JAN MOIR: Elton under the Christmas tree? That really is an unbelievable gift
Advent Sunday is still weeks away but the John Lewis Christmas ad is out of the traps, so we may as well whisk up the eggnog, crack out the crackers and get on with it.
Sir Elton John is the unlikely star of this year’s campaign, appearing in a glossy TV advert that tells the story — or a sanitised version of it, at least — of his rise from rags to sequined britches, from Pinner to winner and beyond.
Like Santa Claus he may be a rocket man, burning out his fuse up there alone. But what the heck does Elt have to do with Christmas? And what message is John Lewis trying to impart?
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An emotional Sir Elton John is the unlikely star of the 2018 John Lewis Christmas advert, but ‘what message is John Lewis trying to impart?’
The advert tells Sir Elton’s ‘story — or a sanitised version of it, at least — of his rise from rags to sequined britches’
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For the past few years, Middle England’s favourite store has led the way when it comes to plucking at the nation’s heartstrings in this moment of peak Christianity, commerce and £3 off toasters in the homewares department.
Against fierce opposition from the likes of Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons, Lidl, Aldi and Boots, John Lewis’s adverts usually manage to outdo all rivals in the annual festive weepathon.
However, now they — and so many other High Street giants — are going through hard times, isn’t there less need for these desperate attempts to ‘own’ Christmas and make everyone cry all over their sprouts?
Across the country, department stores are closing, profits are falling and the whole exercise seems, more than ever, like a colossal waste of money.
This year, the £7 million John Lewis advert begins with the emotional 71-year-old Elton thinking about his mother Sheila, who died last year at the age of 92.
Travelling backwards through time, it ends with the four-year-old Elton unwrapping his first piano on Christmas Day 1951, alongside mummy Sheila beaming with pride at her tousle-haired prodigy. Festive? Or a test of our credulity and good nature?
Christmas is all about family, but it’s no secret that Elton didn’t speak to his elderly mother for nearly a decade.
They were reconciled at the end of her life, but until that point she had never met her grandchildren Zachary (now seven) and Elijah (five) — and some wonder if she ever did.
Elton didn’t even tell her she was to become a grandmother — she read about it in the papers. Ho ho ho, not.
That sure sounds like a lot of lonely old lady Christmases to me. And his father doesn’t appear in the piano-unwrapping scene, which feels like a snub.
Meanwhile, the rosy biopic bears little relation to Elton’s real-life journey, which included torrid years when he was addicted to drugs, drink and sex.
At one time he took cocaine every four minutes, and let’s not go into the rest.
Sir Elton, pictured with his mother Sheila after being knighted in 1998: ‘They were reconciled at the end of her life, but until that point she had never met her grandchildren Zachary (now seven) and Elijah (five) — and some wonder if she ever did.’
Nothing says Christmas like a former party animal urging you to spend your hard-earned cash on a piano for the spoilt kiddies, does it? Some gifts are more than just a gift, runs the slogan, even though John Lewis don’t actually sell proper pianos.
Some say the whole thing is little more than a rather crass plug for the greater glory of Elton John, who has a farewell tour and film to promote for next year.
He also currently appears in a Snickers chocolate bar advert, a bizarre product to promote for a portly septuagenarian who nearly died of an infection last year.
One can only surmise the doting dad wants to pop a couple of Snickers bars in his boys’ stockings!
The commercial ends with Sir Elton playing the same piano and ends with the message: ‘Some gifts are more than just a gift’
But here is Elton, looking pensive, replacing last year’s Moz the Monster as the John Lewis face of Christmas. Who’d have thought it?
The store’s commercial weapons of choice usually involve some misbegotten cuddly creature battling through the elements to source an excellent gift or ensure they haven’t been left off Santa’s Nice List.
Snowmen, bears, little boys and even a waddling computer-generated penguin that emoted through tiny, glassy eyes have taken their turn in the festive trenches in recent years.
All in a bid to get as many of us through the doors as possible, spending our cash on baubles, booze, turkey and trimmings.
Of course, Elton John is by no means the first celebrity to prostrate himself on the Christmas altar.
Ant and Dec have been the twin faces of Morrisons, Myleene Klass did her bit for Littlewoods and one year Romeo Beckham managed to model a range of children’s clothes that didn’t exist for Burberry.
It might be confusing, it might be a fairytale of its own, but perhaps there really is something to learn from Elton John’s Christmas message.
First, that despite what John Lewis claim, sometimes a piano is just a gift.
My wooden 1964 Fisher-Price First Piano got me absolutely bloody nowhere, thanks all the same. And secondly, please, please don’t fight with your family because they are the only one you’ve got.
I think Elton looks so sad because he realised he made a terrible mistake feuding with his mother, but realised it far too late — which, if so, is heartbreaking for him.
Apart from that, all he wants for Christmas is for you to buy a concert ticket and a Snickers bar. Ding dong!
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