For the information of anyone reading these words who is new or relatively new to my blog, not too long ago I completed the blogging marathon known as the Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History series. *(You can find a link to all 500 posts here). In that series, I proudly wrote about the music of some of the greatest bands and artists of all time, such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Nirvana, Depeche Mode and many more. The series was well received by those who followed along, and as a result, I got the chance to make many new connections with like-minded folks who all have a love for music and those who make it. There was one exception to this statement: a voice of resistance and dissent that belonged to my two teenage daughters. To them, even posts dedicated to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, the White Stripes, P.J. Harvey and Radiohead seemed hopelessly dated and irrelevant. The infamous line that was uttered by them when I suggested that, instead of complaining about the music in those posts, that they should try and read along and listen to the songs instead, was that these songs were old music for old people. Ouch! At the time, writing posts about bands such as MGMT or Kid Cudi seemed to be fairly cutting edge to this guy, but, as my girls pointed out repeatedly, almost every single one of those 500 songs was recorded and released prior to the girls even having been born. So, I challenged them to give me a list of ten modern songs…from the past decade when they were alive…that they felt the rest of the world should know more about. They carried the banner for the most modern songs they could think of and gave me their lists. My eldest daughter’s list had a wide variety of songs ranging from the soundtrack to the musical Hamiliton, all the way back to Abba. My youngest daughter was different (as siblings tend to be), because she clearly had one favourite singer. That person was Ariana Grande. And so when it comes to the subject of Christmas songs. Even then, my daughter Sophie leans heavily toward her girl, “Ari”. So, today we return to a familiar artist when it comes to Reader’s Choice nominations. This is the story of the modern Christmas song, “Santa Tell Me”, by Ariana Grande. Enjoy.
In 2014, Ariana Grande released her first album of Holiday music called Christmas Kisses. The album sold very well and reached Top Ten status on the charts in many countries around the world. It also reached the top of the charts in our house. One of the songs that most resonated with my daughter was a tune called “Santa Tell Me”. Like many of Ariana Grande’s songs,”Santa Tell Me” has a light, airy Pop feel about it. It is about Ariana speaking with Santa Claus about her Christmas wish for true love. The wrinkle in this song is that Grande makes the clear point to Santa that if he was to leave someone under her tree that offered a chance at “real love”, then it better not be the type of disposable gift that you throw away after a few weeks or months. Instead, it needs to be a gift to last a lifetime, or else don’t bother leaving anything at all. Needless to say, like many holiday-themed songs of this era, “Santa Tell Me” tries very hard to recreate the hit-making magic of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. *(A post about this song can be found here). Grande has succeeded in producing a song that has that Pop-friendly sound that Mariah Carey managed to bottle, and, as such, it is quite common to hear this tune playing in stores and in restaurants during the Christmas season. “Santa Tell Me” has sold well for Ariana Grande (with sales of eight million and streaming views approaching 260 million) but she has a long way to go to touch the queen, Mariah Carey, who has sales of over sixteen million with her one Christmas hit alone.
But, none of this matters to Sophie. Like many teenagers today, Sophie has the technology at her fingertips which allows her to curate personalized playlists with much greater ease than I ever had as a teen who was forced to make mixtapes on a cassette. Sophie rarely has to endure listening to classic, religious type carols such as “O, Come All Ye Faithful” or “The Holly and the Ivy” or even “The Carol of the Bells” *(which was the subject of a previous post that you can read here). Instead, Sophie creates her own playlists from streaming services such as Spotify and listens to them on her iPhone from the comfort of her bedroom. In a related note, we have a Spotify account that we share as a family. At the end of each calendar year, Spotify issues a report called Spotify Wrapped that summarizes our listening habits over the course of the whole year and presents those findings in the form of a Top 5 list. To absolutely no one’s surprise in our house, the number one most listened to artist for 2022 was Ariana Grande. Taylor Swift was #4, with three other young female singers (with whom I am unfamiliar) rounding out the Top 5.
Christmas listening habits have changed a lot since I was a boy who built his world around the yearly visit by a jolly fat man and eight flying reindeer. The Christmas songs of my youth hold no sway for most teens today. That is not a tragic thing so much as it is simply a matter of fact. I always enjoyed the classic carols because I relate the singing of them with warm family memories from my childhood. But it is important for us, as adults, to keep reminding ourselves that our children have memories all of their own, independent of ours. My girls are growing up without the tradition-fuelled memories of going to church on Christmas Eve, delivering our own gifts to the homes of our relatives and friends after church was over, writing and delivering Christmas cards (we only have gotten three so far this year as of the writing of this post), having a huge family gathering on Christmas day and so much more. Maybe my present day family traditions are different than yours, but, like many things in life, we seem to be shrinking into ourselves as we stare into our phones in search of Christmas magic. We are more apt to stay in than to go out. We order more presents online than we do from stores and businesses in our town. Consequently, my girls are growing up with Netflix fires on TV and songs like “Santa Tell me” by Ariana Grande on repeat…on a phone…listened to with ear buds so that no one is disturbed by the noise.
So, this is Christmas.
The link to the official website for Ariana Grande can be found here.
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