The lead-up to Christmas brings with it a series of inevitabilities. Christmas decorations will go up earlier than ever before, the smell of mulled wine will fill every high street and, of course, our ears will be filled with the joys of Slade, Wizzard, Jona Lewie, Flying Pickets, and all the other artists that only ever appear with the first rustle of tinsel. And there’s nothing wrong with that, right? Getting into the seasonal spirit with a bunch of tunes as comfortable and familiar as The Queen’s Speech or an embarrassingly awful Christmas jumper? Over the last few years, though, as I sit down flick through the music channels during the festive season, I’ve been noticing a trend creeping in, a trend that makes all my Christmas cheer fade away. FOMO, the dreaded fear of missing out. FOMO has been present throughout history in any communication channel that would allow individuals to gain knowledge of their friends, family, or even strangers’ lives but has increased in recent years, mostly due to social media. But in Christmas music videos?

Bear with me…

It began this year when I saw the video for Leona Lewis’s ‘One More Sleep’ where Leona, wrapping presents and decorating her tree in a snow-topped log cabin out in the woods (as you do) is suddenly joined by seven young, attractive, and seemingly extremely wealthy friends, who proceed to then have the kind of montage-perfect hi-jinks that even a Christmas special Rocky Balboa would be unable to live up to. There are drinks by a roaring fire, snowball fights, roars of laughter as the young and beautiful unwrap presents, hugs aplenty, a feast at a massive table, and someone coming down the stairs dressed as Santa.

It’s not just Leona, of course, and such FOMO Christmas videos are as plentiful as the boxes of mince pies stacked high in supermarkets up and down the country. Cascada’s cringeworthy cover of ‘Last Christmas’ follows almost exactly the same blueprint, as does Fifth Harmony’s version of ‘All I want for Christmas is You’, Ariana Grande’s ‘Santa Tell Me’, and Basshunter’s ‘Jingle Bells’; we even see it in the ultimate cheese-fest that is the video for Chris Rea’s ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ where a group of z-list celebrities have the time of their lives when their camper van breaks down (so many questions…) And here comes the FOMO. Why don’t I have a group of friends like this? Why aren’t I one of a smiling, young group of people frolicking like they haven’t a care in a world? Of course, there are reasons why. Firstly, I can no longer be described as young, and even when I was, I think frolicking was beyond my capabilities. More importantly, though, I do have cares, most of which revolve around my family, who I always spend my Christmases with. Christmases which, over the decades have usually been the same kind of set-up: grandfathers/ fathers/me asleep by 2pm, mother/wife/me up at 5am sweating over a turkey in the kitchen, paper hats, crap TV, and acid reflux. And that’s because my Christmases are ones most people in the UK can identify with. And yet these videos make me feel like I’m missing something, that I’m inferior in some way. Because that’s what they want us to feel. When we are exposed to idealised representations of others’ lives, it makes us envious, and this is in turn used by those who work in marketing to increase sales. Music videos are essentially adverts, made to manipulate our emotions in order to buy a product (or in this case, watch, download, or stream). In this way, then, the aforementioned videos are no different from the supermarket Christmas adverts which show tables laden with steaming plates of delicious Christmas fare; they’re just working on different areas of FOMO. Whereas the Christmas food ads are aimed at those cooking for their families whose fear is not providing enough quantity or quality of food, Christmas music videos are aimed at younger people whose fear is not having the same kind of fun Leona, Ariana, et al. are having. And if we aren’t, the only option is to live vicariously through them. Which involves watching their videos and streaming their music, just for a taste of that life. 

And it all makes me pine for the older, classic Christmas videos, where budgets were non-existent and the likes of Roy Wood and Noddy Holder had to make do with sets that look like they’d been recycled from Blue Peter. And even when Cliff Richard appears on the screen, awkwardly dad dancing on ‘Mistletoe and Wine’, there’s only one fear that I experience: FOLTR (fear of losing the remote).