FRIENDS AND FAVORITES
Have Yourself an Ambivalent Little Christmas
The Golden Age of Spam
Will the Real Renaissance Please Stand Up?
My Life of Crime
My Life of Crime, Pt. 2: The War of the Dandelions
Black (and Blue) Friday
How Not to Celebrate a Holiday
Traffic Report Fall Down
and Go Boom
O, Holy Weekend
You Mean My Vote Actually Means Something?
Lessons for Hurricane Preparedness as Taught By Example in Raleigh, North Carolina
You Mean My Vote Actually Means Something?, Pt. 2: Are They Gone Yet?
The Last Reality Show
It Builds Character
Sink the Flu
WTF (in C Major)
Kneel before Za
I Got Your Breaking News Right Here, Pal
Christmas in July...or April...or maybe even December
Why I Hate "The Little Drummer Boy"
Why I Hate "The Little Drummer Boy"|
Originally this article was going to be a countdown of the ten worst Christmas songs ever. I decided against that for a couple of reasons, however. First of all, there's really nothing I can say about "The Christmas Shoes", "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer", or "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" that hasn't already been said countless times. But more importantly, I couldn't come up with a list of ten terrible Christmas songs because my hatred is so focused on a single song: "The Little Drummer Boy". I tried to come up with the ten songs I felt deserved to be on this list and it was coming out like this: "The Christmas Shoes", "The Little Drummer Boy", "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)", "The Little Drummer Boy", "The Little Drummer Boy", "Grandma Got Run Over by the Little Drummer Boy", "The Little Drummer Boy", "The Little Drummer Boy", "The Little Drummer Boy", "The Little Drummer Boy". So finally I said the hell with it and decided to just write about how much I hate "The Little Drummer Boy".
This is, incidentally, a lifelong hatred. I don't remember a time that I didn't hate this song. No matter how my tastes have changed, no matter how I have gained an appreciation for some songs and lost an appreciation for others, my hatred of this one song has been constant. Indeed, in a life full of changes in my geographic location in the world, metaphorical place in the world, and metaphysical view of the world, my hatred of this one song has been an anchor. It defines me. If someone asks me, "So tell me about yourself in ten words or less", I don't have to mention my job, my religion, my nationality, or my politics. I can simply say, "I have always hated 'The Little Drummer Boy'."
Such an undying hatred is not easily explained. But I feel like I should try. There are many little reasons, but the one big reason has to be the lyrics. Let us look at the lyrics, minus all the "pa-rum-pum-pum-pum" business:
"Come," they told me,
The lyrics are, of course, pure saccharine. But they are very earnest saccharine. "The Little Drummer Boy" dates from the 1950s, meaning it came out about the same time as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", "Frosty the Snowman", "Holly Jolly Christmas", and "Jingle Bell Rock". It is without a doubt the most serious of these songs, by which I mean that it's the only one that's really very serious at all. And it is so serious. So sincere. So reverent.
Which is why I have no idea what all the damn pa-rum-pum-pum-pums are doing in there.
Even if the results are a little over the top, the songwriter deserves a little respect for being willing to be so serious at a time when everyone else was being so frivolous. At least, the songwriter would deserve a little respect for this, had she not ruined it with that silly refrain. Yes, I know it's onomatopeia for the sound a drum makes; so what? You don't need onomatopeia every time you mention a musical instrument in a song. Does George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" contain the refrain "strum strum strum strum"? No, it does not. Something this serious is instantly made absurd when you add refrains like this.
I can only be thankful no one else came up with this idea. One can imagine some of the most poingnant words in history being utterly ruined by this sort of thing: "That's one small step for man, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, one giant leap for mankind, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum." "Ask not what your country can do for you, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, but what you can do for your country, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum." "Mr. Gorbachev, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum, tear down this wall, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum!"
Four score and seven years ago
Now we are engaged in a great civil war
It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this
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