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One Direction for Christmas

12:35 20/12/2013
With a new Brussels "installation," English singing sensations One Direction take their place in the history of pop music marketing alongside the Beatles and Jobriath. Just in time for Christmas, too.

It is perhaps unfair to smear legendary Liverpudlian icons the Beatles with the same brush we use to paint a picture of England’s latest pop sensations One Direction. The latter have in truth much more to do with the likes of Menudo and New Kids on the Block. But John, George, Ringo and Paul were the country’s first bona-fide pop stars, and they had the branded bric-a-brac to prove it, from lunchboxes to board games to t-shirts to figurines. Now Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry and Louis have inherited—nay, perfected—the Beatles’ merchandising mantel.

Bear with me: This only seems a digression from our usual coverage of life in Brussels. Anyone who has been keeping up with global pop news knows that Brussels occupies a special place in the publicity campaign for One Direction’s new CD. Those who live around metro station Louise have even had the misfortune to see it with their own eyes: the world’s first One Direction-themed “bus stop” (technically it’s a tram stop, serving lines 92, 93, 94 and 97).

 In some ways, the affair echoes 1970s American glam singer Jobriath’s over-the-top publicity campaign, which saw a nude image (pictured) of the first openly gay mainstream artist (Bowie was just pretending) stretched across New York City buses and a giant billboard in Times Square. There, though, the provocation excused the intrusion. In any case, the strategy failed and is thus accorded the sympathy due any proper lost cause.

 This new move by One Direction’s PR team is over-the-top in all the wrong ways. It’s no surprise that it’s so successful. This brings us to the second Brussels connection. The capital is home to a sizeable demographic of young girls who are hungry for “1D” merchandise.

 We suggest to loved ones who are searching for the perfect last-minute Christmas gifts this weekend to first visit one of Brussels’ fine English-language bookstores (Waterstones and Sterling Books, both near Rue Neuve).

 But if it absolutely must be 1D-branded baubles, your best bet is one of the capital’s four Claire’s Accessories locations (Rue Neuve, Chaussée d’Ixelles, Westland shopping centre and Cora Hypermarket in Anderlecht). Claire’s offers a mind-boggling range of 1D stuff, from the usual clothes, calendars, jewellery, bags and bed sheets to the more unusual (and mildly creepy) masks and full-size cut-outs of the boys.

Written by Georgio Valentino