One of the best songs you will hear around this time of year is O Holy Night (Julesang, Cantique de Noel). Its a big song that everyone tries to do, and some can really butcher it. It is a nice test to see who has taste, and true musical ability. Something that fascinates me is the topic of “what makes something musical?”, or more closely, what is true musicality and why does that connect to audiences. I do believe that to truly connect with an audience, you need several things. One element is musicality, and some others are context (either with the music or the performer), sound quality and pitch/rhythm.
On this song, pacing is also an issue. I think it is safe to say that all of the performers here have wonderful voices. Let me go into some background on how I came up with these selections. I searched youtube for the song title, and listened to a ton of versions. I decided to go with solo acts, to groups. I excluded some of the worst ones (Jessica Simpson, Paul Potts, Susan Boyle) based on really poor intonation and sheer lack of musicality. This isn’t song to sex, up, Jessica. You are lame. And while its nice that the unsung heroes are out there, they just don’t have it when it stacks up with the pros.
I am a traditionalist, so I tend to favor the more conservative approach, but there where some performances that meet all of the other criteria, so I had to bring them in. With that being said, here is what NOT to do with a good song, compliments of Christina A.:
At the top is Luciano Pavarotti. His version here does not have the second verse, but we can safely say his voice may be the best one ever created. I was surprised with some of the other ones, and which ones I actually liked the best, or enough to have them considered in the top here.
I will start off with a singer I have never heard of – Sissel Kyrkjebø of Denmark. This is a very nice performance. Straight forward.
Next up is Mariah Carey. Its is a nice R & B version with all the taste Aguilera doesn’t exhibit. You have to just marvel at her virtuosic singing on this one.
I think points for boldest would go to Martina McBride for her accapella version. That takes serious courage, so I included it as well as the selection with accompaniment, which was one of the better ones I found out there.
Next up is not one of the videos that fits the criteria but it is worth watching. It is from the TV show Studio 60 Live on the Sunset Strip, and features a New Orleans Band right after the Katrina thing. It was a nice tribute back then. Its a shame the writers strike killed this show. One Season. It was a wonderful show.
I will mention a few others that I excluded. Josh Groban sounded good, but was fairly un-musical and boring. Sarah Brightman has a wonderful voice but you can’t understand a word she says. Michael Crawford has a really good one if you want to hear the Phantom of the Opera sing it. I stayed away from the old school ones like Bing Crosby. Other AI stars…David Archuleta sucked and Clay Aiken was rather good for what you might expect, but on principal, will not compare them to these talents.
I don’t know who this person is, but it was a really well done setting. Kerrie Roberts gets my vote.
The biggest surprise for me was this one by Carrie Underwood. I don’t take much stock in American Idol people, but Carrie has done some nice things (aside from the super bowl national anthem) and this might be one of the best versions out there.
It might be tough to top this one. I can not say I am a big fan of Celine Dion, but she does have a unique and amazing voice. I don’t think there is a better version on youtube than this one.