Joining the ranks of Bing Crosby and Michael Buble, Sabrina Carpenter has left her mark on the Christmas music industry with her new holiday EP “Fruitcake.” Like these other artists, the new six-song collection captures an annual experience felt by all young people — the yearning to cozy up next to a significant other during the winter holiday season.
Fans of Carpenter’s most popular song “Nonsense” will be pleased to hear the opening notes of their favorite song accompanied by jingle bells as the EP begins with “A Nonsense Christmas.” A self-proclaimed “holiday remix” in the song’s intro, “A Nonsense Christmas” weaves cultural references from Christmases past into existing “Nonsense” lyrics. However, the new raunchy holiday-themed lyrics cheapen the intricacies of young love captured by the original lyrics.
The first verse in the original “Nonsense” brilliantly conveys the all-consuming excitement and anxiety of new relationships. Carpenter “only want[s] one number in [her] phone,” a tall order for a generation reliant on smartphones for remembering phone numbers. This desire reveals the potential for codependency as young people navigate the new terrain of romantic relationships.
In “A Nonsense Christmas,” Carpenter changes the lyric to express that she “only want[s] you under [her] mistletoe,” a clever way to convey that she only wants to kiss her significant other. However, she sacrifices the joyful-bordering-on-dangerous innocence of young love merely for the holiday spirit.
In reality, the concept of holiday spirit is a goldmine for the entertainment industry. Artists with successful Christmas songs create an avenue for steady yearly revenue during the holiday season. Considering that “Nonsense” is by far Carpenter’s most popular song with over 500,000 streams, taking advantage of this popularity and turning her biggest hit into a yearly Christmas classic was simply a smart business decision.
Carpenter continues with her upbeat melodies and sly sexual innuendos in the next “Fruitcake” track, “buy me presents.” She threatens that her sugar daddy — a rich and usually older man who showers his girlfriends with lavish gifts — “better treat her like a star“ or else she will leave him for a man “from a city that's colder,” along with other obvious nods to Santa Claus. Christmas is a time for outrageous fantasies, and Carpenter leans a little too far in with this preposterous representation of everyone’s favorite old man in red.
The track “santa doesn’t know you like i do” continues Santa references, but with him in a different role this time — as Carpenter’s romantic competition. Carpenter lists the things she knows about her crush that Santa would not know, inadvertently conjuring the hilariously absurd image of Carpenter’s ideal 20-something-year-old man and Santa riding off into the sunset. Sorry, Sabrina, listeners will end up laughing at this wistful ballad.
In another soft ballad entitled “cindy lou who,” Carpenter compares herself once again to a classic Christmas character, the toddler from Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” Though the song strongly conveys the pain of knowing that your significant other will eventually fall for another girl who is close to them, the metaphor gets lost at the mention of Cindy Lou Who.
Whether you are imagining Dr. Seuss’s original illustration, the sweet child from the animated movie or young Taylor Momsen from the 2000 live-action movie, it is difficult and even laughable to envision this baby as an emblem of the perfect girlfriend to whom you will never measure up. Carpenter appears to have used a random female Christmas character’s name as a metaphor for her insecurity because Cindy Lou Who has been immortalized since 1957 as a Christmas-loving little girl with pigtails.
Thankfully, Carpenter ditches the ridiculous character references in her next track. “is it new years yet?” is an upbeat and relatable diss on Christmas for those who favor the thrill of New Year’s Eve over the supposed comfort of Christmas, especially when there is no one to celebrate Christmas with. In her complaints about Christmas, she mentions that “fruitcake just makes [her] sick,” an ironic nod to the title of her EP — at least she’s self-aware.
As Carpenter wraps up her album with “white xmas,” she revamps the Christmas classic “White Christmas.” Swinging Bing Crosby’s slow original, she pours some of Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby” into her style and creates a culmination of the two classic holiday singers. While fans have already started to express their love for “cindy lou who” and other tracks, “white xmas” deserves more attention as an homage to the artists of Christmas past and the perfect way to end a holiday EP.
“Fruitcake” is a Frankenstein of references to popular culture that American consumerism has brought to Christmas, which is supposed to be a time to give back to those in need and to spend time with friends and family, rather than pining for romantic relationships and starting drama with cartoon characters. While “Fruitcake” is simply a result of 21st-century consumerism — a product of its time — Carpenter has done and should have done better.