The John Lewis ‘Christmas Advert Covers’ tradition kicked off six years ago, in 2009, and we’re set to hear the newest instalment at 8am on Friday, November 6, when 2015’s advert airs for the first time. It’s strongly rumoured to be a version of Oasis’ optimistic, shambling 1994 classic, ‘Half The World Away’. Of course, the retailer’s PR honchos are bound to pick someone who can make the track more fluffy and – that most bin-worthy of adjectives – ‘Christmassy’.
First things first, though, let’s examine the performers of the past few years, and where they’re from, for some pointers:
2009 – Swedish singer Taken By Trees covers ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ by US rockers Guns N’ Roses
2010 – British ex-folkster Ellie Goulding covers ‘Your Song’ by British balladeer Elton John
2011 – British actress and singer Slow Moving Millie covers ‘Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want’ by The Smiths
2012 – British YouTube-famous singer Gabrielle Aplin covers ‘The Power Of Love’ by British synth types Frankie Goes To Hollywood
2013 – British singer Lily Allen covers ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ by Keane
2014 – British troubadour Tom Odell covers ‘Real Love’ by British legends The Beatles (or, if you’re being picky, just John Lennon)
A few things stand out from the probing investigation above:
1. Since 2010, all the performers have been British.
2. Since 2010, all the bands covered have been British.
3. If you listen to the tracks since 2009, every single one of them has been a piano ballad by performers with piano ballad form. Every single one.
4. Until last year, they were all sung by women.
So we’re very likely to have a homegrown singer performing a homegrown song (like, maybe, Oasis’ ‘Half The World Away’), and it’s almost definitely going to be on the piano. Here are the most obvious people those restrictions point to:
WHY SHE’S IN WITH A CHANCE: ‘Caravan Of Love’, 2014’s charity single, was the schmaltziest cover you’ll ever hear of the 1985 hit by Isley-Jasper-Isley, so Lott has form with sweetening up covers over a piano line, especially one spruced up with violins. Pixie’s only 24, but she’s already six years into her career, and a John Lewis advert would probably pick it up a bit, especially since she released a greatest hits LP, ‘Platinum Pixie’, last year that peaked at 107 on the UK Chart.
WHAT IT’D SOUND LIKE: Some hoarse hopeful from the X Factor fighting for their right to stay in the competition, emotionally oversinging lyrics they hadn’t ever heard before. Your nan might like it.
HOW GOOD IT’D BE: Well, you’d probably never listen to Oasis in the same way again. Any of it.
WHY SHE’S IN WITH A CHANCE: Er, it’s Adele. This would be a massive coup for John Lewis. It’s them who aren’t in with a chance.
WHAT IT’D SOUND LIKE: The down-to-earth aspect would live on moodily, but there’s no denying it’d be uncomfortably different in other areas. Even ‘Half The World Away’ is arguably too upbeat tempo-wise for Adele to sing it – there’s nowhere she’d be able to unleash that earth-quaking vibrato.
HOW GOOD IT’D BE: While she’s not really known for doing covers, her Dylan one has Christmas written all over it. And considering that almost everything Adele touches these days turns to gold, it’d be pretty good, probably, even though Damon Albarn might call it a bit MOR.
WHY HE’S IN WITH A CHANCE: Hozier’s Irish, which would admittedly break John Lewis’ five years of British tradition. But he’s had a massive year, based his internationally successful ‘Take Me To Church’ around a moody keyboard line, and his rippling, soulful blues are… totally un-Oasis. But it’s important to look at his other covers, which include a pensive version of Amerie’s hyperactive pop song ‘One Thing’, or the below cover of Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Do I Wanna Know’, which shows he can really tone down the gospel.
WHAT IT’D SOUND LIKE: Well, it’d probably still be gospel-flecked. And loud.
HOW GOOD IT’D BE: Hozier’s a credible artist who’s found mainstream success. His cover would be at worst interesting, and at best, an epiphany.
WHY SHE’S IN WITH A CHANCE: Rae Morris’ debut album ‘Unguarded’ came out early this year and peaked at Number Nine. Fresh from collaborating with Bombay Bicycle Club, the Blackpool singer balanced pop sheen (‘Cold’) with slight weirdness (‘Skin’) and would probably be considered a fairly buzzy type by the people at John Lewis. She plays the piano, too, which helps.
WHAT IT’D SOUND LIKE: Earnest, if a bit overly heartfelt. She can do Christmas well though – below is a decent cover of East 17’s ‘Stay Another Day’.
HOW GOOD IT’D BE: Alright. No-one would be seething, but her vocal stylings might grate against Noel’s lyrics a bit.
WHY SHE’S IN WITH A CHANCE: Birdy made her career doing piano-led cover versions of indie songs – Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, The xx included. Admittedly, none of those artists are as rock’n’roll as Oasis, but come on – she practically is a John Lewis Christmas advert. She was born to do this.
WHAT IT’D SOUND LIKE: Vastly removed from Oasis’ down-to-earth approach. The subtle joining of world-weariness and optimism that makes the song such a beauty will be amplified, Christmas cheer trampling over the melody, hand in hand with overstated melancholy. Most upsetting, though, will be the difference in intonation, Noel’s lovable moan replaced with clearly articulated hooting.
HOW GOOD IT’D BE It’d hardly be the dream, but think back to that ‘Please, Please, Please…’ cover and this option will seem like a blessing.