Chaos Attraction

How To Fix "Little Drummer Boy."

2011-12-15, 1:41 p.m.

Wooot! I won "Best Of Holidailies!" Squee! That's so awesome! Thanks, Richard and Jennifer, who I presume are the judges of this!

Hey, while I'm at it, I might as well write some more about holiday tunes. Let's look some more at some of the top listed/bitched about songs on the Jezebel bracket:

* As we all know, "The Christmas Shoes" is despised by everyone who is a non-fundie Christian, and Patton Oswalt has long since covered the problems with that song, so I won't rehash it.
* The "Baby, It's Cold Outside-- Rape Or Not?" debate got covered over here very well so I won't rehash that either. I will just say that really, it depends on how you perform it. Blaine and Kurt doing it = cute. Miss Piggy practically raping this fellow in the sauna = OMFG RAPIEST VERSION EVER, EVEN TRUMPING MY JOHN LITHGOW-BEING-A-CREEPER VERSION. (Plus bonus points for having to sing about how his hands are cold as ice WHILE THEY ARE IN A SAUNA.)
* Other top songs in the Jezebel bracket include gems like "Wonderful Christmas Time." I actually do not hate this song. I don't like it particularly, mind you: it's weirdly discordant and sounds like it was written during Paul McCartney's LSD stage of life and I never have liked the LSD Beatles phase of music so much. But it doesn't make me homicidal for some reason. I don't know why.
* I find "Do They Know It's Christmas" to be patronizing and annoying (really, who CARES?), but oddly enough, I like the Glee version of this song. I didn't actually realize what irritating song it was until halfway through, when the wanky part about Africa comes up. So if they can fix that song, awesome. (Note: should anyone be wondering what I thought of this year's Glee Christmas episode, thanks to my antenna-ears TV hating Fox this year and Fox being asses to Hulu, I won't be seeing it until next week. I'll get back to you if I feel strongly enough to comment on the issue. But I do have the Christmas album already. Of COURSE. That's where I lost this year's "Little Drummer Boy" virginity already.)
* There's always "Santa Baby," for sheer cloying, annoying, bad female stereotyping, scary levels of materialism, and a song that somehow turns me off on the sexy. But now we have "Teach Me How To Understand Christmas" spoofing off of it horrendously, which somehow improves it a bit for me.
* "Dominick the Donkey" and "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth" are both in the Barney-ish category of "supposed to be cute if you're a 3-year-old and after that, nobody's gonna like it." I can't come up with more to say than that. They're supposed to stink for adults, and indeedy they do! Mission accomplished!
* "Feliz Navidad" would be okay, but it needs more lyrics. I'm just saying. Repetitive factor needs fixing. I woke up the other morning at 2:30 a.m. with this song droning on in my head. 'Nuff said.

But my personal hate on for traditional Christmas music, after Christmas Shoes, is "Little Drummer Boy." And the thing about this song is, it doesn't HAVE to be bad. Some of these songs are just guaranteed to be bad no matter who covers it or how (assuming someone wants to cover "Dominick the Donkey," 'cause even I haven't found a cover of that) by how it's written. But much like "Baby, It's Cold Outside," my primary issue with "Little Drummer Boy" is its presentation. This song is fixable if some musician(s) out there can take a few notes and switch it up a bit.

The idea of this song isn't too bad, mind you. Poor kid goes to see Baby Jesus, offers up a tune, everyone goes "awww." Though if you think about it, there's some flaws in how the song is conceived if you think about it realistically. For example, I'll quote Monica Hesse:

""Well, see, here's my trouble with both of the other two. They always take a long, long time. I begin listening a comparatively young woman and stagger out six minutes later, haggard and broken. Drummer Boy is wrong on infinite levels, and now I hear Justin Bieber has made a cover. I am too frightened to listen to it, lest I go stark ravng myself. But the general gist of the song (not that going through the general gists of holiday songs ever leads to good places) is that someone doesn't have a gift for Jesus (pa rum pa pum pum) and can't possibly go (pa rum pa pum pum) and so (but apparently he has this strange speech condition that requires him to stop mid sentence to say "Pa Rum Pa Pum Pum" which may have made things difficult growing up) he decides to do the one thing that is clearly anathema to babies, and perform a drum solo. But instead of anyone's saying, "No, Drummer Boy, return to your home, Joseph has been through enough," everyone just says, "What a lovely thought!" and then the animals start stomping, apparently in response to the music -- I mean, every part of this is terrifying when you pick it apart, but it's really the "Oh, What A Lovely Thought" of songs, that phrase that means "If We Can't Give It To Goodwill It Will Probably Sit In The Garage For Five Years."

You know what? She's right. No freaking parent, even if they're chosen by God, wants to have the baby listening to a damn drum solo. Why did this not occur to me before, other than the part where I am not a parent? GOOD POINT, Y'ALL.

On a similar note, there'se Linda Holmes: "So you go to all the trouble of going out and getting a gift frankincense, whatever. You've done your shopping. You've put in the time. And then you get to the baby shower, and you present your gift, and everybody is really impressed and everything. And then this kid shows up, and he's like, "Weeeeell, I didn't get a gift, but maybe I could bang on this drum." And everybody's like, "Ohhhhh, that's wonderful," and first of all, you have to listen to all this drumming, and second of all, it's like you might as well have just saved the frankincense for your aunt, like, sorry, I didn't know we were doing a talent show."

So yeah, there's a wee bit of logic fail in this after all when you think about the idea behind it. It's kind of unfixable there, though. But you know why this song really sucks? I've got a bunch of syllables for you: PA-RUM-PA-PUM-PUM (PUM, PUM).

The entire song, which theoretically should be a happier tune given the subject matter, is sung like a damn funeral dirge, or "My Heart Will Go On." It drags on for about fifteen years to listen to. It's not a fun song to listen to. It makes me depressed on the sound alone. And then there's the PA-RUM-PA-PUM-PUM (PUM, PUM). Which is repeated constantly. In a droning tone. It sticks in your head forever. It makes you want to pound a lot of aspirin. You get violently sick of PA-RUM-PA-PUM-PUM (PUM, PUM). And yet it DOESN'T STOP because it's EVERY OTHER LINE. Most earwormy songs tend to at least be upbeat, but not this one. This one gets stuck in your head and leaves you irritated and sad to boot. And it's not even technically a sad song! What the hell? What is with the way 99% of people perform this song, anyway?

You know what almost all versions of "Little Drummer Boy" are missing? DRUMS. No, seriously, has this ever occurred to anyone but me? It seems like the answer to this question is mostly a no. But really, isn't that missing the point, to have no drums in this song? Shouldn't it have drums? Shouldn't this song have, instead of PA-RUM-PA-PUM-PUM (PUM, PUM)., a bitchin' drum solo busting out at those parts? Preferably done with enthusiasm and vim, the way that a small boy given a large noise-making object would actually do? Wouldn't that make this song really fun? I would totally like "Little Drummer Boy" a whole lot better if it was actually fun to listen to instead of being a dragging-ass earworm from hell.

And yet, nobody does it with drums. I've heard two versions of this song that have any. The Bing Crosby-David Bowie mashup is one of the few bearable versions of the song I've heard-- mostly because LDB is pretty minimized in that mashup, but it does have drums playing in the background. So props there for that. And a few years ago I was in a hippie store and actually heard a version of the song where actual drumming was done in lieu of PA-RUM-PA-PUM-PUM (PUM, PUM). I have yet to find this version of the song online to add it to my collection, but at the time I was like, "Yes! Somebody gets it!"

Really, y'all, this song could be saved if someone did it right. Musicians out there, anyone interested? THIS ESPECIALLY GOES OUT TO YOU DRUMMERS!

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