It’s a classic. As beautiful as it is fucking nuts. Pompous as hell, or heaven– whichever one you think is more pompous. Harps are awful gilt, white the most supercilious unicolor design scheme, and have you even heard the names all those angels have? Sure, your Gabes and Mikes aren’t too bad, but Malachi? Seraphim? Sandalphon? Armisael? The One That Was An Eye With Those Goofy Eye Arms That Looked Like It Was Bought In A Lonely Housewife Doo-Dad Shop Circa 1991? Ludwig von Bi-tooven? Space Diamond? Every Single One Of Us I Guess?
While a different flavor of pomp from the oppressive tastefulness of Heaven’s gated community Christmas, Hell contrasts as an impressive vanside tableau of ridiculous and overblown production. And just as fussy, with its rings and themed floors and ironic punishments and nonsense hierarchies long that have long outlast whatever logic went into ordering them suchlike. Really…
- killing yourself is worse than killing hundreds of people who aren’t you?1
- and flattery is worse than either?2
- being gay is just as bad as owning and operating a Check Into Cash?3
- and checking your horoscope is just as bad as claiming to be the second coming (knowing full well you’re just premature pantsplatter)?4
- and dying before the year zero BCAD is just as bad as being a Hindu?5
- uh, how come waxing your car is one of the worst things you can do?
But I digress. Pompousness (third circle, probably?) isn’t such a deal. It can work real well when the performance and tone are up to it. And what mortarboard-free circumstance is more deserving of pomp than the birth of your BabyGod? Maybe some dumb urn? Other than that I can’t think of one. So here’s to “O Holy Night,” the most pompous song about an outdoors birth ever.
!!!O HOLY NIGHT OFF!!!
Round One: Kid Division
Wow. First out of the box and we’ve got a real front-runner. What a beautiful voice– really makes a shame out of how dumb all those angel names are, and OH. OHGOD. What The Hell Is That?!? Why are you shooting it from that angle? Did it’s tooth just sparkle???? Is that some kind of threat? What’s to stop a man from eating you once he’s shown himself willing and able to eat his own jawline? God, just turn it off. What a disappointment!
A little girl
Eh. That’s fine I guess. It’s def solid. I’m rill worried about those looks to the camera, but at least I didn’t have to watch her turn into the future Quiz Kid Donnie Smith version of herself halfway through the video. Nope. Everything depressing about her adulthood is pure speculation at this point. What a relief-ish!
Winner: A little girl
Round Two: Lilith Fair Bracket
That is a lot of instruments to do so little, they way underplay the bombast, and Jewel is not a particularly gifted or interesting singer, BUT she is wearing ridiculous leather pants so she’s not totally out of it yet. I’m not number one at fashion, but that can’t be a thing, right? Black top, brown leather pants, black clompity-heel boots? Nothing says Christmas quite like dressing like the water in a paintbrush rinse cup.
Having only heard the first half minute, even though it is entirely ‘ee-ees’ that frankly fit neither the song nor (even) the next four minutes of this version, it’s still better than whatever it was that Jewel did (which was the epitome of forgettable insofar as I have forgotten it). This take might be half a Renn Faire but it’s at least the music half, not the shitty costume half.
Winner: Tracy Chapman
Round Three: Opera Nonsense
Is this opera? I guess I just meant hi-falutin choral stuff. Real heaven-aesthetic tedium. Do they have good voices? I can’t tell. They certainly seem to be able to hit the notes they want to hit and project them, but are those the only criteria you have to meet in order to be considered good at singing in the extended world of People Who Can Actually Sing-Play Music And/Or Are Big Into Proficiency (i.e. real Benaroya Hall types but also musical fans probably (haut & bas))? These ladies flavorlessly achieve a kind of perfection as vanilla and unique as their equally unflattering (and sinless) dresses.6
A tenor– that’s opera, right? Or at least opry? What exactly is happening on that stage? He’s cheesing it up pretty good, but he’s at least trying at it 103% as if it’s a real Thing to him. Plus he’s got a Marcus Bachmann quality that I find pretty appealing. When he invents a new and different note to explode right before the climax and then through the end, I’m on board. I probably wouldn’t go quite so Baptist as the crowd there about it, but I’d def get on my feet. And of my free will and not just out of socialized politeness even. He wins.
Winner: Some Tenor
Round Four: Guitar Bullshit
I do not appreciate the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. If I had to rank Orchestras in order of personal preference, it would go: Electric Light, The Young Person’s Guide to the (as narrated by Leonard Bernstein), all regular orchestras, Trans-Siberian, and Control Engine. FUCK Linux.
But at least what they do is still something. Unlike this Weezer version, which is nothing. Is this even them? A: It is not anything and therefore it can neither be nor not be them. Fart.
Winner: Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Round Five: Late 90s Pop Bubble
… more brown Christmas leather. Is there a tradition I’m missing? Like, some manger C-story about how the cow gave of his own flesh so that the Baby Jesus could have calfskin booties? Did they have cows in the desert? Can you make camel leather? If not, then what does the middle east have instead of leather? I bet they had oxen. I bet they have ox leather. Fording joke. Anyways, this isn’t so bad. Too many ‘ooh-ooh-ooh’ trill(?)y parts, but they do the job. I like the bass part.
I’m not sure what her hands are supposed to be communicating. Being on drugs, probably. Or just general discomfort and disorientation at having to wear person clothes. She really faces those last few notes out. Maybe schizophrenia?
Round Six: Comedy Option
Not that funny, but I do enjoy prod humor. The fill / attempt to mask forgetting the words is well-observed. Ugh. I don’t like who I am right now breaking this down. It’s fine!
Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip
Studio 60 never fails to crack me up. What crazy antics will their cast of hyper-serious ciphers get up to next! But, um, this version *is* a little worth a damn. Studio 60– Better Than South Park at: Brass Ensembles, Employing John Ennis, and Threatening Amanda Peet With Your Shitty Love.
Winner: Studio 60 [UPSET!]
Round Seven: Divasion (I’m Sorry)
Aretha Franklin & Billy Preston
So they fucked each other pretty sweet and thorough, I guess. Good for them, revisiting young lust in the context of celebrating the birth of the Lord.7 I wanted to like this more than I did. I like Aretha Franklin, I love what of Billy Preston I know, but this is good not great. I guess this song isn’t really a piano showcase, but what’s Aretha’s excuse? I’m not so familiar with her career, was there a sort of washed up stretch and then this was that? Or maybe a throat injury? She is really struggling even to bail on those notes. I guess she could just not care that much. Is she wearing a hair hat?
As much as I wanted to like the Aretha Franklin/Billy Preston version I wanted to not like this but she does a pretty good job. It doesn’t quite live up to my weird pathological need to have these folks really destroy that big no… oh no, wait. It’s still going. Here it comes… Noel? Ugh. I don’t care for this even a little. Go Back To Quebec!!
Winner: Aretha Franklin & Billy Preston [PARDONED BY FRENCH!]
Round Eight: Croon-off
Nat King Cole
A voice with a quality! What a treat / thank our tiny, slimy, just-unumbilicaled God! Goes polite on “night divine,” more restraint than I want, but class act all the way and an actual unqualified good job at it.
Ernie Ford and Gordon MacRae
Olde Timee TV footage: + 8 million points. That Walt Disney lookin’ moustache: +6 million points. The Men Duet Square Shoulder 20 Degree Head In-Tilt: +7 million points. PLUS THEY GO FOR IT.
Winner: Ernie Ford and Gordon MacRae [DETHRONED!]
Trans-Siberian Orchestra vs. A little girl
That Trans-Siberian Orchestra guy is real good at playing guitar, but that A little girl is equally good at not being in Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Winner: A little girl
Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip vs. Aretha Franklin & Billy Preston
It’s ironic: the version by the all-time great soul singer and the legendary session pianist is funnier than the version from the comedy show (well, show about comedy) while the version from the show that couldn’t Be More disappointing isn’t. Winner: Studio 60
Some Tenor vs. Tracy Chapman
CHASE: CUT Winner: Some Tenor
*Nsync vs. Ernie Ford and Gordon MacRae
7 Dudes a-harmonizing. Picture them together, deciding how to run it. *Nsync is definitely arranged in a semi-circle behind these two. Then label people make them change. Then Ernie Ford and Gordon MacRae served our country in Word War Fucking II and the only service the *Nsync kids ever did in was -ing Lou Perlman. Also their version is worse. Winner: Ernie Ford and Gordon MacRae
Studio 60 vs. A little girl : There is something that just feels right about Studio 60 getting beat by a 7 year old girl. Winner: A little girl
Some Tenor vs. Ernie Ford and Gordon MacRae : I don’t want to spoil anything, but this is the real finals. Ultimately though, out of all of these versions, only Some Tenor sung the fuck out of it (a) and (b) won me the farthest over. Bonus: on third watch, really loving the piano guy Going For It. THIS is what Christmas is– Fucking Ridiculous and (Selma Jezkova Style) Camera Real Big And Up Out Of The Roof slightly decrepit opulence. Winner: Some Tenor
DANCER IN THE DARK BREAK!
DANCER IN THE DARK BREAK!
And the winner of the first annual “O Holy Night” Off is … Bing Crosby!
C’mon. Are you kidding me?
Bing kills it. Plus you should have suspected something was up when there was a crooner category and it didn’t have him in it. Bing from the rafters, Bing with the folding chair. Der Bingle, from the top rope, or from behind with a belt, beating that song like he provided it with chromosomes.
The ref is too busy watching to care.
1. suicide = “violent against self”: 7th circle, middle ring; murder = “violent against people and property”: 7th circle, outer ring
2. flattery: the eighth circle’s second ditch on the basis that it is fraudulent; if someone’s B but’s got a saggy gut and bad skin and dumb eyes DO NOT stipulate that they are BW– Your Eternal Soul Depends On It!
3. sodomy v. usury = both “violent against nature” (7th circle, inner ring)
4. astrologers v. false prophets: eighth circle, fourth ditch
5. all unbaptized go (at best) to Limbo regardless of virtue
6. I REALLY didn’t think this thing was going to be so mean-spirited!
7. Note: huh, turns out Billy Preston got arrested for sexually assaulting a 16 year old Mexican boy he hired as a day laborer in 1991. So, I guess I misread that interaction…
Tags: 12 Days of Christmas, BBNW, Bing is King, Dancer In The Dark Break, Fuck Check Into Cash, Heaven vs. Hell, John Ennis, Kaworu in a Santa hat, O Holy Night, Opry Bachmann, Poor Studio 60, Quiz Kid Donnie Smith, Sahaquiel, Simony, That CBS "Special Special Special" logo that they would put before holiday specials., The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra