Another Christmas, another fruitless search for the perfect version of Oh, Holy Night.
I don't know if anyone else is as neurotic as I am about such things, but I have a thing about this song.
If you ask anyone what their favorite Christmas song is, there is a pretty good chance that Oh, Holy Night makes the top 5. It's just a beautiful song, both musically and lyrically. But, as you may have noticed, the most beautiful things also have the potential to be the most disastrous. Hearing an inept or insensitive musician perform Oh, Holy Night is like giving a toddler a chainsaw; mayhem will ensue (and someone is probably losing a leg). For this reason, I really do not like it when musicians, even musicians I like, choose to perform this song. I've been hurt too many times. Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson (Kelly, Kelly, I had such high hopes for you), Carrie Underwood, GLEE, Mario Lanza, Charlotte Church, freakin' Pavarotti! Even the incomparable Josh Groban has disappointed me.
I think the problem is most people don't realize how incredibly difficult this song is to perform well. Like a soap bubble, if you handle it without the utmost delicacy, you will destroy it. It is both a complex and subtle song with a deceptively difficult melodic line. Singing it takes legitimate chops and, like that creepy sand-tiger in Aladdin, it has devoured many an unworthy vocalist (Avril Lavigne, Martina McBride, Clay Aiken, David Archuleta, N Sync, Christina Aguillera and, truly horrifying, Jessica Simpson).
First of all, you can't do a pop version of this song, it ain't happenin'. This song MUST be sung classically or by someone with classical training. Sorry, Jess. Secondly, I just will never be able to buy someone singing "Fall on your knees" or "Christ is the Lord" when I know dang well they don't buy it themselves. That's why David Phelps comes so close to the mark, even though I think other performers beat him out musically. The lyrics to this carol are powerful and you can't do a song about Christ justice if you aren't in love with Him. Or at least I haven't seen someone do it yet.
I happen to have heard a few of my personal friends sing this song who I think rock the vocal socks off of many of the joksters who have made a mess of it. Lucky me!
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir did a fairly awesome job and I've heard some beautiful orchestral versions, but a satisfactory solo artist or small group rendition still evades me. I don't know if I'll ever find it, maybe I should check out that Susan Boyle chick?
So, now that I've share my pain with you...my favorite Christmas Song is Oh, Holy Night with honorable mentiones to The First Noel, Christmas Time is Here, and Satchmo's 'Zat You, Santa Claus. My favorite album is probably either the Charlie Brown Christmas or Home Alone soundtrack although Bebo Norman's Christmas... From the Realms of Glory is fairly awesome as well.
What's your favorite Christmas song?