Monday, May 28, 2012

Truth or Dare

So I just zambled into Kicks over the weekend to spray something sweet 'n sparkling on, and what do I see? Truth or Dare by Madonna, right there for sale!  And for not too much money!  So I got it, more as an artifact than a fragrance.  And now I'm blogging about it.

Now, it seems from the online reviews I've read of it that, when you post your own review, you have to start out describing your relationship to Madonna.  Or, rather, that you "never really liked her much" or "never listened to her" or "don't know who she is."  It's pretty amazing how a completely ubiquitous cultural presence escapes some people!  On the other hand, I guess you could talk about how you grew up with Madonna and she was such an inspiration to you and blah blah blah blah.....  Well, here's my disclaimer:

I was in grade school in the 80s, so I loved Madonna music, especially the remixes. And I loved the whole Madonna mythology---I'm not very bright, so I bought it all, even the whole "drop me off in the middle of everything" thing when she supposedly came to Times Square after dropping out of college.  Or something. I guess I was a fan for a long time, but not an obsessive one, especially after American Life, which is the last album I remember paying attention. (Don't get me started on American Life, either. I've thought too much about an album so musically, and especially lyrically, blah.) (Or was it Beautiful Stranger? Was that after American Life? I can never keep track.) I never went to a Madonna concert, and now it feels like I missed the best chance to go by 20 years. (And I wouldn't go to a Madonna concert now unless someone bought me the ticket--I'm not made of money!) But I have done covers of Madonna songs, and I've seen the DVDs of The Girlie Show and The Virgin Tour a zillion times. (For some reason we had our own copy of a videotape of The Virgin Tour back when I was a kid. I remember wondering how it was possible that the person singing on stage was the same person as the one on the album--they sounded so different.)

So anyway, there's my Madonna connection.  Not that it makes any difference, because I'm sure anyone reading this will impose some hidden agenda on anything I have to say anyway.  So on to the perfume.

First of all, the packaging.  I like the black and white picture on the outer box, but it's pretty lame how the name of the scent is not embossed onto it.  It's "Photoshop-embossed," which isn't really the same thing.  The inner box is kinda ugly too.  The bottle: Ugh. It's really even uglier than it appears in pictures.  I just don't understand this packaging.  It looks really cheap and ugly. Maybe there is some symbolism I'm missing in the studs on the bottle. Am I missing something?  Ugh, so butt ugly.  Why so cheap?  But then you don't judge a perfume by the bottle. (Unless it's Estee Lauder's Bronze Goddess Capri, in which case you look at it and you're just like, "I want that on my shelf. Just to see it." Well, if you're me you think that.)

OK, the scent.  I don't like it. I've read that the idea is that it was mostly a tribute to her mother--to the perfume she always wore--with a bit of a Madonna twist. I guess I can see that.  Either her mother wore Fracas or White Shoulders, in that case. But this isn't as good as either of those, and White Shoulders is pretty wretch-inducing (it makes me think of an old Southern belle, stressing old--it's just too much for me, but I could see there being times when I wouldn't mind smelling it.  It also makes me think of looking at colleges in the Deep South--maybe that's really why I don't like it, but I won't elaborate on that now). What I get from the fragrance is a dry tuberose, but with opening notes that to me smell like Glade air freshener---that pink one that so many people seem to like.  Nils gets creamy vanilla and rose, but I can't get past this interpretation of tuberose. I can smell, distantly, how it's related to Fracas, but hedonically they're not the same at all. The opening notes in this are too sweet-in-an-unpleasant-cheap-floral way, and when they burn off you're just left with a dowdy, dry, not-particularly-pleasant tuberose.  It's dowdy, and some people have described it as "old lady"--a fair description, because this is kind of an old-fashioned style, at least to my nose.  I makes me think of Fracas (which I do like, but it's not my favorite scent), White Shoulders and Chloe. For tuberose, though, I prefer Michael, Fragile and even Kim Kardashian (I think my favorite would be Fragile).

I have to say that the scent surprises me, even as it disappoints. I did not expect this direction, and maybe that's because I wasn't paying attention. After all, the last time I remember Madonna and perfume being mentioned together, it was in some magazine (way back in the day) where it said she wore Youth Dew (talk about dowdy packaging!), which is something closer to what I would expect.  But this fragrance.... I dunno, maybe it's that whole Madonna-as-English-Lady thing, where she tries to be "classy." (Or, dare I say it, maybe this is just another one of those endless Madonna tributes to her mother that just doesn't work.  Think of that song on American Life for an example.) Being a perfume nut, I was always curious about the hypothetical of what a Madonna scent would smell like, and frankly I thought it would be something bolder: maybe a crazy animal or rubber accord, or something stark, designed to smell like metal. Or maybe something just trashy and fun, like a harder version of one of those Escada throwaway fruity things (which I kinda love, actually). Or maybe even something difficult.  But not a dowdy dry white flower thing.  Nils notes that the fragrance is strong, and I guess that at least stays true to the Madonna myth.  But if I would imagine Madonna doing a tuberose, I would think it would be bigger, more lushly creamier, maybe with big, syrupy berry notes or those super-sweet candy notes that I think smell like Smartees (the American ones, not the British ones). Or I would expect something dark and inky. (I just realized that I didn't mention Carnal Flower as one of my favorites. I suppose that would be my favorite tuberose fragrance, but it seldom comes to mind because I IS POOR, hos! It's like if someone asks me what my favorite kind of watch is, I'm not going to say Patek Philippe, cuz I can only afford the Canal Street copy.)

I'm not sure what I would change in the scent if the option weren't "everything." At the very least I would want the scent to smell like more money was spent on it. Beyond that, I personally would like the flower to be more fleshy and luxurious. Or it might be cool to make it extremely dry woody.  Or maybe even make it super-powdery, more so than anything out there.  I wonder what that would smell like--powdery beyond all extremes. At any rate, if the scent proves successful, and I think that Madonna's fan base predicts that it will, we can probably look forward to umpteen different variations on it or new offerings in the future.  Maybe those will be better.  One can only hope.

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