Everyone has their favorite version of their favorite Christmas hymn. Here are some versions you may have missed…for whatever reason.
1: Bad Religion: “What Child is This?” (and others)
Atheist-punk band Bad Religion (they actually rock…if you ignore some of the nihilistic lyrics) has an ENTIRE Christmas album. And they don’t even alter the lyrics to suit their Godless fancies. Straight up Christmas music. I want this whole album. There’s something powerful about hearing an openly atheistic (their front man prefers the term ‘naturalist’) rock band beautifully harmonize the line, “Nails, spear shall pierce Him through/The Cross be borne for me, for you/Hail, hail, the Word made flesh/The babe, the Son of Mary.” Ooooh…I just got goosebumps. #Luke15:7
2. Enya-“O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
This is both the most beautiful and most haunting version of the quintessential Advent hymn you’ve ever heard. Alternating verses in Latin is especially awesome. Enya is on the list only because of her association with the New Age movement.
3. Metal Xmas-“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
This one’s weird. It’s really just a classic Christmas hymn done badly. One thing it reveals though is that the same power chords used by many rock bands (like Bad Religion, see above) are also used in many classic hymns. In other words…we rocked first.
4. Christopher Lee-“Little Drummer Boy” & “Silent Night”
Christopher Lee, a.k.a. Saruman. The music is just as bad as Metal Xmas, but it’s worth listening to just to hear Christopher Lee’s voice. Rather than use the expression, “I could listen to him read the phone book”, I suggest we start using the phrase, “I could listen to him recite death metal versions of Christmas songs”. Let’s make that happen.
5. David Bowie & Bing Crosby-“Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth”
I’m sure this is supposed to be heartwarming, a coming together of young and old. It is neither.
6. Will Farrell as David Bowie & John C. Reilly as Bing Crosby-“Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth”
Just when you thought it couldn’t get weirder than #4 or more awkward than #5, I submit to you this little gem. Is it supposed to be funny? I. Have. No. Idea. (Bleeped language warning at the end) — might have to open on the Youtube website—
7. Tinkerbell-“Joy to the World”
Back when it was still permitted to make reference to Jesus on television in a non-blasphemous way, Tinkerbell, her chorus of fairy friends, and an unnamed male voice gave the world this classic.
8. Elvis-“Blue Christmas”
The Elvis Christmas album is actually quite good and was a tradition in our home. This live version leaves out the monotonous background “ooohooohoo” of the version on the album.
9. Johnny Cash-“Little Drummer Boy”
The Man in Black pays homage to the King.
10. Bob Dylan-“O Come All ye Faithful (Adeste Fidelis”)
What does a Bob Dylan Christmas album sound like? Pick a Christmas song. Hum the song to yourself…now imitate Bob Dylan singing it. Yup, nailed it. That’s exactly what this sounds like. It’s unclear whether the album is meant to be a parody or if our Jewish brother Mr. Dylan just wants to wish us a Merry Christmas. To be honest, I kinda like it.
UPDATE: Bob Dylan apparently (apparently) converted to Christianity in the 70’s. The author of this piece was not alive at the time. Still, Bob Dylan has a whole Christmas album, people.
11. Sufjan Stevens-“Lo! How a Rose Er’ Blooming”
Sufjan Stevens’ musical style ranges from quirky to uplifting to prayerful. The Songs for Christmas box set has renditions of some classic hymns are amazingly beautiful, including gorgeous versions of classic hymns that are not explicitly Christmas songs, such as “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, “Amazing Grace”, and “Holy, Holy, Holy”.