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Lyrically, the song is a tongue-in-cheek look at a Christmas list addressed to Santa Claus by a woman who wants extravagant gifts such as sables, yachts, and decorations from Tiffany's.
The lyrical content of "Santa Baby" proved controversial, resulting in temporary bans of the song in the Southern United States. Music critics gave mixed reviews to the single, with some calling it too suggestive for a holiday-themed song. Springer was initially dissatisfied with "Santa Baby" and called it one of his weakest works. It has since been included on lists of both the best and worst Christmas songs ever written.
In the United States, "Santa Baby" became the best-selling Christmas song of 1953 and found more success, retrospectively, when it entered various component charts by Billboard in the 2000s and 2010s. Elsewhere, it peaked on the record charts in Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. As of 2014, Kitt's version has sold more than 620,000 copies, having appeared on Kitt's self-titled and first extended play in 1954.
"Santa Baby" has been parodied, referenced, and featured in various films and television series. It has also been covered by many artists, such as Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Taylor Swift, and Trisha Yearwood. Other musicians, including Ariana Grande and Gwen Stefani, released covers of the song as commercial singles. Many of the cover versions experienced major commercial success, with Minogue's version reaching the top 40 of the UK Singles Chart and selling over 400,000 copies. Madonna's cover has sold 270,000 copies in the United States and was subject to discussion by many music critics, who believed her version revived the popularity of the song. Kitt, however, disliked Madonna's association with the track. Grande's cover was released as a duet with Elizabeth Gillies and managed positions on charts in several countries such as Australia, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Michael Bublé's version has been named multiple times as one of the worst Christmas songs ever.