TAIPEI – I once heard an item on the “This American Life” radio program in which some researchers had taken a market research-type survey of people’s taste in music. They divided songs up by theme (eg. love, patriotism, happiness), by musical style (eg. ballad, rock, opera) and singer (eg. female, male) and computed the songs most and least likely to be popular. I don’t remember what the most popular combination was, but the least popular was a march about a holiday sung by children. Then the researchers wrote a march about Labor Day and had children sing it. Sure enough, it was awful!
So imagine my dismay when I descend to the Dante Coffee Shop in my hotel each morning to a snare drum beating out the rhythm to “Jingle Bells,” as children sing “Dashingthoroughthesnow, inaonehorseopensleigh…” Then it slows to half time. Then it speeds back up again. Eek. As my band director in college used to say, “Pick a tempo!”
In this land where karaoke parlors accommodate 2,200 people, it’s no surprise that karaoke Christmas songs dominate. There’s the old favorite “Lockin’ around the Christmas Tree,” and I’ve learned that “Frosty the Snowman was a jolly, happy soul, with a corn-cob pipe and a button nose and a jolly happy soul.” And whose idea was it to put “Here Comes Santa Claus” on a music box or “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” into three-part harmony? It gives new meaning to insipid. I’m a “Do You Hear What I Hear?” man, but there is no “Hear” here. Perhaps that’s because Taiwan is barely 2% Christian.
However, it’s easy to be cynical. One Sunday morning at Dante, the woman sitting next to me was mouthing the words to Jingle Bells as it played. Far be it from me to be a Scrooge.