This morning I took a cab to the Houston airport. I was intent on catching up on email as I rode, but something kept nagging at me as I read and deleted. It was lurking just below the level of conscious thought.
Then I realized what it was.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Are those Christmas carols you’re playing on the radio?”
“Yeah, mon,” the cabbie said, with a grin. “The station started playing them because it’s almost Christmas.” Then he turned up the sound, mistaking my question for a request for more volume.
And so, on the day before Thanksgiving, I was treated to Willie Nelson’s rendition of Frosty the Snowman as I rode toward Terminal A. I’m not a Willie Nelson fan, and Frosty the Snowman is right up there with Do You Hear What I Hear? as one of the worst holiday songs ever written. Now I have another reason to wish people would wait until after Thanksgiving to start with the annual Christmas bombardment.
Just my luck! I do some channel surfing on the radio, hit one of those all-Christmas-music-all-the-time-stations, and my first exposure to holiday music is the worst Christmas song ever.
That’s right: I started my festive holiday music season by having to endure another annoying and dispiriting rendition of Do You Hear What I Hear? Setting aside “novelty” songs like Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, Do You Hear What I Hear? is unquestionably the worst “mainstream” — that is, recorded by the likes of Bing Crosby — Christmas song in the book. When I hear the predictable annual news reports about how many Americans experience depression during the Christmas season, I secretly attribute much of the rise in despondency and dejection to having to listen to this awful song played over and over again.
What makes Do You Hear What I Hear? so awesomely abominable? Well, the forgettable melody is both uninspired and grating — but the real fingernails on a chalkboard impact comes from the lyrics. Any song that begins with a “night wind” that can both see and speak talking to a “little lamb” about a star with “a tail as big as a kite” obviously is going to score high on both the cloying and inexplicable meters. And when the little lamb then has a conversation with a “shepherd boy,” who in turn visits a “mighty king,” the song crosses the line into irretrievable sappiness. Apparently aiming for the mystical, the song instead come across like the cheesy plot line for a particularly bad Christmas cartoon.
It’s almost impossible to regain the proper Christmas spirit after having an initial exposure to Do You Hear What I Hear? Fortunately, I resisted the temptation to kick over a Salvation Army bell ringer’s kettle and immersed myself in We Three Kings Of Orient Are and Jingle Bell Rock to regain my jovial holiday bearings.