Here in Happy Valley, USA, there are only two FM radio stations worth listening to: an oldies station, and a heavy metal station (despite a significant portion of heavy metal being really sucky, a higher percentage of it is less sucky than the entire content of the country stations). However, as of two weeks before Thanksgiving, the oldies station had already switched to an all Christmas music format.
Now, a lot’s been complained already about the overdose of Christmas music around the holidays, and I’m not repeating that tired old rant here. No, here I am ranting exclusively on the quality and varity of Christmas music cover songs.
Summary: Too many artists suck at coming up with original arrangements and don’t bother singing someone else’s, and they fall back on the tired old trick of starting a line of lyric late, and then singing extra fast to catch up with the music.
Oh boy does that chaff my hide!
Which brings me to my list of favorite / least favorite Christmas songs:
Most favorite: Carol of the Bells.
Least favorite: Silent Night.
Most favorite song that is continually butchered by artists who think they have great voices but can’t arrange music: O Holy Night.
O Holy Night is like the National Anthem of Christmas songs. At every baseball game in America, someone butchers the National Anthem trying to come up with an original way of singing it, rather than just singing it well. So it goes with O Holy Night. Even the mighty Josh Groban, in his version, rather than just singing it well, falls into the old trap of holding a note too long, delaying the start of the next line, and then singing extra fast to catch up, utterly destroying the tempo and timing of the song.
In contrast, Carol of the Bells is already such a fast song that no singer dares even try the delay-and-catch-up trick with this mighty morsel of music, and at least half the arrangements of the song don’t even have lyrics. But again underscoring the point, none of the instrumental variations ever dare to stop playing for a few counts at a point where there are not supposed to be pauses, and then playing extra fast to catch up. And yet, genius musicians have come up with an amazing variety of arrangements of the Carol, while maintaining the quality and beauty of the song.
Take for instance, the slightly jazzy piano version by George Winston, or the even jazzier version by Hary Connick, Jr., or the acapella versions by Rockapella and N’sync. There’s the rockin’ version by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the celticized version by Celtic Woman, and the slightly techno version by Manheim Steamroller. And that’s just scratching the surface of well-arranged variations! IT BOGGLES THE MIND AND DELIGHTS THE SENSES!
Silent Night is just too slow and monotonous for my tastes.