I have to give some serious love to Becca at She Becomes for turning my onto the first one. I don't know what hole in my brain made me overlook Shawn McDonald's version of O Holy Night as it was released at least four years ago, but it would have been really tragic if I never heard it.
This recording has everything that I love about Shawn, that easy, mellow coffee-house sound with plenty of guitar picking and enough effects ad libs to still sound "cool" but not detract from the song. Honestly, this kind of music is not where his voice carries the most impact. O Holy Night belongs on a two story stage with pyrotechnics and Shawn's voice belongs in a smoky basement on a squishy chair with a beanie on its head. His music makes me think while O Holy Night completely empties my head. Still, he makes the song his own. I wouldn't have guessed that anyone could make O Holy Night sound chill and still be powerful, but he nails it. Guy's seriously the coolest Christian musician on the scene, I will go to the wall on that.
Thanks again, Becca!
The second was an accident. I bought Chris Tomlin's Christmas album without knowing O Holy Night was on it, it was a like a surprise truffle center in an already great album. But, had I known it was on there, I still would have had absolute confidence that he'd do it justice, he's just like that.
I'm not sure if this version really qualifies for the race as there is a choir behind him, though it is a simple choir, often in unison. But, as I was listening to it (admittedly a little teary), I realized that the reason I've never found the "perfect" solo performance of this song just may be that this song requires a crowd. It's not only that the power needed to build up to that last "O night divine," often exceeds a single voice (Celine Dion excepted), but it just is fitting somehow.
However, Chris deserves solid praise for knocking it out of the park. He doesn't screw around with weird grandstanding ad libs, but he still gets into it and doesn't shy away from the high notes. I was pleasantly surprised, props dude!
Anyone else wanna share?