When I told the sales associate at Macy’s that I had come for the Madonna perfume, she didn’t question for even a second that I was a man or inquire whether I was buying it for a female relative. She knew it was for me and was totally unfazed, an indication that a lot of gay men must be buying Truth or Dare regardless (or perhaps because of) its Jungle Gardenia aspirations. The placement of the fragrance in the store could not have been an accident: it was not obviously situated at the men’s or women’s counters, but in between. Truth or Dare’s unisex intent is further established by its wonderful television ad that visually recalls Madonna’s “Erotica” phase (reviled at the time but now the hottest and most imitated aesthetic reference around) and the noticeable absence of the usually front-and-center gendered marketing terminology: the female announcer merely says, “Truth or Dare, the new fragrance by Madonna.” Not “perfume.” Not “for her.” Fragrance. Nor is it printed anywhere on the box that it is for women. Very clever. To begin with, nothing you have heard about this fragrance is true, and the general puzzlement and overqualified, reluctant, tight-lipped simultaneous approval /condemnation of it in the perfume blogosphere reflects this. All the reviews thus far go something like this: the reviewer will begin with a disclaimer that she has “admittedly never been a huge fan of Madonna,” a sentiment that I hear every day from every single person every single time Madonna is mentioned that mysteriously belies that fact that Madonna’s tour dates sell out within seconds at astronomical prices and that she is still probably the most famous woman in the world. The reviewer will then marvel at how Madonna is so late to the celebrity fragrance game, insert an unfunny, irrelevant jab about her age, after which will be placed in block quotation the PR copy about the perfume. The reviewer will say that the fragrance smells surprisingly good, surprisingly “old lady” in that it has an extremely noticeable floral component, but will conclude that Truth or Dare is nothing to write home about because who has time for this when you can wear perennial snob favorite Carnal Flower or some other Edgy Cool Indie White Floral that’s not EMBARRASSING like the Madonna perfume! One reviewer cynically and prematurely bashes anyone who might be tempted to “applaud it simply because it is not a predictable cotton candy ditz department store fragrance.” All of this goes to show that Madonna is still a heated, relevant, and above all HIGHLY stigmatized cultural property, as much as she was in the 80’s and 90’s- everyone is fascinated with everything she does, and everyone is still too frightened to immediately embrace any of it until a few years have passed and a bolder critic has stated that it’s okay to like it. I digress. Wait, no I don’t, because this is a celebrity perfume, and the public perception of the famous name affixed is as integral to the identity of the product as Bruce Weber’s cold, explicit images of Kate Moss were to Calvin Klein’s Obsession, or Victor Skrebneski’s spacious WASP mansion panoramas were to Estee Lauder . Any discussion of Truth or Dare must by necessity include a discussion of Madonna and the fragrance’s marketing. While Truth or Dare is stated to be retro tuberose gardenia floral—a tribute to Madonna’s mother’s unnamed signature scent assumed by everyone to be Fracas—it is in actuality an unexpected, complex, unusual, firmly unisex musk scent with floral, oriental, and gourmand elements in equal measure. It simply smells undeniably terrific: streamlined, sexy, sweet but not too sweet, floral but not too floral, rich but pleasantly cheap, but sniff closer and its shocking character is readily apparent: this is an indole, rubber, and musk fragrance! It is as if a creamy, proudly synthetic white floral accord that smells ambiguously of tuberose, gardenia, and jasmine is underlined by a fierce cocktail of every weird off note that goes along with those smells: big burnt rubber , big fecal indole (to rival Brent Leonesio’s Untitled #8). How is no one noticing how dirty this fragrance is? I have NEVER smelled such proudly displayed skank notes in any mid-range department store celebrity scent! Perhaps it is because the off notes are married so perfectly to a hippie-ish androgynous salty ambery oriental musk base with a beautifully executed burnt sugar note. Truth or Dare’s closest relatives are, I would say, Angel for its two-sided vulgar structure, Juicy Couture for its salty gourmand florals, and Jovan Musk for its loud, ungendered statement of cheap and fun sexuality. Any complaints? It should probably be labeled an EDT rather than an EDP if only to encourage people to spray it on in great quantities. It is assertive but always pleasant and its ambery musk sticks around a shockingly long time. Depending on how much you wear, it can be a good-time clubbing scent or something more polite for the office. Totally versatile. If it were approached without prior knowledge of the PR material or that it is endorsed by Madonna, Truth or Dare would undoubtedly be embraced for its originality, defiance of easy categorization, unisex potential, and unique, humorous bottle design that looks like nothing else currently in department stores except that wonderfully kitschy teal opaque Youth-Dew bottle. When was the last time I had this much FUN with a mainstream department store release? I love it to death.
Fragrances -Elizabeth Arden - britney spears CIRCUS FANTASY
FruitDiet 11/8/2010 9:46:00 PM
An idiot coworker of mine who wears tiny jersey skirts, UGGs, and a wig to work every day (to Freebirds, a burrito restaurant)leaves a pervasive trail of this everywhere as she natters on about how her life was so much more exciting when she lived in New York. It is appropriate that she wears something that smells like blue raspberry sugar-free gum, writ large.
My boss, knowing that I have more than a passing interest in fragrance, presented me with a sample of this, saying that her husband was considering buying it for her for their anniversary but she wasn't sure about it. I dumped some on my wrist, expecting the worst, and the worst is what I got. After a few minutes, I told her that it was so cartoonishly feminine that it seemed like drag, and brought to mind pink embroidered pillows and canopy beds and ruffles. Later, as it became even stronger, pinker, and more chemical, I downgraded my opinion to: a Baby Jane version of femininity, a classless, delusional woman stupidly choosing the pinkest girliest youngest perfume in order to seem youthful and optimistic to others. Baby Jane nightmare. It's hard to believe the name isn't a joke- it makes Midnight in Paris seem sophisticated. I just want to smash its romantic optimism with an oversized bottle of Dune, or something.
It's summer, and you know what that means? I'll be wearing gigantic orientals, their sillage amplified by a quarter-inch of sweat. It's considered gauche to wear loud fragrances in summer, but I completely disagree; all the big orientals- Youth-Dew, Opium, Angel- seem positively designed for this kind of sweltering provocation. A good layer of sweat really brings out their "COME HITHER, YOU BIG MAN" qualities. Speaking of Angel, I think it might have surpassed Youth-Dew as my all-time favorite perfume. I got my star refilled at Nordstrom last week for the nice price of $45 and I've been wearing it continuously for the past week. It's just such an endlessly fascinating and disturbing fragrance, and it's impossible to categorize or understand. It was released in '92, well into the onset of what Chandler Burr calls the "anorexic oceanics of the 1990s", yet it is a throbbing, room-filling fuck-off power-woman scent in the 80's OpiumPoisonGiorgio style. It straddles the line between male and female despite being intended for and worn mainly by women; an ultra-femme pink cotton candy note is strangled to death before your eyes by a virile, throaty patchouli. It is one of the most successful perfumes in history and is available at Wal-Mart but it does not in any way comply with the American imperative to smell "clean"- in fact, it smells positively raunchy, as though body odor and sweet musky shit-stained panties were layered with rotting fruit and topped off with a post-apocalyptic stripper pole. Its advertising is counter-intuitive and designed to distract potential customers from what it ACTUALLY smells like; the packaging is light blue when the juice smells a sinister glittery brown. Sales-associates will inform dimwitted women that it smells of chocolates and sweets, when it smells of death and the infinite beyond. Ad copy refers to the "tender notes of Angel" and "memories of Thierry Mugler's childhood"; Angel wearers clearly lost their innocence LONG ago and now confront everyone they meet with the olfactory tenderness of snorting jagged shards of blue sugar glass. Angel is worn equally by conservative women (allegedly it is the signature scent of both Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton) and women of the night (numerous sources have told me of its popularity among erotic dancers). AND IT WAS A HUGE HIT! More disturbing is the nicotine-like addiction that Angel induces in the wearer, necessitating the purchase of (literally) hundreds of bizarrely named ancillary products ("Celestial Showers Gel"? "Perfuming Hair Mist"?) in an effort to preserve the scent on skin for the rest of your lifetime. The addictive part of Angel, the really good part, is that first blast of body odor and rotten fruit that fades within a few minutes, so the wearer is forced to continually reapply to get that kick. The more you wear it, the more you become anosmic to it, so you keep putting on layer upon layer upon layer, achieving a Baby Jane-like flaking pancake makeup effect and making you smell TRULY filthy, TRULY like you have been living on the streets and selling your unclean body for weeks. As Anais Reboux says to Roxane Mesquida at the beginning of Breillat's "Fat Girl", "You reek of loose morals." They have soda fountain-style REFILL STATIONS at all major department stores, for Christ's sake! I indulge in dreams of taking foot-tall Slurpee cups to Nordstrom and demanding that an effete, tittering male sales associate fill them to the brim, at gunpoint. How on earth did you get away with it, Mugler? Around the time of its release, sales associates were instructed to forcefully spray it on the arms of confused women, look directly in their trembling eyes, and tell them, mantra-like, "THIS IS A FRAGRANCE FOR A UNIQUE WOMAN. NO ONE ELSE WILL SMELL LIKE THIS. A UNIQUE, UNCOMPROMISING WOMAN WOULD WEAR THIS. IT IS UNLIKE ANYTHING ELSE". I'm not kidding, this is how it became a success. They still talk like that at the department stores, too, when they find out you're an Angel fan, in the thick, lascivious tone of a depraved Madame speaking to a whorehouse patron with particularly exotic, violent, and possibly illegal sexual tastes. They'll spray you with the latest seasonal version ("Angel Soleil au Fraiche Summer Fraicheur Energizing Oil Cream" or some such nonsense, available for a limited time only) and hold your arm with their lacquered dragon talons, hissing that there are LOTS of people out there who like Angel and you needn't feel guilty or immoral for it. AND IT WAS A HUGE HIT! One of my best friends who happens to be a mortician told me an amazing and frightening story. While preparing a corpse for its funeral, she was handed a bottle of Angel and instructed to spray it all in and around the coffin because it was the deceased's favorite scent. Angel, which already smells of death, follows its wearers TO THE GRAVE.
The final task in my quest to have all the 80's powerhouses in regular rotation- I already had Poison, Opium, Obsession, and Kouros- was to conquer Giorgio. Giorgio appealed to me only because of its reputation as the loudest perfume ever; the ads didn't have a trace of the elegance, sophistication, irony, or immersive fantasy of Opium or Poison, and instead painted a lifestyle of forced, loud, brash good times at the beach or in the convertible, usually involving a woman suspended in mid-laugh, as though she had been cryogenically frozen in Virginia Slims land and carted over to Giorgio without prior knowledge, her magenta-painted mouth hanging open to expose her Hollywood-white fangs in a feral distortion of a smile. It was either this woman or simply a picture of the "Extraordinary Perfume Spray" bottle looming like the 2001 monolith over a black background. Could I be this girl? I'm a six foot four, 270 lb bearded man, so it would be a challenge. Soon enough I saw the yellow and white prison bars, so familiar to me from repeat viewings of "Troop Beverly Hills", staring back at me in TJ Maxx. I paid the $20 admission price and entered the world of Giorgio. I went back to my car and sprayed on lavishly. "Not so bad!" I thought. Pineapple, tuberose, and pool chemicals; it had that-er-"well blended" quality that I often find in cheap perfumes like Tabu, wherein the perfume seems to contain no discernable individual notes, just one big distinctive stench, the source of which can only be a giant oil drum labeled "TABU": or "GIORGIO" in a grimy factory somewhere, not, you know, "night-blooming jasmine from the fields of Grasse," or whatever. After thirty seconds I couldn't smell much but could feel a dull throb that seemed to be circling my brain-a sinus headache, I assumed. My vision also seemed slightly impaired, everything was blurring. Passersby stared at me as though I were covered in blood. It was DELIGHTFUL. For three weeks I denied that the headaches that Giorgio caused were caused by Giorgio. I funneled allergy pills and pain relievers into my gullet on an hourly basis. I also sprayed on more Giorgio. I purchased Giorgio Red. None of these things helped. I was in a perpetually crabby mood whenever I had the Giorgio on, too. I didn't ask anyone's opinion of it because I didn't want to know what they thought. At this point in my life, it was perfectly appropriate that I was wearing a perfume that kept people away in droves, made everyone everywhere I went aware of my horrible mood, made me physically ill, cost too much for what it was, and didn't feel right with any of my clothing except for the Madonna Blond Ambition Tour tee. I haven't been able to track down any old Giorgio for comparison but I would imagine that it would have the same effect in any vintage. As a child of the nineties, it's titillating and horrifying to me to think that the whole world smelled like this in the eighties. Everyone was experiencing that dull throb in their head all the time, everywhere they went, for an entire decade and then some. ON PURPOSE! And FOR A GREATER PRICE! Though it is now practically only found in drug stores and discounters, Giorgio was once THE snob perfume, the one that no one else had but you, or the one you wanted but couldn't afford. It was originally only available in the Giorgio boutique and by mail order, so you had to be on the inside to get it. The point of it was to advertise your nouveau-riche status by beating the whole world over the head with a toxic, lingering cloud of Californian grotesquerie. By the late eighties it was available everywhere, the top-selling perfume for years, and was worn (used, I should say, it isn't worn but used, with intent) by cliquey high school girls to terrorize their social inferiors. Its veneer of cheerfulness- pineapple! flowers! beaches!- hides a vapid, hollow, black soul with no moral center, capable of doing anything. Giorgio was cruel, exciting, and nauseating, and its success seems unthinkable today. Then it felt glamorous, now it feels like the olfactory equivalent of that scene in David Lynch's "Inland Empire" where Laura Dern is stabbed unexpectedly with a screwdriver and runs around screaming and bleeding on the Hollywood walk of fame until she collapses next to some homeless people and dies. A true classic.