“What Child Is This” by William Chatterton Dix

Like all famous Christmas music, this song has been overexposed to a ridiculous degree, but it’s actually one of the better Christmas hymns, although much of that is due to its obviously borrowed music. True, it co-opts a tune that had been famous for centuries, but it’s actually a significant improvement on any vocal version of “Greensleeves” itself. There’s a reason that tune is usually heard in instrumental versions…as indelible as the melody is, the lyrics have definitely not aged well. Not only are they embarrassingly maudlin and banal by modern standards, but they project a mindset that is rather poorly thought of today…essentially, “I was nice to you, therefore you should be obligated to”…well, the singer uses the words ‘love me’, but I think we all known what he means. Granted, the lyrics to “What Child Is This” are basically pastiches of Bible verse, but they’re a pretty convincing imitation of the style, and it has a very dramatic, almost eerie quality that gives it a refreshing element of darkness for a Christmas song.

Verdict: Good

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