It’s that time of year again. When bright-eyed Brits the country over make a cosy cup of tea, watch wall-to-wall aggressively festive advertisements, check their bank accounts, and cry.
Yes, it’s the annual audio-visual offering to the gods of consumerism: the John Lewis Christmas ad!
Obligingly, I watched it immediately. And I felt… nothing. None of the emotions I’ve felt over all the years of this noble tradition. I wasn’t heartwarmed. I wasn’t tearjerked. I wasn’t even archly cynical. I was just numb.
Essentially, what happens is Elton John né Reginald Kenneth Dwight tinkles around on his piano, playing that Ellie Goulding ballad called Your Song, for some reason (just kidding, men of the internet, chill).
Then it takes us back in time, with increasingly sprightly actors playing the same song in different Elton eras. It ends with a cute young child unwrapping a piano in front of his misty-eyed mother for Christmas.
What is this?
Everyone knows Elton John successfully plays the piano. Why reveal that very obvious fact through the sands of time to potential customers? Have John Lewis piano sales taken a massive hit in the past year? Does John Lewis even sell pianos?
Where are the misbehaving animated critters terrorising the lives of middle-class children of Christmases past? Where’s the surprising twist at the end, which ever-so-subtly reveals the solution to social exclusion or longing is in fact an artfully placed John Lewis product? Where’s the moral of the story?
Anyway, I asked former stars of John Lewis’ previous Christmas advertisements what they thought, and they were not impressed:
“A travesty. I had to drag my icy base – no feet, mind, just a rapidly melting hock of ice – all the way across a motorway to sodding London to get those bloody gloves. They weren’t cheap, either. The traffic was chockablock all the way down the M4. What did Elton ever do? Anyone could play the piano like that if they didn’t have twigs for hands.”
“He’s always been a romantic.”
The Bear and the Hare, 2013
“Where are all his woodland friends? What kind of Christmas is this? That piano’s never going to brutally rouse a fully grown bear.”
“I slept through it. My alarm clock broke and I missed its three-year guarantee.”
Monty the Penguin, 2014
“At least the ad concludes with the revelation that Elton John was always a living mammal. In the end, I was reduced to a hollow, stuffed sham. With a hollow, stuffed girlfriend. So degrading.”
Man on the Moon, 2015
Man on the Moon:
“Why didn’t they use ‘Rocket Man’? Stop silencing fictional old men in space.”
Buster the Boxer, 2016
“Oh, Elton. Working his way up the career ladder. Getting places with his talent and passion and integrity. Patiently playing in school concerts and bars. What a mug. We all know the key to getting what you want is just boorishly barking and shoving a kid out of the way to slobber all over their Christmas dreams, and forcing their parents to watch in horror. That’s showbusiness.”
Moz the Monster, 2017
“If you’re not acutely unsettling a child then placating them with a John Lewis item, it’s not Christmas.”
Not glowing reviews then. But at least it features the classic John Lewis Christmas ad trope of a saccharine cover version. Joking! Joking.