5/13/12

Truth or Dare (Madonna/Coty)



Some of you may wonder why I mix feminine perfumes in with the masculine reviews. This is supposed to be a men's fragrance blog, right? I operate on the basis of what I think a man could wear in sophisticated company without recriminations from others. Many feminine perfumes small overly feminine, full of bright raspberry sweetness and brown sugar. These fragrances rarely interest me for obvious reasons. Once in a while there's a perfume that employs traditionally feminine notes, but then I cross reference "traditionally feminine notes" with "universal appeal" and, if I'm lucky, find something to write about. Such was the case with Truth or Dare, Madonna's first mass-market celebuscent.

Madonna is actually not the Cheese Whiz celebrity that some people think she is. I can remember when I was four years old, swinging in the backyard with La Isla Bonita playing in my head. I loved that song. I still like it. Her music was pure pop, very bouncy and fun, but there was a maturity about it. She was perfectly in sync with her time.

I never thought she was as far out there as the media made her out to be. Yeah, she always underwent a style transformation with every album, and her dance moves got increasingly bizarre, but if you compare her to the Thompson Twins, or even Heart, her look was no more or less daunting. Lady Gaga is a space alien by comparison.

Until now, I always thought it was odd that Madonna hadn't released a fragrance. But smelling Truth or Dare, I realize that she was holding out for something that would have universal appeal, and classical poise in a perpetual "down" market. The scent trends more toward "Truth" instead of "Dare." There's nothing daring in the mix, but this is a sincerely-composed, well conceived perfume, something perfect for people of all ages. It opens with a beautiful bouquet of tuberose, gardenia (which isn't overbearing), and heady jasmine. There's a synthetic sweetness highlighting the indolic aspects of the flowers, which wouldn't work if these petals weren't so gorgeously stinky! Sugar gives it balance, but it isn't heavy-handed, and the natural richness of the floral notes are allowed to shine and dominate. On my male and somewhat oily skin, a pretty benzoin and vanilla accord appears, evolving from the nondescript sweetness in the opening. The benzoin smells very "true" and creates a warm nuttiness in the base. Strong, but playful stuff, very mature, very French in feel. Interesting bottle, too.

Can men wear this? Yes, but it depends on his geographical location. American guys can wear this when clubbing in New York City, but I wouldn't take it out for a Sunday drive through Litchfield County. European guys can wear it more freely; Truth or Dare isn't out of place at the Czech opera, on a tram in Vienna, or walking the streets of Urbino, Italy. White flowers have gender versatility because of their stinkiness - the indoles either smell crassly feminine, or mind-numbingly masculine. Think of the wildflowers in Kouros, and you have a good point of reference.

Good job, Madge!













5 comments:

  1. After reading several positive reviews of T or D, I decided to give it a try (my hesitation due to a wariness of tuberose). But I have to hand it to Madonna, she has come out with a very good fragrance. I don't think lovers of those heavy-hitters Fracas or Carnal Flower will change their allegiance, but for people like me who are cautiously venturing into the world of white flowers, this is a lovely introduction. The tuberose doesn't clobber you, and the gardenia is very true (it's a difficult scent to duplicate). It has good longevity too; the flowers stick around, rather than falling apart and disappearing, leaving that familiar vague vanilla-musky smell. I would even do this one the honor of not referring to it as a celebrity scent!

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    1. Yeah it's not bad really. My only problem is it's a little sweet. But otherwise it's a fine scent, and I like the bottle. Excellent bottle design.

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  2. It's strange, but I think you are right with that last sentence. I admit I'm gay and totally effeminate, not so much in my demeanor but definitely in my soul, and I wear Fracas and Truth Or Dare and I must say I feel manly with them, I don't know why or if I'm crazy but I don't feel I smell like a girl at all.

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  3. Not that I wear those perfumes because of their perceived uber femininity, they are seriously just what I like, but I wonder why tuberose is considered incredibly feminine when it basically evokes the after sex sweat of a butch construction worker. Probably with another man. And considering that the fruity cupcake scents have completely owned the feminine perfume market, well I don't think flower scents no longer evoke femininity like they used to. Plus aren't flowers male? pollen producing and all that?

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    1. Ramón, it seems a little like you're thinking along "gender lines" in your approach to floral fragrances, which is totally understandable given that both eastern and western societies associate certain flowers with certain genders. I find that white floral constructions like Truth or Dare are unisex, not because white flowers lack gender designation, but because the combination of aroma chemicals very often yields a muted-beige effect, usually quite dry and indolic, with a sultry sweetness not necessarily out of place on a man (gay or straight). In some cases I think it's more a question of location/occasion that comes into play with floral fragrances. A drive through northwestern Connecticut with your girlfriend/boyfriend on a Sunday afternoon might call for a smart classic fougere, while a dinner date at a trendy NYC restaurant could suggest a rich rose soliflore or a dewy jasmine composition. I tend to think that the "spirit of the moment" is more important than the spirit's gender, if you know what I mean.

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