Saturday, November 5, 2011

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer Song Analysis

There are a lot of songs associated with the Christmas holiday. Some are pretty good, some aren't so good. And then there is "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer," one of the worst songs ever written.

Reindeer Knowledge

It starts off, "You know Dasher and Dancer/And Prancer and Vixen/Comet and Cupid/And Donner and Blitzen." So right off the bat it is establishing that You, the listener, are some sort of reindeer expert. You know the names of all of the reindeer. And then in the very next line it asks you, the reindeer expert, "But do you recall/The most famous reindeer of all?"

Now if someone is aware of all the obscure reindeer like Prancer and Vixen, wouldn't it stand to reason that he or she would be able to recall "the most famous reindeer"? In fact, wouldn't a reindeer expert be insulted by the question? That's like saying that you know Nolan Reimold and Bengie Molina, but have you ever heard of Babe Ruth?

Glowing Nose

The song continues, "Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer/Had a very shiny nose." The repetition of the word "nose" like that is the mark of sloppy, lazy songwriting. It continues, "And if you ever saw him/You would even say it glows." By saying "You would even say it glows," it's implying that at most his nose glows. And that might even be a slight exaggeration.

I don't know how many of you have ever driven in the fog. But you want lights that do more than simply glow. You want a bright beam. It's not like Santa Claus needed to alert other flying sleds of his presence. No, he needed light to be able to see the rooftops and telephone poles and such things so that he wouldn't crash.

Which brings to mind another problem with the song. If Santa's elves are able to build all these wonderful toys and electronic gadgets, why couldn't they build him some headlights for his flying sled? Seriously. He wants to put his own safety as well as that of the rest of the reindeer in the hands of a slightly glowing nose? That's insane. Santa is crazy.

Mean Reindeer

The song also establishes that the other reindeer are juvenile and mean. "All of the other reindeer/Used to laugh and call him names." Names like "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer"? The very name of the song is mean. Why call him by his one imperfection, his one oddity? Doesn't he have a last name? Defining him by his deformity is cruel. Do any of you like to be defined by one feature, by one physical attribute? No, of course not.

Then, like the little sycophants that they are, the other reindeer love Rudolph as soon as Santa shows him some favor. Once Santa asks him to guide his sleigh, the songs says, "Then all the reindeer loved him/And they shouted out with glee/Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer/You'll go down in history." Even at the end, they're still calling him "the red-nosed reindeer." Clearly, the love they show for him is merely superficial flattery.

By the way, what has Rudolph been doing all this time? Was he not even in the Christmas Eve reindeer lineup until that one night? Was he just hanging around until there was some fog? Or did he work in some other capacity at the toy factory?

Montgomery Ward Origins

"Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" was written by Johnny Marks. But the song did not mark Rudolph's inception.

Rudolph was actually created for Montgomery Ward as a promotional tool in 1939. Montgomery Ward gave away coloring books each year to children, and decided to save money by coming up with its own character.

Robert L. May came up with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. But the red nose almost didn't happen, because a red nose is traditionally associated with drunkenness, and so thought inappropriate for a Christmas character.

But as we all now know, imbibing is an important part of the holiday, and without a little alcohol, a lot of folks wouldn't make it through the day.

"Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" is a poorly constructed and conceived song, but it seems to be here to stay. Fortunately, its airplay is limited to a few weeks out of the year.

(Note: I originally posted this on December 8, 2010 on another site.)

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