Tuesday 20 December 2011

Duelling Divas: "O Holy Night". Which Diva Sang It Best

What better way to celebrate this festive and cosy time of year then by pitting Diva against Diva in a deadly O Holy Night Sing off! Okay, so this isn't a new thing, having done the same thing last year with Silent Night, and it isn't that deadly really, but its still fun for me to do! Besides this year's post features the added bonuses of my comments about the versions, as well as- more importantly- the chance for you to express your opinion via the poll at the bottom!

Some fun facts about the Christmas carol, courtesy of Wikipedia of course, before we begin. O Holy Night was written by French Poet Placide Cappeau and was composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847! The words to the carol have been changed somewhat since then, and for anyone wanting to sing along as they listen, they are as follows;

O! Holy night! The stars, their gleams prolonging,
Watch o'er the eve of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error, longing
For His appearance, then the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was Born;
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts we stand by the Babe adored.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
And come now, Shepherds, from your flocks unboard.
The Son of God lay thus within lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our Lord.

He knows our need, our weakness never lasting,
Behold your King! By Him, let Earth accord!
Behold your King! By Him, let Earth accord!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Long live His truth, and may it last forever,
For in His name all discordant noise shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory evermore proclaim!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!

(The second and third choruses are,
often replaced with a refrain of the first).,
(The second verse is often omitted in most public,
(Also the final chorus, His power and glory ,
evermore proclaim!, is often switched to French-,
English mix: Noël, Noël, O Night, O Night Divine.),

Now, LET THE -Holy- BATTLE COMMENCE! Oh, and please remember to vote on which rendition you liked best at the bottom!


Yolanda Adams:
Yolanda's version attempts to inject an Rnb feeling with electronic high hats, electric piano and the background vocal arrangement, but her voice is firmly rooted in the Gospel Church. The Key change at 1.35 is horrid and unnecessary, and overall, though Yolanda is certainly putting a lot of herself into her version, it felt flat by the end.

Christina Aguilera:
Christina Aguilera starts her rendition with a pleasant soft timbre but quickly ramps it up as the string instrumentation begins to challenge her. The arrangement feels like that of a Disney film, even more so when the choir kicks in, but it takes a jazzier turn - at 3.15 - as Christina and piano begin riffing, eventually giving away to a stylistically different arrangment that compliments her penchant for melisma.

Susan Boyle:
Susan Boyle's rendition is certainly a delicate and affecting one, but something about her phrasing and intonation gets on my nerves. Even still, this version is warm, traditional and the arrangement is gorgeously sombre and Christmasy.

Mariah Carey:
This is Mariah Carey so you know what you are going to get. Low notes (0.39), belted notes (2.48), whistle notes (3.26), sustained notes (3.42) and crazy melisma (throughout). You either love or hate her style, and those feelings will probably dictate how you take to this version. I love it!

Kelly Clarkson:
A vocal piece that leaves Kelly Clarkson's voice centre stage. I actually found that the backing singers and their harmonies detracted from this rendition. Kelly's voice would have been strong enough to carry the whole piece alone in my opinion.

Destiny's Child:
This version, which features Michelle Williams as the solo singer(in fact I don't hear any of the other members of Destiny's child), takes the most liberties with the melody. It successfully demonstrates that Michelle Williams is a capable singer, though her tone can sometimes be a little off putting, but it's a pretty awful rendition. The synthesised arrangement is the worst of any of the versions posted here. I'm guessing Beyonce and Kelly smelt a turkey and sharply pushed this on to the newest member.

Celine Dion:
Powerful vocal over a traditional, grandiose arrangement. The song switches to French half way through, but it doesn't detract from the emotion that this version musters brilliantly. Celine Dion keeps her vocal in check for most of the song , but really lets loose towards the end. The powerful held D5 at 4.24 is gorgeous.

Aretha Franklin:
It's always great to see Aretha Franklin playing the piano. Her version is elegant and stripped back, showing an unusual amount of vocal restraint. I really admire the simplicity of this performance.

Jennifer Hudson:
Jennifer Hudson delivers this rendition initially with restraint, gradually building on the harmonics as the carol progresses . By the closing half, unsurprisingly, Jennifer is hitting those high octave chest notes that she has become revered for- with frightening ease I might add. The organic and changeable arrangement suits the vocal delivery perfectly.

Whitney Huston:
Unfortunately the warmth and velvety texture of Whitney Houston's voice doesn't appear to be here on this rendition. It would have benefited immensely from it in the frail opening. However, the voice begins to warm up by about the two minute mark and it's quickly bolstered by a fuller backing. The emotive and heartfelt quality of her voice can not be denied.

Mahalia Jackson:
A stoic rendition by Mahalia Jackson. I loved how she stayed so close to the original melody, refraining from crazy vocal runs. The character in her delivery was also endearing to hear- listen out for the way she says "Christ was born" (2.52). Her delivery was almost operatic in its controlled and measured sound. One of my favourites- and this was my first time hearing it!

Alicia Keys
Brave choice by Alicia Keys to do her rendition with just the piano for company. There were some mistakes (eg 1.07), and some tuning issues (eg 0.49) but it was strong rendition none the less. There was an innocence to the performance that I really liked.

Patti Labelle:
A capella start, Go Patti! Switching between a softer timbre, her head voice and generally playing with dynamics, Patti showed here that though her voice is often thought of for it's power alone, it is actually a truly multi-faceted instrument. The inclusion of the backing vocals and the piano made me feel The Spirit!

Avril Lavigne:
Avril's monotone voice is too much for me to bear-sorry Avril Lavigne fans- and I gave up at thirty-eight seconds. Someone please tell me if I missed out on anything special after this point in the comments.

Donnah Summer:

I was starting to get bored with Donnah Summer's version. I could recognise that the vocals were strong, and the arrangement was nice enough but it was missing something. Cue 1.39 and the appearance of a Gospel choir and peppy backing. It certainly lifted the rendition, but after hearing so many great versions it still felt just above average by the end.

Carrie Underwood:
Carrie Underwood brought a feel that none of the others had managed. There's a purity and directness to the delivery that makes this rendition feel like it's not about the singer but the words being sung. This is how a carol should be sung.

Regine Velasquez:
A confident and measured vocal by Regine Velasquez. The arrangement almost makes it feel like a show tune more so than a carol song, but this changes midway. The simple arrangement of piano and cello is really nice and I liked how they got their time to shine half way through. Many a singer would hum, or try and decorate the instrumentation with coos and "ahhhs" but Regine let them have their moment. The belting at the end is pretty impressive, though a little pushed. Still, a good rendition.


  1. Ooh, I LIKE Mahlia Jackson's! I would listen to that even when it's not Christmas.

  2. You lasted longer on Avril's version than I did....21 seconds. XOD  Sounds like a 9 year old singing it.

  3. For someone who mimes a lot, Mimi sure is terrible at miming. When she mimes hitting a low note, she looks like a bulldog chewing a wasp.

  4. The spoken prayer in the middle of Christina's version is cheesius maximus.

  5. LOL at Susan Boyle's excessive vibrato - she can't seem to sing a single note without using it! I imagine they just put her in the recording booth and stand her on a Power Plate.

  6. At least it makes it easier for us to tell when we're trying to figure out if she's actually singing live. Lol

  7. You say the things I think, but dare not write! I think I need to be less worried about offending sensitive people!

  8. well maybe someone will come and tell us what we missed out on! Perhaps its so good that by the end of it your raptured and are whisked off to Heaven!

  9. Mariah Carey put out an original arrangement. She sang that song like no one else. Christina sounds bad, Celine NEVER performed that song live, so this is all studos tricks. All the others singers sounds amateur.
    Mariah is the only who sounds original.
    Why Celine always mimes her christmas performances? She NEVER sang those songs live.

  10. Hey, won't divadevotee.com comment on Christmas in Washington performances? Ok! I know, Mariah did not perform this year, but Jennifer Hudson did. Come on!!!

  11. And what about Celine Dion? The last Celine Dion's live performance was on Xfacto UK... a total desasterrrrrrrr!!!! LOL

    Celine Dion totaly out of key, on xfator:

  12. I like Carrie Underwood's the best, she actually made me tear up a bit at one point. Must be getting sentimental in my old age!!

  13. From your comment, I take it you must be an epic Mariah fan, as well as a sensitive person. :D You are entitled to your opinion of course, however I think it's a bit rude to state that ALL the other singers sound amateurish. I hope you at least give constructive and legitimate reasons as to why they sound bad. They are all legitimate singers. Just because you like one over the other, does not mean that the others are all talentless. 

  14. ROFL to the maximum.

  15. Lea Michele has also sung "O Holy Night" as well as has Sarah McLachlan I believe.

  16. They sounded amateur because they didn't try to do something new, they sang the song just as it was written and arranged. Mariah did something original,  just like she did on Joy to the world song and O come all ye faithfull, The first noel. She's got the talent to make a song sound like if it was her own.

  17. Er.. how else are you supposed to sing a song? If the song isn't sung as it is written, it wouldn't even be the same song anymore. Arrangements can be altered, yes. And many of the artists shown did alter the arrangements, if you did take the time to listen instead of preaching Mariah. And trust me, I'm a big Mariah fan as well. I do think that you are right in the sense that sometimes Mariah brings originality to the table. O come all ye faithful wasn't all that original though. She only added the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah.

  18. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Jr-2eyRtV4
    Hey, look! A live version of Celine singing "O Holy Night"! What a simple Google search can uncover.

  19. Some people obviously don't do their homework.. *Chuckles*

  20. Baby, e whatched that video YEARS before and even some of her own fans know that this is the original track; she's miming, darling, just as she did on Disney Special. Wake up!!!

  21. yeah, i did my homework, that's way I did not post this bad miming video. This is playback. Everyone can see that some last notes goes on, while her mouth is already closed. We saw on xfactor how her voice sounds nowadays.

  22. show me one person who sang O come all ye faithfull defferently from the original, just like Mariah did. Mariah is a true artist and she's the only one who can make a christmas song sound good and new. Sorry!

  23. Lets be real. Tiffany Evans at what like 12 outsang them all.

  24. Honestly, what part of O come all ye faithful is different from the original? The same melody is retained. If you call the addition of melismas and vocal runs original, I beg to differ. Those are ornamentations that do nothing to change the melody of the song. Mashing up two songs is far from original. What more when she's taken such a well known chorus from the Messiah oratorio, composed by Handel. Her version of the song is amazing, that I agree, but you're being disrespectful to say that she's THE only one who makes a christmas song sound good. By the way, Merry Christmas. :)

  25. Lol Karen...too true! I have to also agree about the Avril version, don't get me wrong I am a massive Avril fan but that was painful to listen to....it was like she just couldn't be arsed! My fav is def Mahalia's - classic sound and perfect delivery whilst managing to retain some of the classic songs aura without feeling the need to scream/belt/wail ect. Loving your work DD

  26. Mariah "unrushed" the tempo a little bit, and took some time to sing every word. She put a lot a new "sounds" to the song (like a very small part of the arrengement of  Diana Ross' song  "Do you know where you're going to" - right before her mom start to sing). She changed the original arrangement and by doing that, renew an old dead song. Mashing up songs is not original, everyone do that now, but Mariah knows how to do it right.
    And, YES, Mariah Carey is the only one who can do that.

  27. I prefered Alicia's & Patti's versions, they really moved me. Well, very woman here has a perfect voice, although I must say I would have let Kelly & Beyoncé do their part & even if I enjoy Avril's sweet tone, she completely disappears compared to the others.

  28. My favorite Christmas song!! Celine's version is the best, in my opinion. 

  29. Reevanbhu_avatar12 January 2012 at 10:08

    mariah carey of course.... can anyone up there whistle like mariah carey did??? the whistle effect makes the song more angellic... wow what a wonderful voice.... awesome usage of vocal.... no one up there can sing like her..... there's nothing to debate even... the proof is in the pudding darlz.... :)

  30. CeCe Winans. Hands down. Then Mahalia...the Mariah.

  31. oh! i think celine dion got the 1st place here....which she assured it!

  32. Lea michele version should be here!

  33. I think Donna summers had the strongest vocal

  34. You should put on this list Lea Michelle!

  35. I'm a bit disappointed. I clicked on the page when I saw Faith Hill front and center on the logo expecting her version to be compared as well...

  36. I know this is old as hell but I wish you would have used Mariah's original rendition of O Holy Night. The lower register wasn't airy as we know today and much more, impactful.

  37. My favorite, bar none, is Martina McBride's acapella version. Leaves everyone else in the dust, although I do love and admire Donna Summer's faithful adaptation.


  38. LOL! I thought the same thing too when I heard her on BGT.

  39. Check out this O Holy Night rendition by the very first Malaysian Idol - Jaclyn Victor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ewFxkNlX4w


  40. mariah carey...

    I can only dream to sing her version.....

  41. Mariah Carey EASILY has the greatest version of that song.
    2nd is Regine Velasquez.
    3rd is Celine Dion.
    The others can go kick rocks, but I love 'em all haha xD