Dave Best: Annual Christmas adverts ‘music by numbers’

Date:18th November 2013.'Dave Best, (bass guitar) for The Pigeon Detectives, and new weekly music columnists for the Yorkshire Evening Post. Picture James Hardisty'JH1001.25e
Date:18th November 2013.'Dave Best, (bass guitar) for The Pigeon Detectives, and new weekly music columnists for the Yorkshire Evening Post. Picture James Hardisty'JH1001.25e
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The clocks have gone back, which inevitably means that Christmas hysteria is nigh.

It seems that as soon as you first put your central heating on for the first time of the year you are bombarded with jingling bells, twinkling lights and naff TV adverts that promise you a magical festive period, so long as you buy their incredible products, or shop at their stores.

New John Lewis advert

New John Lewis advert

There is one company that, over the last few years, have cornered the market in making people feel all warm and Christmasty, and that is John Lewis. The release of the department store’s annual Christmas TV advert has slowly become a British institution, right up there with the chug-a-chug of the Coca-Cola wagon and its ‘Holidays Are Coming...” soundtrack.

John Lewis uses a slightly different set of tactics in reaching the masses than the world’s number one fizzy drinks manufacturer, though. Coca-Cola relies on familiarity and nostalgia to create a buzz whereas John Lewis relies on its uncanny ability to make millions of people hopelessly sob into their mulled wine.

And one way they accomplish this is by use of music.

Yes, as predictable as the companies chosen heart-wrenching, life-affirming narrative (usually a sad little tale, that ends in humanity and the spirit of Christmas winning the day), is the inclusion of a slowed-down, breathy, quirky singer-songwriter style cover of a famous band’s song. This year’s chosen tune is Oasis B-side Half The World Away.

New John Lewis advert

New John Lewis advert

It’s not that the version, performed by Norwegian breakthrough artist Aurora, is particularly bad – it’s actually relatively pleasant on the ears – it’s just that it tries too hard to get your tears flowing. John Lewis has made a habit of throwing as much audio and visual mushiness at the TV as they possibly can with a view to inducing even the most ardent of Scrooges into a blubbering Rudolph enthusiast.

Just like last year’s cover of John Lennon’s Real Love by Tom Odell, or 2013’s cover of Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know by Lily Allen, the music in this year’s advert exists only so the assorted bigwigs at John Lewis can feed on your warm, festive tears.

It’s just all a bit contrived. To me, it feels a bit like when you’re watching a romantic comedy and slow twinkling pianos start cascading in a lovey-dovey scene to let you know when to feel things.

As a musician, I of course know that good music will always provoke an emotional response, and I’m all for that.

These wet, insipid covers, however, exist solely to play on your emotions for commercial gain, and that doesn’t settle right in my gut.

It’s crying music by numbers.

That said, that penguin one last year nearly got me...

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