Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
3 December 2021

If you don’t already have a hangover, Ed Sheeran and Elton John’s Christmas song will give you one

Sheeran in a tiny romper; Michael McIntyre in a white puffer coat. Is this what humanity has been striving for?

By Emily Bootle

Oh, deary, deary me. The festive season is upon us, which is to say I have a raging hangover and I’m listening to Elton John. If it wasn’t bad enough that I have woken up after the office Christmas do this early in December with “Disturbia” ringing in my ears and the sensation that somebody is sandpapering my arteries, Elton has teamed up with Ed Sheeran in a sleigh-bell-jingling, jollity-invoking bid for Christmas number one, with the new, inventively-titled “Merry Christmas”. This very rich, very pale 30-year-old man is now on my screen, and he appears to be dancing at me in a Christmas romper. I don’t feel so good. 

Although causing any disturbance to the calm waters of the Christmas musical canon is a risky business, Elton and Ed have plunged in relatively splash-free by sticking to the formula – which Elton, of course, knows well. There are bells (church; sleigh; pretty much any other type of bell you can think of); a children’s choir; kissy-kissy lyrics about mistletoe. There is finality in the melody over those three little words: “Merry Christmas everyone”. These dulcet festive tones thrum in my damaged eardrums just as any other Christmas song would: in a benign, vaguely irritating, perversely comforting way. 

The problem here is visual. My brain is sodden with cheap prosecco. I was unprepared for the spectacle that befell me, which is supposedly a parody of other Christmas videos, which I assume means that it is supposed to be funny, but is in fact incredibly stressful. There are red and green shell suits. A bright red grand piano. Ed Sheeran in his short, red, fur-trimmed play suit (WHY is it a play suit? Bare knees are not remotely festive. I think I’m upset). He is dancing sexily, doing come-hither eyes, kicking presents around. It stars someone who looks like Boy George dressed as King Henry VIII. It’s chaos. It’s anarchy. I begin to worry about the dynamic: perhaps Elton is Santa and Ed is his naughty little elf. The romper is haunting me. I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all. 

Is this what humanity has been striving for all this time? Ed Sheeran paying tribute to The Snowman, flying in a brown dressing gown in front of an unconvincing green screen? Or is it the shot 30 seconds later, when, parodying East 17’s “Stay Another Day”, Sheeran is joined by (brace yourself) Jonathan Ross, Michael McIntyre and Big Narstie, all dressed in white puffer coats, looking like a demented barbershop quartet? This, this is the cream of the crop of British culture. They’re all singing at me. “It’s Christmas time!” (is it though?) “For you and I!” (for everyone, surely?) “We’ll have a” (nervous breakdown?) “good night! And a” (please make it stop) “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” 

Given that the whole point of these songs is to evoke nostalgia for Decembers past – the very foundation of the insatiable behemoth of Big Christmas – it is tricky to slot in with a new one and make it count. I fear Elton and Ed’s “Merry Christmas” may achieve this, simply because it is so generic its chorus has already melded in my mind with all the other choruses in which festive platitudes are invoked repeatedly, as though if you say the word “merry” enough it’ll prevent the Trivial Pursuit board being upturned in rage.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

And you’ve got to hand it to him – Elton John really knows his way around a chord sequence. This will be around for a while, on the robot-made Spotify playlists of the future and on adverts for lab-grown pigs in blankets. So we’d better get used to it. But whatever you do, stay away from the video. Particularly if you are recovering from one too many eggnogs. 

Content from our partners
Why public health policy needs to refocus
The five key tech areas for the public sector in 2023
You wouldn’t give your house keys to anyone, so why do that with your computers?

Topics in this article: