Left to my own devices, I began to sing some holiday songs because Christmas and New Year's beckon or hark or whatever they do and I wanted to infuse my spirit with a little bit of holiday essence. After lightly singing a few songs, or what I like to call Tony Bennett-ing them (ie, sing-talking), I decided to give myself and the cars around me the chance to hear me take on "O Holy Night," one of my favorite Christmas songs because it is haunting and beautiful and vaguely French. While I was singing it, I realized that "O Holy Night" is A) incredibly difficult to sing and B) incredibly fun to sing. While reaching the high notes can be challenging, they often act as a Pilates session for your vocal cords. Trust, next time you're feeling stressed or annoyed, just try to hit the highest point of "O Holy Night" and you will calm down, along with scaring anyone in your general proximity.
That's when I realized that "O Holy Night" does a few things I really like not only about holiday songs, but about singing them: Holiday songs truly allow you to bring out all the shlock and melisma you want while singing them without feeling shlocky yourself. For as much as I love a jazzy Christmas, give me a chance to stand in front of a microphone and drip syrup all over it and I'm there! That's why I thought today we'd listen to a few of our favorite singers tackle "O Holy Night" and see what they get right and what they get wrong. Let's start with:
Queen of Melisma They Should Name Her Melisma Morgan, Mariah Carey
First off, I just have to say that I've been waiting all day to make that "Melisma Morgan" joke.
Okay, onto Mariah: I like how she makes no effort to actually pronounce the words, because who care about the words? We're not here for the words, we're here for vocal acrobatics and just like real acrobatics, the closer you are to missing the bar, the more exciting it is for us. That being said, it takes Mariah a full 2 minutes and 33 seconds before she starts singing over the eager choir backing her. When she does, it's merely loud and not really dramatic, plus using the whistle register for the final note is a bit of a cop-out.
On my patented "O Holy Night" scale: I give it 2 Holy-ies and only 1 O.
Let me put it this way, I did not O. Next is:
Man With the Voice That Could and Does Power Several Major Metropolitan Cities, Josh Groban
I knew I should have gone to Josh for my schmaltz and shlock. We're literally 10 seconds in and I'm already feeling so cheesy you could put me on a piece of bread and call me a pizza (my wordplay is kind of off the chain today, no?). There is a workmanlike quality about Josh's phrasing. C'mon, Josh, this song is about JESUS. Jesus may not like commercialization (if you sell sh*t outside the holy place, Jesus will give you a stern talking to), but he LOVES drama. I mean, let's be real, he's Jesus. Anyway, I kept waiting for Josh to really... go there, but he kind of lets me down a little bit. Just like a man.
On my "O Holy Night" scale: I give it 3 Holy-ies, 2 Os, and a Night, but only one.
Martina McBride, Whom My Mother Always Thinks Looks Like She's in Pain, Not When She Sings, But Just Generally
This performance is from... I don't know exactly when but I'm gonna guess early 2000s because Martina is rocking some major chunking in her hair and that ended in 2003 (Side note: if you are still chunking, PLEASE STOP). People often forget that Martina McBride is like amazing because she's not blonde or young and writing about every man she's ever slept with (sorry, I'll stop editorializing), and her "Night" proves why. Acapella, drama, kicking in with big vocals at only a minute in, vibrato... M&McB is serving it and with a final note lasting a full 10 seconds of VOICE, she's my favorite so far.
On my "O Holy Night" scale: I give it 1 Holy (it's not very spiritual), 4 Os, and 2 Nights.
Who is next?
Someone From the TV Show "Glee," Don't Ask Me, I Don't Watch That Show, You'll Have to Tell Me
Here's what's funny about this? Turning to "Glee" was kind of a stroke of genius in terms of getting me all of what I want from "O Holy Night." I think, emphasis on think that this is Lea Michele singing and if so, YES, because like Winnie the Pooh, she has opened the honey jar and stuck her hand right inside. Every note drips with Broadway-inspired overdone-ness. It's like she's singing to people who can't hear. I love it. I don't know what the episode was like, but I hope it involved candles and birds: birds, candles, and curtains blowing softly in the wind, and balconies overlooking gardens and gauzy up-lighting. I'm asking for too much.
On my "O Holy Night" scale: I give it 3 Holy-ies, 3 Os, and 3 Nights.
Next is OMG why is she so low on this list:
First of all, I have to say that I love that Celine's first, only (?) holiday album is called "These Are Special Times" because I can picture her saying it, pausing after saying "These" and cocking her head to the side and smirking her Celine Dion smirk before adding "Are Special Times" like three minutes later (side note: why is she smelling her gift?). Truthfully, Celine's version doesn't get interesting until about three minutes and 15 seconds and, like Mariah, suffers from epic loudness, but NO ONE can beat her high note, which takes off, spirals around like a curlicue and continues for about 47 minutes before landing on top of René Angélil, who then eats it.
On my "O Holy Night" scale: 4 Os, and 1 Night because you can't spend more than 1 night with Celine. She's crazypants.
Let's do one more:
Jennifer Hudson, Whom I Love So I Have Nothing Humorous to Add
I like this version. I'd like it better still if she's take one baby step away from the microphone. And if the choir wasn't there (what's with the choirs, people?) I also love how she really opens up toward the end, but her final note lacks a little for me.
On my "O Holy Night" scale: 2 Holy-ies, 2 Os, and 1 Night.
Question Time: Do you like "O Holy Night" as a song? Or are you officially tired of listening to it after like 8 times? Who does your favorite rendition of it? What about YOUR rendition? Have you ever tried to sing it? It's fun, but it's a great way to relieve energy.