The Twelve Days of Christmas Classics is on! EW is putting the best versions of the most-covered Christmas songs up to a daily vote to compile the ultimate holiday playlist. (We’ve already covered “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “The Christmas Song,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Let It Snow!” and “The Little Drummer Boy.”) If your favorite singer isn’t in the list below, you better not pout: Each artist will only appear once throughout the 12 days. Listen to our top six, vote for your favorite, and let us know why you made your pick in the comments below.
UPDATE: The polls are closed, and we have our winners! Listen to YOUR ultimate holiday playlist here.
The music for “O Holy Night” was composed in 1847 and set to the French poem “Minuit, chrétiens” (opera singer Enrico Caruso recorded the French version in 1916). The lyrics we know today were written by a Unitarian minister based on the French text.
Producer David Foster ushered the song into pop music with his 1993 rendition for Michael Crawford, which might explain why our six favorites are from 1994 until now. Listen to all six (plus a bonus!) and make your pick. Yonder breaks a new and glorious vote!
Mariah Carey (1994)
When we think of Christmas Mariah, we think of “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” but this is about the most-covered Christmas songs of all time, so her modern-day hit doesn’t apply. That said, we can’t have a Christmas music list without Mimi, so we offer up her powerhouse take on “O Holy Night” instead. The high note at the end was made for Mariah’s incredible vocal range, and she nails it. The velvet evening gown and full gospel choir tie the whole package up in a perfect Christmas bow.
This entirely a cappella version reminds us just how impressive the boy band’s harmonies truly were. (‘NSYNC would have killed on The Sing-Off.) Another amazing facet of this version is that the real stars here are two of the most under-the-radar members of the group: tenor Chris Kirkpatrick and bass Lance, um, Bass. Their highs and lows, respectively, round out the rich sound.
Celine Dion (1998)
THAT NOTE. This poll will definitely be a diva-off, because “O Holy Night” was built for a true singer, and there’s no one who embodies that more than Celine. She also gets the dynamics just right, beginning the song at barely a whisper and ending with her patented power note.
Josh Groban (2002)
I told you guys Josh Groban was on the way! His classical style is perfect for this song, and he takes a unique lyrical spin on it, performing the little-heard verse that begins “Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother.”
Carrie Underwood (2008)
Man, this is going to be a hard choice between some seriously formidable female voices (not to mention Justin and Josh!). Carrie mixes classical and country here and proves that she deserved that season 4 American Idol crown.
Jennifer Hudson (2011)
Another American Idol alum, another bombastic performance. J-Hud performed “O Holy Night” for her 2008 ABC Christmas special, but the recording below from three years later is truly a marvel. The chorus and accompaniment that join her midway through are so simple next to her intricate vocal. And it builds, builds, builds and then pulls back for a quiet finale. Whew.
Bonus: South Park (1999)
Many of us can’t hear the words “O Holy Night” without thinking of Eric Cartman’s vocal stylings. His alternate lyrics – “Jesus was born and so I get presents/ Thank you, Jesus, for be-e-e-ing born” – are priceless. Even though we’re not putting this one up for a vote (sorry!), we couldn’t deny you its majesty.
How did you pick your favorite? Make your case in the comments below! And hurry up: Voting closes daily at midnight ET.