Every year, the British public wait patiently to see what the biggest brands have come up with for their annual Christmas adverts.
Done well, the adverts can tell a story and engage customers who may not have been interested in shopping in the store before.
Some of the most iconic Christmas adverts throughout the years, and the most anticipated, are from retailer John Lewis.
Christmas and music go hand-in-hand. So the importance of the choice of music in any festive advert can’t be understated - we had a look back at some of our favourites from John Lewis’ ads over the years.
2013 - Somewhere Only We Know, Lily Allen
British artist Lily Allen covered Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know, set to a backdrop of animated woodland creatures. Made with 2D animation, it told the story of a bear hibernating before Christmas before being persuaded to wake up and experience Christmas.
Thanks to the advert, the cover reached number 1 in the UK Singles Chart. A piano cover of the ballad gave it new life, and became a Christmas staple.
The song has key features of Christmas advert tracks - the pause before the final chorus being one of them, as well as the last chord being major.
2014 - Real Love, Tom Odell
2014’s advert tells the story of a friendship built between a boy, Sam, and his penguin friend, Monty. The song choice was a cover of John Lennon’s 1977 song Real Love, by British singer-songwriter Tom Odell.
The song choice was so effective because it’s a recognisable, popular love song by one of the most iconic British bands of all time. The orchestra in the background is simple but touching, and the gentle piano chords are easy on the ear.
2015 - Half The World Away, Aurora
2015 carried on the theme of an emotional, genre changing cover version of an iconic song, this time Oasis’ Half the World Away. The Man On The Moon advert tells the story of a young girl trying to contact an old man spotted living alone on the moon. Her attempts to catch the man’s attention fails until she sends him a special delivery of a telescope, via hot-air balloon, and the man finally gets to see Earth on Christmas night.
The gentle cover shows Aurora alternating between full voice and falsetto vocals, with emotional lyrics like “I’ve been lost I’ve been found, but I don’t feel down”. The piano in the background is soft and strikes emotion in the listener.
2019 - Can't Fight This Feeling, Bastille
2019’s advert focuses on a young dragon finding the magic of Christmas when a friend gives him a thoughtful gift. It features Bastille covering REO Speedwagon’s Can’t Fight This Feeling with the London Contemporary Orchestra. A more uplifting song than some previous years, the track gains momentum throughout the advert.
When it was released, the single remained at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts for three weeks in March 1985.
2022 - All The Small Things, Postmodern Jukebox ft. Mike Geier
We had to include this year’s advert. A man learns to skate for the first time for the young girl he is adopting as she has a passion for the hobby. The campaign is in partnership with Action for Children and Who Cares Scotland? to raise awareness of children in care.
The song choice of this year was a slowed-down, ballad cover of Blink 182’s All the Small Things, a fitting choice with the original song’s link to skateboarding culture.
So there are our favourite John Lewis Christmas advert songs from the last few years. Do you have a favourite?
Overall, there's a common theme of John Lewis taking well known songs of a different genre, and using an emotional, more stripped back cover of it. This provides the perfect balance of familiarity, whilst also fitting the seasonal tone of the adverts. Having a song featured in a John Lewis Christmas advert can provide many benefits for the artists in both the short and long term. In the short term, we've seen the tracks go to number 1 many times following the release of the ad, and it even gives the artist the possibility to have a song of theirs become a Christmas staple, just by the association with the festive advert. All the songs are in tune with the narrative of the video, and the emotional response they can evoke from the viewer should not be underestimated.
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Creative Director at Startle. It's my job to produce and execute our music output, making sure everything is sounding, feeling and performing just right for our customers. When I'm not doing this, you can find me either walking my dog, remixing 90s divas on Logic Pro X, returning overdue library books or throwing weights about in the gym.