From Lily Allen’s Somewhere Only We Know to Gabrielle Aplin’s The Power Of Love, these are the best covers from Christmas adverts to listen to when you’re in need of a little musical variety.
Don’t get me wrong: I love Christmas music. Come 1 December, you’ll happily find me warbling along to every radio repeat of Wham!, Chris Rea and Mariah Carey, because there’s never a bad moment to attempt that high note in All I Want For Christmas Is You.
It has to be said, though, that sometimes the mood calls for something other than sleigh bells and Band Aid. We do know it’s Christmas, but for the sake of variety, we need songs that will generate warm, fuzzy feelings when we aren’t feeling 100% merry and bright (especially if you’ve just had to cancel all your social plans for the rest of the year). What we need are non-Christmassy Christmas songs.
Well, friends, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’ve a serious aversion to Christmas music or simply fancy listening to something a little bit different, there is one place you can always find an appropriate song to see you through the season: Christmas adverts.
Every year, once December rolls around, the creative minds behind a handful of big-name retailers gift us with brilliant campaigns. Looking forward to Christmas adverts is now something of a festive tradition, but what’s arguably a bigger talking point are the covers of classic songs which accompany them.
Over the years, these clever, understated and often hauntingly beautiful tracks have topped the charts and helped create some of the most popular UK adverts of all time. And because there are few things more soothing than an orchestral arrangement of a classic pop song, we’ve compiled a list of some of the very best from over the years.
Real Love – Tom Odell
This only came out last year, right? Wrong. The year was 2014, if you can believe it, and to accompany the story of Monty the penguin in John Lewis’ beloved annual Christmas advert, Tom Odell recorded a beautiful cover of John Lennon’s 1979 song Real Love. The strings! The backing vocals! That crescendo! All we need now is our own smoke machine and we’ll be able to pretend we’re a finalist on The X Factor.
Your Song – Ellie Goulding
Unbelievably, Ellie Goulding’s spine-tingling cover of Elton John’s classic 1970 hit, Your Song, came out 11 years ago. We can’t remember what we were doing at the time, but evidently, being played a million times on the radio didn’t manage to ruin this song for us, because Goulding’s spin on an undeniably iconic track just does the business.
Hold On - Adele
It’s fair to say that 2021 belongs to Adele – and if you’ve been listening to her fourth studio album 30 on repeat, then you’ll be familiar with the track Hold On, which soundtracks Amazon’s Christmas advert. During Adele’s interview with Oprah Winfrey last month, the singer explained that the song was inspired by the pain of her divorce from ex-husband, Simon Konecki, and the struggles of being a single mother. Amazon’s advert, meanwhile, is all about the power of small acts of kindness. After what’s been another undeniably challenging year, the lyrics of this beautiful ballad are a balm for weary souls.
Time After Time – Mabel
Tissues at the ready: this year, Mabel has released her own rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s 1983 hit Time After Time as the soundtrack for the latest McDonald’s Christmas advert, Imaginary Iggy. There’ll always be a place in our hearts for the original ballad, but the new orchestral arrangement coupled with Mabel’s heartfelt lyrics really tug the heartstrings.
Somewhere Only We Know – Lily Allen
As soon as we heard the twinkling piano keys in the first few opening bars of Lily Allen’s 2013 take on Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know, we knew John Lewis had pulled it out the bag for their Christmas animation, The Bear & The Hare. The single topped the UK charts and it’s not hard to see why: it’s simple, stripped back, and feels like the equivalent of a warm hug.
The Power Of Love – Gabrielle Aplin
In 2012, the YouTube queen of acoustic covers Gabrielle Aplin took on the classic 1984 Frankie Goes To Hollywood track The Power Of Love for the John Lewis Christmas advert, The Journey. The tender, haunting rendition, which accompanied the tale of a tale of a snowman making a treacherous journey to buy their partner a new woolly hat, scarf and gloves, became the first John Lewis Christmas song to reach number one in the UK charts, and has been a firm favourite on our winter playlist ever since.
Half The World Away – Aurora
Ok, it’s another John Lewis advert, but the song definitely warrants a special mention on our list. To accompany 2015’s The Man On The Moon advert, Norwegian singer Aurora covered Oasis’ 1994 song Half The World Away. Aurora’s angelic vocals put a completely new spin on the Britpop b-side, and made it a wintry ballad to remember.
Together In Electric Dreams - Lola Young
If you haven’t heard of Lola Young, watch this space. The 20-year-old singer has produced a beautiful piano cover of Human League’s 1984 electro classic Together In Electric Dreams for this year’s John Lewis advert, Unexpected Guest, which tells the tale of a young boy who meets an alien in the woods and brings it home to meet his family for Christmas.
Christobel Hastings is Stylist's Entertainment Editor whose specialist interests include pop culture, LGBTQ+ identity and lore.