As the holidays arrive and 2008 draws to a close, I'm sure that most of us, at least in North America and Europe, are all pondering the same eternal question: Which is the dumbest Christmas song?
Now, I'm not asking myself which is the most annoying. That's a matter of taste, and my feelings shift each time we venture out into public places. (At the moment, I'd have to say that I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, with its smarmy faux-naive kid voice and sappy tune is the most annoying...but that's because I was recently exposed to it in a store.) But dumbest seems as is it ought to be quantifiable.
Any song (and there are quite a few) that requires the chorus to sing "Ding" "Dong" "Ding" "Dong" is a clear contender for dumb. But that's a rather pedestrian form of dumbness. I'm looking for something more preposterous.
Do You Hear What I Hear? is a serious contender. I have problems with this song first because the meter and beats of the chorus:
Do you hear what I hear?
aaaaa(Do you hear what I hear...?)
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy?
fit so perfectly with the annoying late 1800s Polly Wolly Doodle:
Polly Wolly Doodle--
aaaaa(Polly Wolly Doodle...)
Polly Wolly Doodle all the day...
(Try singing it to the melody of Do You Hear What I Hear? Fits like an epidermis.)
This oddity doesn't necessarily make it dumb (though it does make it annoying, as it leaves me humming Polly Wolly Doodle all the day--at least until some other brain-worm forces it from skull). What makes Do You Hear What I Hear? genuinely stupid is the lines:
A Child, a Child, shivers in the cold;
Let us bring him silver and gold,
Let us bring him silver and gold.
Uh-huh. Good thinking. Makes sense the same way that if you heard about a baby starving, you'd rush to bring him a skateboard and a philodendron. Silver and gold? Something in the way of a blanket or little footie pajamas or a hot water bottle might be nice. Furs, even, if you need to engage in conspicuous consumption. Ice-cold metal isn't going to do anybody any immediate good. Dumb.
But in my estimation, the dumbest song has to be The Little Drummer Boy. Just think about it for a minute. First of all, we have to accept the idea of some impoverished urchin wandering the streets of Bethlehem beating on a drum. This doesn't sound charming to me; it sounds deranged. Pa-rum-pum-pum-pum? No. Drums go BOOM-DA-BOOM-DA WHAM WHAM WHAM! or, in the case of snare drums, RATTATTA-TATTATTA-TAT-TAT-TAT! This kid would have been nabbed long before by the residents and taken out and fed to the wolves. You can't have both Silent Night (which I rather like) and The Little Drummer Boy, not in the same universe.
And then we have an exhausted Joseph and Mary, who've been forced to bed down in a stable because there's no room at the inn (be sure to make reservations over the holidays). Mary, without the benefits of modern medicine or happy pills, has just given birth, a process I am given to understand is a bit trying under the best of circumstances.
Mary and Joseph might make allowances for Three Magi bearing expensive gifts, even if they'd really rather not have visitors. (What happened to all those valuable gifts, by the way? The gospels than mention the Nativity--giving rather conflicting accounts--don't say what happened to the loot. I mean, did it go into his college fund, or what?)
Magi bearing gifts? Fine. But there has never been a mother anywhere who would have tolerated some kid banging a drum near the fragile pink ears of a newborn. I'm aware Mary is supposed to be a Saint and all, but I know Moms. That's just ridiculous. (And so is the idea that the ox and lambs kept time.)
There may be a dumber song, but I'm voting for Little Drummer Boy.
Oh, well. Happy Holidays.