In the midst of a perfect storm of Covid, climate change, and terrible drama produced by Jed Mercurio, you might think we’ve all suffered enough lately. And yet, John Lewis believes that further punishment is warranted.
Hence his new Christmas commercial, in which a boy befriends an androgynous alien child who lives in a hedge – all with the tortured accents of a slowed-down version of Together in Electric Dreams by Giorgio Moroder and Phil Oakey. . The 1984 song is covered by Lola Young, a 20-year-old from south London, but it’s safe to say that Young’s creative contribution to the track was likely minimal. This brand new Electric Dreams strictly adheres to the Ten Commandments of John Lewis’s Christmas carols, which is actually just one commandment: “Sloooow it dooooown.
Even if you haven’t heard the repeat, you’ll know exactly how it sounds. It opens with a hazy ringing, a soft piano wash. And then Young steps in, cooing the first verse in the style of Aled Jones doing Walking in the Air. Its cover is quite a horror show and betrays a tin ear for its source material. Together in Electric Dreams was originally an attempt to turn a Philip K Dick novel into a three-minute pop classic; the new version amounts to being slowly suffocated by a giant Christmas card.
Funny thing, though, is that it’s nowhere near being John Lewis’ worst Christmas song. He might not even be in the top three. The top spot likely went to Lily Allen’s 2014 take of Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know – which even Allen denied, saying she was intimidated by her label. But you can’t really blame Allen or the record company, or even John Lewis and his ad agency, Adam & Eve. The “slow recovery” is a contagion that has spread through music to the point of being recognized as its own autonomous genre: “trailercore”.
The first confirmed example of a trailercore dates back to 2001, when Gary Jules starred in Tears For Fears’ Mad World for the soundtrack of a commercial for the video game Gears of War. Still, it will be another eight years before the true evil of the trailercore breaks loose. In 2009, John Lewis unveiled his first acoustic rework of a beloved track: a revisit of Guns ‘n’ Roses ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine by Swedish singer Taken By Trees.