Given that she’s responsible for one of the very, very few relatively recent additions to the Christmas music canon, with the unimpeachable “All I Want For Christmas is You,” Mariah Carey’s dreadful new experiment with the form, “Oh Santa,” is a huge disappointment. Let us now count the reasons why.
1. You can’t sing to it.
This is sort of a big one, no? The way I see it, a good Christmas song should be suitable either for carolers to sing at my doorstep (do people go caroling anymore?), or for me and my co-workers to sing, drunkenly, at our office holiday party. In the former category, you’ve got such classics as “Jingle Bells,” while in the latter, you’ve got, I don’t know, “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” by The Ramones. “Oh Santa” is a jumbled mess of nearly unintelligible lyrics with no real melodic payoff, making singing along not only difficult, but also not particularly enjoyable.
2. It doesn’t sound like Christmas.
I never know exactly what makes a Christmas song sound like a Christmas song. I suspect it has something to do with scales and keys and other things I don’t understand, but whatever it is, “Oh Santa” doesn’t have it. There are sleigh bells in the very beginning, but then that’s about it, and we’re left with an utterly characterless beat and some dopey background vocals.
3. Her voice actually sounds sort of terrible.
I don’t know when Mariah Carey forgot that, on account of her being Mariah Carey, she is in possession of one of the greatest singing voices ever, but with the exception of some of the horrible shrieking at the end, she never really puts it to use here, instead relying on that marble-mouthed delivery favored by the Britneys and Mileys of the world.
4. The line “I saw them shopping last week, and his new girl was so bleak.”
Aside from the fact that referring to a person, rather than an outlook or the weather, as bleak just isn’t something we really do, and that it was clearly just the only word she could think of that rhymed with week, the real problem here is a Christmas song that has us talking shit about another person. Not exactly the spirit of the season, Mariah.
5. She’s being sort of a jerk to Santa.
This is a tricky one—”Oh Santa!” and “All I Want for Christmas is You” are both about trying to win back a former love, but the differences are subtle and important. On “All I Want for Christmas,” she’s speaking directly to the person she wants back. She makes a point of leaving Santa Claus out of it. She tells us she’s not going to write him a letter, she’s not going to stay up to wait for him, and she definitely won’t be happy with whatever toy he brings her. It adds a sad sort of desperation to the whole thing—the same sad desperation present in basically all the best Christmas songs. The closest she gets to that on “Oh Santa!,” though, is a hollow line toward the end: “The trees all sparkly and gold, but inside I feel so cold.” It’s the “Single Ladies” of Christmas music, basically. easily boiled down to a list of demands: she tells Santa to put on his red suit and get to work bringing her shit; she worries about his ability to make it safely through a snowstorm, but only because she wants to make sure she gets what she’s asked for. She also asks him to grant her wish “right quick,” which, jeez, is just really pushy.