For the last two years, I’ve done an article I call “a snowball fight between the different genres” I take a classic winter and/or holiday song, and I compare them across the genres. In 2018, I did Winter Wonderland, and in 2019 I did Sleigh Ride. This year, I’ll be focusing on a more traditional hymn. For this year’s genre snowball fight, we’ll look at the song Angels We Have Heard on High.
Ever since I was little, Angels We Have Heard on High has both excited and intrigued me. And why not? The song is joyful, hopeful, and beautiful. Often performed by mass choirs and accompanied by a full orchestra. How can you resist that? But I digress. Let’s get to the main event. This is Snowball Fight 2020: Angels We Have Heard on High.
Mannheim Steamroller (New Age / Instrumental)
Mannheim Steamroller’s version of Angels We Have Heard On High is full of fanfare. Right from the get-go, we hear trumpets! Oh so many trumpets, and the song only takes off from there. At about 30 or so seconds in, the tempo picks up, and a barrage of electric pianos gets us really pumped and excited. Are we at an EDM concert? No, we’re just enjoying one of our favorite Christmas songs in a whole new way.
As far as the melody, it diverges a little from the traditional melody from time to time. However, this only adds to the excitement that Mannheim Steamroller brings to Angels We Have Heard on High. And while there are no vocals, we don’t really miss them. All in all, Angels We Have Heard on High by Mannheim Steamroller captures the hearts of its listeners and captures the spirit of the song despite the changes.
What a glorious instrumental!
Bad Religion (Punk)
Bad Religion starts their punk version of Angles We Have Heard on High with loud guitars. While fully untraditional, this works well. One might easily say it rocks. Another noteworthy feature of this version – the harmony during the chorus. It’s rare that I use the word beautiful to describe a punk song, but that harmony is truly beautiful. Granted, amazing harmonies are a staple to any Bad Religion song, but they seem to have outdone themselves on Angels We Have Heard on High.
Let’s look at the elephant in the room, ie a band named Bad Religion singing Angels We Have Heard on High. My take: don’t read into the band name too much. The band isn’t actually anti-religion, though they are critical of anything that limits their intellectual freedom. Besides, a band name is something they choose at the start of their artistry, and often times becomes irrelevant and even nonsense after several years. In other words, don’t judge a band by their name.
Bang your head and rock out while singing about Christ the newborn king!
Michael W. Smith (CCM)
Simply titled “Gloria,” Michael W. Smith’s version of Angels We Have Heard On High serves as the finale of his 1989 Christmas album. Full of fanfare, both electric and otherwise, we’re treated to the most joyous version of the song ever recorded (my opinion may differ from yours). Full of catchy piano riffs, crescendo after crescendo, and harmonizing choirs, Michael W. Smith goes full out with Gloria. There’s even a child’s choir toward the end of the song.
If you don’t get excited listening to this version of Angels We Have Heard on High, I wonder what excites you.
Sarah McLachlan (Adult Contemporary)
Sarah McLachlan takes a different approach on her version than what we’ve seen so far. McLachlan uses a slow tempo and stripped down the song to a bare minimum. No blaring horns or elaborate orchestration, mostly, all we hear is a simple drum kit, a few melodies on an electric piano, and of course, we hear Sarah. The most elaborate thing about Sarah McLachlan’s Angels We Have Heard on High is the harmonizing she does with herself in the chorus.
And yet this minimalistic version of Angels We Have Heard On High works just as well as any full fanfare version. The drums are especially interesting and grab the listener’s attention more than they would if there was a full orchestra. We also notice a few minor note variants we might not normally notice with full orchestration. All in all, Sarah McLachlan’s uses subtlety to highlight Angels We Have Heard on High.
Sarah McLachlan proves that you don’t need fanfare to show the glory of Angels We Have Heard on High.
Andrea Bocelli (Classical / Oprera)
If you’re familiar with Andrea Bocelli, you’ll already know how he handles Angels We Have Heard on High. But for those of you who don’t know him, he starts out slow and soft, and finishes loud and strong. The tenor’s version starts with a humble organ, coupled with is vocals singing in Spanish for the first stanza and chorus. Of course, as the song progresses, so does the complexity and fanfare.
By the third stanza, we have an increase in sound. A full choir and an orchestra. But the fourth stanza, well the fourth stanza and chorus is the grand finale. Bocelli sings as loud as he can, while even more instruments join. It’s all the classical sounds!
Bocelli’s version of Angels We Have Heard on High offers a more traditional and classical flair, and blows our mind.
Hunter Swan (Classic Rock)
I wanted to include a classic rock version, just for fun. What I found is indie musician Hunter Swan’s wonderful ride of a song. Full of Zeppelin-Esque and Tom Petty sounding guitars, mixed with vocals that remind us of something from The Who. Being a classic rock version of the song, of course, there’s a guitar solo! I’m tempted to watch Wizard of Oz to see if this syncs up!
Hunter Swan takes a lot of liberties with the melody. But oh, I’m so glad he did. His vocals seem to echo as he sings “Gloria” with a 70s rock like melody. This sends literal chills down my spine.
Space out to this space rock rendition of Angels We Have Heard on High.
Grave Robber (Christian Horror Metal)
If Twisted Sister had included a version of Angels We Have Heard on High on the “Twisted Christmas” album, it would not have rocked as hard as Grave Robber’s horror metal approach to the song.
Grave Robber greets us with so many loud guitars, it’s hard not to headbang to this version of Angels We Have Heard on High. The tempo is fast, the drums are furious, and the vocals are on point. Still, this death metal version of Angles We Have Heard on High respects the song and its message. This version of Angels We Have Heard on High is just as joyful as any other version of the song. Especially with the chorus. I can just imagine a rowdy crowd at a concert singing along as the band belts out “Glor-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ria” at full blast. The crowd smiles, laughs, and feels the reason for the season.
Grave Robber proves that Angels We Have Heard on High can rock harder than you ever imagined, while still delivering the joyous message of the song. To quote Larry Norman, Why should the devil have all the good music?
There’s no winner in the Angels We Have Heard on High snowball fight.
What’s the purpose of a snowball fight? To have fun, and to celebrate the season. Is there a winner to most snowball fights? Not really. Sure, sometimes people high tail it and run, but most of the time snowball fights end in laughter and hot cocoa in the living room. So why should there be a winner with the Angels We Have Heard oh High snowball fight? All of these versions are fun, all of them have their special moments, and all of these versions make the listener smile. Sure, you might not be as into the horror metal versions if Andrea Bocelli is your thing, and sure, you might not be about Sarah Mclachlan or Michael W. Smith if you’re really into Bad Religion. But you have to admit, this is one heck of a joyous song, no matter who sings it!
Are there any versions of Angels We Have Heard on High you think others should hear? Leave a comment bellow! Merry Christmas everyone!