how a lot of holiday songs from the 20th century that seemed cute and innocuous back then seem creepy now.  Santa Claus is Coming to Town would be the champion, really, because anyone with some knowledge of musical theater and some of the work of Frank Loesser can appreciate that when the "wolf" part is taken up by a Ray Charles or a Ricardo Montelban that it's not the same as a 21st century post-Cosby "read". 

In the wake of the War on Terror and in the context of mass social media use such as Facebook and Twitter and Instagram "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" just seems creepy, in a context where we have the capacity for a massive surveillance state and people voluntarily sink time into online games and quizzes via Facebook that are simply data-mining projects.  So even though as a rule I tend to not be sympathetic to newer Christmas songs that tend to be merely about older Christmas songs and holiday pretexts for torch songs or songs about erotic longing, I did write a send up of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" filtered through the tropes of American action/adventure scripts and a bunch of terrible jokes about the nature of social media usage.

By way of a prelude, when you stop and think about the basic idea of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" it might as well be read as "shut up kid, or we're not getting you anything this year." 

So if you don't mind a kind of "Lone Wolf and Cub" assassin take on Santa-as-Krampus ...

you might as well pout
you might as well cry
you might as well shout
cuz you're gonna die
santa claus is taking you down
  
he don't need the list
he won't check it twice
already knows that you are not nice
santa claus is taking you down
 
he sees you when you're sleeping
he knows when you're awake
he knows that you've been bad, not good
so he comes your life to take
 
he sharpens the blades
that will slit your throat
you might as well be
a sacrificed goat
santa claus is taking you down

and then when he's done
there won't be a sound
except from your corpse
when it hits the ground
santa claus is taking you down
 
he follows you on twitter
you're in his g.p.s.
his punishment is bitter
and he comes to kick your ass
 
and then when he's done
there won't be a sound
except from your corpse
when it hits the ground
santa claus is taking you down
 
and so on ...

Seeing as Bruce Willis is in a Death Wish remake ...

This song lyric is probably more what Santa would be like in an Argento film, maybe.

1 comment:

Cal of Chelcice said...

Reminds me of that Futurama episode:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mMaRmMthWQ