Meaning of Santa Tell Me by Ariana Grande
Back on 24 November 2014, Ariana Grande dropped an original Christmas single titled Santa Tell Me. This tune proceeded to become a holiday classic, maybe not on the same level as Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You (1994). But as with that song, Santa Tell Me also tends to chart annually. That includes this year also, as it has appeared on the Billboard Global 200 year-end chart for 2023.
Also, at the time of its release, Santa Tell Me proved to be a monumental, truly-global hit. That is to say that it charted in nearly 40 countries all around the world. Stateside it appeared on a number of Billboard lists, including the top of the US Holiday 100. And as for the Billboard Hot 100, this song peaked at number 12, as well as reaching 11th place on the UK Singles Chart. Moreover, it has thus far achieved multi-platinum status in the UK, Demark, Norway and Sweden.
Songwriting & Production
This track was produced by Swedish musician Ilya, who also co-wrote it with Savan Kotecha and Ariana Grande. And it was Kotecha who originally conceptualized Santa Tell Me, unintentionally, as it “just came into (his) head” one day while he was taking a shower in Los Angeles.
Other Facts about the Track
This song is from a holiday EP Ariana came out with in 2013, through Republic Records, titled Christmas Kisses. And besides a couple of original songs, that project does also feature Grande covering a couple of Yuletide classics.
The first time Grande is on record as having mentioned this song was on 28 October 2014, and she announced it a couple of weeks later, on November 13th. It was also a few days later, on November 18th, that she first performed it, at a Los Angeles venue known as the Shrine Auditorium and during an event dubbed A Very Grammy Christmas.
The directors of this track’s music video are Jones Crow and Alfredo Flores.
There’s an explicit version of Santa Tell Me, which reportedly did not see the official light of day until it was included as a bonus track on the 2019 “Limited Edition Vinyl” of Ariana’s second holiday EP, Christmas & Chill.
Interpretation of the Lyrics to Santa Tell Me
As its title implies, Santa Tell Me is Christmas-themed, and the lyrics are replete with other Yuletide references. But in essence this is a love song, one which is set during the holiday season though premised on the vocalist pining over a certain guy.
As attracted as she may be to this individual, coupled with the fact that Ariana is yearning for someone to keep her warm during the cold holiday season, she is not compelled to allow herself to just fall in love like that. That’s because, as also revealed in the lyrics, the last time she did so, even ‘falling in love on Christmas night’, the romance proved to be disappointing, fleeting and disheartening. So as relayed, she doesn’t want to go through such an experience again, i.e. giving her heart to this new guy only to have it expeditiously broken.
So that’s where Santa Claus comes into play. Of course by this point in her life, with Grande being 21 years old when this track came out, she’s well aware that Santa is fictional. But he represents a concept, i.e. an entity who is able to grant wishes and furthermore being empowered to do so during Christmastime. But it isn’t as if Ariana is asking him for a boyfriend. She already has someone in mind, who apparently shares a mutual interest. Rather, the vocalist wants to know whether or not dude is actually serious, so that she doesn’t end up wasting her time and emotions if he isn’t.
And with that in mind, there’s a couple of things that are interesting to note. First is that shortly before this track was dropped, Ariana broke up with one Jai Brooks, whom she had been dating for a couple of years. And it has been speculated that this song was inspired by said break up, coupled with Grande at the time trying to feel out Big Sean, who she subsequently went on to date. But that said, the lyrics paint the vocalist’s ex as the party who was uncommitted in their relationship. But in real life, it appears that Ariana may have been a lot less interested in Jai than vice versa.
Second is that the fact that Grande did eventually find that special someone, Dalton Gomez, i.e. the man she actually married in 2021. They just got divorced a couple of months ago (as of the writing of this post). According to the mainstream media, this was due to pair suffering from irreconcilable differences, such as Dalton becoming adverse to Ariana’s massive celebrity (they got married during the COVID-19 lockdowns, when it wasn’t as much of a factor) as well as being focused on his own career, which necessitated that he could not spend as much time with his wife as idealized. But that said, gossip circles have also been reporting that Gomez is akin to a womanizer. And in fact he began dating other women even before he and Grande filed for divorce, while she was visibly going through some type of inner turmoil.
So even though Santa Tell Me is sorta lighthearted, it raises some legitimate concerns about the risks that come with falling in love. At the end of the day, no one wants to fall for another who’s going to end up breaking their heart. But unfortunately for Ariana and many of us listeners also, there’s no Santa out there to predict our romantic futures for us. And again, the vocalist knows this but still wishes upon a star, if you will, to get some type of sign to guide her before she ends up potentially making a major mistake.