I can say with complete certainty that I’m not the only person that’s gotten back into One Direction over the course of the last year. Take an actively traumatic global pandemic and internet access, and suddenly you find yourself seeking comfort in a 34-minute One Direction Video Diaries compilation.
Just to recap, One Direction was formed in 2010 on The X-Factor when members Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Zayn Malik, Harry Styles, and Louis Tomlinson were saved from elimination and put through as a quintet to the Judges’ Houses.
1D celebrated their ten year anniversary earlier this year, with the boys sharing warm sentiments over social media, fans crashing the anniversary website’s servers, and Louis finally following Harry and Zayn on Instagram. (A huge win for me and the Zourry community.)
With the need to satisfy my hiatus-addled mind, I went huntin’ for content. I became bizarrely fixated on their line of perfumes. Specifically, the adverts they made to sell these perfumes. Whilst I was aware that musicians would come out with fragrances, something in my hindbrain thought it was odd that you’d base a signature scent off of these ridiculous teenage boys universally known for having smelly socks on their stinky tour bus. But this was the norm then, even their “arch-rival”, Justin Bieber, had designed 7 fragrances between 2011 and 2014.
Celebrity fragrances, to my surprise, aren’t dying out at all. I think I only thought they were because I found my favourite scent in & Other Stories’ Perle de Coco Body Mist and never looked back. To that end, Harry Styles is currently the face of Gucci’s unisex Mémoire d’une Odeur. He was also responsible for a spike in sales for Target’s Cashmere Vanilla candle in Season 1 of Global Quarantine, which supposedly smells like his cologne of choice: Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille. Full disclosure, I bought a 3mL vial of Tobacco Vanille and it is scrumptious.
According to fans, Harry smells sweet and earthy, Louis allegedly smells like baby powder and vanilla, and Niall apparently smells like Peppered Suede from Bath & Body Works. What Zayn smells like remains a mystery, and whatever Liam smells like, I’m sure will be perfectly fine too.
Why do we want to know what these people smell like so bad? Do we want to smell like them? Do we want to smell like them or smell what they’re selling to feel closer to them? Do we want to know how their essences can be distilled inside a pretty glass bottle with a spray bottle? What does this say about our culture of parasocial relationships and late capitalism? Let’s try and unpack that by looking at some 1D’s promotional material, shall we?
Let’s get into their debut fragrance: Our Moment. I’m not sure what “Our Moment” is a reference to, as the boys are knee-deep in their Take Me Home era and ‘Moments’ was a song on the first album written by then-Harry Styles bestie Ed Sheeran. According to fragrantica.com, the fragrance carries “fruity, floral, and woodsy” notes, with scents like Pink Grapefruit, frangipane, and “Woodsy Notes”.
The visuals start off as one would expect; the boys giving their best angel eyes cradling an ingredient straight-to-camera. The concept then takes a turn I love, because it utilizes their comedic and ultimately mischievous talents by letting them be “lads”. The advert devolves into a pretty prank montage; Louis makes Niall smell Liam’s sock at the end of that row of perfume samples, Louis and Harry dump two buckets of jasmine petals over Zayn (yet another win for the Zourry community), Liam cranks up a fan in front of Harry’s frangipane pinwheel blowing him away, and Louis steals the bottle of perfume from its pedestal at the end of the advert.
Louis seems to be orchestrating a lot of this mischief. After all, he is their de-facto leader. And a Gemini Rising. He also happens to be my favourite boy. Like ever. Out of all the boys in the universe, Louis Tomlinson is my favourite. This ad balanced out the band’s dreamy heartthrob public perception by injecting 0.5cc of their overlooked goofiness.
Speaking of goofy, they hit the American market doing a bit for Macy’s Black Friday Sale. That’s right, a bit! A little sketch! A sprinkle of the funny Ha-has! This was in the earlier days of their Midnight Memories era, perhaps post-This Is Us; a critical transition period when those cherubim teenage boys became, much like myself, hot 20-somethings. We open on the boys, aptly, in a Macy’s; setting up their little perfume booth. A Macy’s attendant congratulates them on their hard work, and Niall notices something weird. The Macy’s attendant suddenly has Niall’s haircut. And then Liam’s. And Zayn’s. And Harry’s. And even Louis’! Sporting a half-baked English accent, he asks if the lads needed “another bloke in the band”. Liam urges the boys to back away slowly. It has the energy of a mid-2010s American sitcom, or SNL before Mulaney left. It’s subtle, just silly enough, and pushes the Christmas Present Industrial Complex’s agenda. It gets the job done.
The advert for That Moment was a little obscure; it was a short film. Its final version is over six minutes long. The boys return to a white backdrop, this time with an eccentric photographer waiting for them. They’re asked to convey an emotion the photographer will capture; something that makes them really feel “That Moment”. Niall uses his hearty laughter to break up moments of awkwardness. Louis gives his best blue steel which intimidated the photographer a little bit, which I, personally, loved to see. It’s funny in that “this mockumentary isn’t The Office” kind of way. It also shows that the boys are game for whatever their whirlwind lives throw at them, and that they don’t take themselves too seriously at all.
You and I
This was a fun one, and perhaps the one I’m most obsessed with. It’s a pretty simple concept: a masked, black-leotard clad thief cranes down into a vault, Mission Impossible-style, to steal a vial of One Direction’s latest fragrance, You and I. Little did he know, four more spy-thieves just like him had the same idea! Who were they, you ask? One Direction! Who doesn’t love a good Spy AU? It’s slick, it’s cheeky, and has the boys in their preferred element: chaos. You and I (the perfume), and ‘You and I’ (the song) have two completely different energies. The perfume is bright pink and fanciful, but the song is a cold gust of wind across a pier somewhere in Somerset. Although, I would hope that the fragrance’s “Floral Fruity Gourmand” notes are what I imagine Zayn’s high note in the song to smell like. You know the one. Everyone knows that high note.
Between Us, their final fragrance, references a lyric from their song ‘Spaces’; a near-prophetic track off their 2014 album FOUR that many fans had connected to Zayn’s departure in 2015. Despite its name’s somber origins, and the fact that the band was now down a member, this advert might be their best one. And it might be the only fragrance I’d consider tracking down and wearing.
It starts in a lab somewhere in London. A snow-covered, long-haired Harry Styles arrives with “freesia, from the highest mountain”. Ain’t no mountain high enough to keep H away from this crucial ingredient. Then Liam Payne in a wetsuit comes in with “amber, from the deepest ocean”. The advert’s pièce de résistance got there in full astronaut gear. It was Louis! With an apricot! From space! Well, a Whole Foods that sold zero-gravity apricots, more like. At least it was organic! Niall struts in dressed as himself, no fancy costume, and seemingly without an ingredient. He then pulls out an onion, to which Louis gently reminds: “You know we’re making a perfume, Niall?” Fear not, Niall splits open the onion, coaxing a single tear from his eye straight into their perfume mix. Lo and behold, Between Us was born. This advert walks the fine line (pun intended) between their once-juvenile whimsy and their all-grown up pre-hiatus steeliness. Even after everything they went through that year alone, they were still up for a round of the Goofs.
The boys also had a shorter, photoshoot advert. Neutral t-shirts, behind-the-scenes primping, Harry’s curls majestically cascading over his shoulders; everything I could’ve ever asked for. It felt simple, clean, and mature. It felt final. As it should have.
I realised as I wrote this, I really just wanted to talk about the boys again. Unabashedly, but of course with deep awareness of how intense those five years must have been for them and the people around them. How that band, in every sense, is one of late capitalism’s most successful products. It was proof that a formula worked. But it only worked because these boys were at the heart of it and they had legions of fans behind them before they had even left The X-Factor. Any business major with a braincell can recognise what to profit from there. Despite how cynical that take was, I still love One Direction. And I love how each member has grown and evolved. I got up at 3am just the other day to watch Louis’ charity livestream show on Veeps, and I cried! They may not have been at the heart of every perfume note, but they lent their time, effort, and charm into those little commercials. Plus, it provided me with a little bit of reprieve from having to use my brain to survive on a daily basis. So thanks, lads.
Some Other Musings
Midsommar and Academic Fraud
I saw Ari Aster’s Midsommar over a year ago, and the thing that’s stuck with me the most after all this time (aside from the ex-boyfriend burning or white supremacist cult stuff) is how Christian (Jack Reynor) had the audacity to try and plagiarise Josh’s (William Jackson Harper) graduate thesis. What a dirtbag! Josh was there to supplement the research he had already done, and Christian just goes: “Hey, you know this society you’ve been studying for longer than I have? I’m going to write my paper on them too. No hard feelings?” Yes, hard feelings! What a total piss-pot! Also, did Midsommar typecast William Jackson Harper as a tortured academic? You know, like Chidi Anagonye from The Good Place? I wouldn’t know, you can’t draw a pattern from two single data points.
It’s A Crossover Episode, Darling
When the news broke that Nick Kroll would be joining the cast of Don’t Worry, Darling, Olivia Wilde’s highly anticipated thriller, I was over the moon. First, because Nick Kroll in serious roles will detract from my difficult feelings about Big Mouth, but more so because this would mean Nick Kroll and Harry Styles would become friends.
I have many questions. Like, what kind of flowers did Harry send to Nick Kroll to celebrate his then-engagement and now-marriage? Has Steely Dan come up as a subject of their text conversations? Has Harry been prahnk-ed with Too Much Tuna yet? Will Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland try to convince Harry of their homicide theories on Oh, Hello The P’dcast: The Life and Death of Princess Diana a.k.a Di-Town? Does Nick have any interest in introducing Harry to John Mulaney? Will Mulaney then, through that introduction, consider Harry for the role of Mr. Music (Jake Gyllenhaal)’s younger brother, Maurice Music Jr., in the next Sack Lunch Bunch special? There’s so much I need to know. And so little time.
On a More Serious Note
I’ve been carrying around a few morsels of shame this past year. Shame of losing someone I loved to distance and time, shame of not having worked a proper job in months, and the shame I’ve been trying to bury the second I stepped onto a plane at Heathrow last year: the shame of leaving London behind.
It’s nothing to be ashamed of, I know. A friend of mine upon learning of my anxiety about going home said: “London’s not going anywhere. It’ll be here when you get back.” And it’s true. London isn’t going anywhere, neither is Jakarta (although climate change will have a bone to pick or two with those two cities respectively.) But ever since I’ve got home, I tried to shove down this feeling that I didn’t work hard enough to stay. Or to come back. Or to even integrate and make the most of my time at home. All of this is my brain’s way of talking to me in the cruelest way it knows how, the cruelest it has been conditioned to; internalising this landscape of instant gratification and working our brains and bodies to death. I don’t want to die working. I don’t want to die hustling. I don’t want to die feeling like I wasn’t enough somehow, even though I probably was/really am enough right now. I want to die peacefully someday, if The Big Guy will allow.
Leaving behind a home you’ve made for yourself and your first real taste of freedom is difficult. It fucking sucks. But as Louis Tomlinson’s chest tattoo, the cast of Summer 2019’s Love Island, and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman can concur: it is what it is. I’m learning to give myself the space to feel what I need to feel so it can be what it is. Or whatever it needs to be. I’ve adjusted quite a bit, so I’ll give myself a little credit for that. (With a grain of salt, of course).
I’ll leave you with this, if I ever see that Internalised Capitalism bitch on the street, I will not hesitate to go no body, no crime (feat. HAIM) on her ass. She’ll think I did it, but she just can’t prove it! That is if I remember to recognise her. And I’m really lucky to have people I love, regardless of whether or not they’re in my life right now, that are very profound and wise. One of them said this to me before I left London, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since: “You shouldn’t have to feel like you haven’t done enough, you do more than enough to justify your right to exist anywhere.” That applies to you reading this too.
Happy Holidays. Be safe out there.