The John Lewis Christmas Advert: A Launchpad Into The Music Industry For Young Musicians

Emily Campbell

The John Lewis Christmas Advert has increasingly over the years become engrained in British Christmas culture, signalling the beginning of the Christmas festivities and the start of Christmas shopping. But who is the singer behind this year’s advert soundtrack? Emily Campbell tells us more.

John Lewis’ style of Christmas advertising stands out from other retailers with its heartfelt and warming stories of Christmas spirit. The key components of the advert include the likeable mascots which get plastered over stores countrywide and the important accompanying song. The advert’s song is often a remake of a classic and gains a lot of limelight. The song not only features on the advert, but it is played on the radio throughout the Christmas period and is added to many people’s Spotify Christmas playlists. This means these singles, in many cases, have held top spots in the Christmas music charts.

Many of the artists that have been part of the John Lewis Christmas advert tend to be young and aspiring singers who are finding their feet in the music industry

Many of the artists that have been part of the John Lewis Christmas advert tend to be young and aspiring singers who are finding their feet in the music industry. For John Lewis, employing a young often unknown artist is not only of lower cost, but it makes their advert unique. This is often a voice that most of the public have never heard before. However, by using classic songs in a new and modern way, it brings older viewers a feeling of nostalgia and a connection with the song, whilst younger viewers can also relate. This choice therefore makes the advert inclusive, and furthermore, young artists often gain success from the single featured in the advert and can use it as a platform to accumulate a listener base who will support them in further ventures.

Over the years there have been lots of different artists involved. In 2010, the advert titled ‘A Tribute to Givers’ used 23-year-old Ellie Goulding’s cover of Elton John’s Your Song and it was one of the first adverts that used a young, then unestablished singer who went onto have a successful career. The song reached number two in the official charts and Goulding has gone on to have three other number ones since.

Gabrielle Aplin is a similar example of an artist using the advert as a launchpad into the industry. Only 20 years old at the time, she covered Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s The Power of Love to accompany the 2012 ‘The Journey’ advert. It reached number one and Aplin quickly went on to release her album ‘English Rain’ which sold over 100,000 copies. More recently artists of other nationalities have been chosen to take on the role, with the Norwegian artist Aurora in 2015 covering Oasis’ Half the world away for the ‘Man on the Moon’ advert. The only artist to rock the trend of remaking a classic was the American 26-year-old Celeste in 2020, as the first artist to be commissioned to write a song specifically for the advert, Give a Little Love. Despite previously releasing EP’s and collaborating with electronic producers prior to the advert, over the past year she has found her sound and has successfully released her Number 1 debut album ‘Not Your Muse’ which gained many Brit nominations.

It is accompanied by the vocals of Lola Young, a 20-year-old singer from South London

This year’s advert, ‘Unexpected Guest’, is no different. It is accompanied by the vocals of Lola Young, a 20-year-old singer from South London, and it depicts a young alien who has never experienced Christmas who is introduced to festive traditions by a young boy. Young covers Philip Oakey and Giorgio Moroder’s Together in Electric Dreams, which in this version is slowed down and uses a piano pedal at the start. This creates an other-worldly atmosphere when the boy first meets the alien. The song builds as it progresses with the addition of choral sections which seem to represent the blossoming friendship presented in the advert. This cover is very different to the up-beat, feel-good original.

Young, a Brit school graduate, is at the very beginning of her music career; however, she has already signed to Island Records and released an EP as well as several singles. Citing Prince and Joni Mitchell as the influences to her sound, her jazzy and confident single Fake is very different to the John Lewis song, with similarities to the likes of Mabel and Jorja Smith. In general, she seems to utilise various styles ranging from rap to slow ballads. As a nominee for a 2021 Brit award, Young is certainly one to watch.

The John Lewis Christmas advert is an iconic part of the British Christmas experience. By the end of the Christmas period, not many people haven’t seen the advert, and viewers wait eagerly to see who the next artist to be a part of it will be. For young unknown musicians, it is the perfect opportunity to gain attention for their music and launch a career.

Emily Campbell

Featured image courtesy of Elliott Brown via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @lolayounggg via instagram.com. No changes made to these images.

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