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25 Greatest Christmas Songs Countdown: #5 O Holy Night

December 21, 2011 6 comments

I have yet to hear the perfect version of “O Holy Night”. But maybe that’s just me. Actually, you know what? I’m going to start talking about all kinds of stuff that by any reasonable standard I know nothing about, so you shouldn’t pay any attention to me. Stop reading now and go do something else.

As previously stated, I like my Christmas to go pretty light on the Jesus. After all, I am not a believer. But I have spent a few decades in western civilization, and as such I’ve formed some opinions on Christianity over the years. One of which is this: whether you believe or not, the Christian religion and all its trappings have a great deal of resonance, of cultural weight. We’ve been groomed to be impressed by that stuff, deep down. (This is why Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade were better movies than Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Stupid Crystal Skull: they used this phenomenon.)

And that’s what “O Holy Night” can play on. There’s power in that song, and the perfect version of the song should be able to bring it out. When the singer bellows out, “Fall on your knees,” it should drive anybody listening to their knees. But most singers treat it like just another lyric.

Not because Christmas is about domination and subservience. Just because what’s happening here, the incarnation of God on Earth (which is, after all, the story in question), is impressive. It’s, you know, kind of a big thing. And this is exactly the song to put that over. But I don’t know of a case where anybody’s managed the trick.

Carve yourself off a slab of fruitcake and look for such a version of “O Holy Night” here.

#25: Sleigh Ride
#24: Huron Carol
#23: Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!/Count Your Blessings/We Wish You a Merry Christmas
#22: The Twelve Days of Christmas
#21: I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday
#20: Fuck Christmas
#19: Jingle Bell Rock
#18: What’s This? & Making Christmas
#17: Oi! To the World
#16: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
#15: Blue Christmas
#14: Christmas in Hollis
#13: We Need a Little Christmas
#12: Marshmallow World
#11: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
#10: Step Into Christmas
#9: Jingle Bells
#8: Christmas Comes But Once a Year (Christmas in Carrick)
#7: Christmas Wrapping
#6: Silver Bells