I Hate Myself For (Almost) Loving You: Truth or Dare by Madonna
I will be the first to admit that I was very skeptical when I first learned that pop diva Madonna was going to release a perfume. (Since she has finally joined the celeb scent crowd, does anyone else wonder what took her so long?) I knew she was a fan of big white florals, and I was even somewhat peeved when I found out that she wears, or used wear, a fragrance that was my own signature scent at the time, Creed's Fleurissimo. I got over that and I am no longer a serial perfume monogamist anyway, so I don't worry about silly things like someone else wearing “my” fragrance - after all, it's not as though we would ever meet at a party and have to face off in a cat fight for wearing the same perfume. (Also, I don't look nearly as good as she does in a cone bra.) She has also stated that she wears the famous Fracas, queen of the tuberose perfumes.
Madonna has gone with her long-favored style and introduced a tuberose-based white floral in Truth or Dare, which could have been a disaster in itself. In the book Perfumes: The Guide, Luca Turin remarked that perfumers routinely seem to just ask their clients if they want a Fracas or an Amarige these days when asked to compose a tuberose fragrance; thank goodness this is closer to a Fracas, albeit a warm and fuzzy version of it. It's not big or loud, surprisingly enough. When I first tried it I put on an alarming amount of the stuff at Macy's from a tester with a very liberally emitting sprayer, and I was afraid I would be unable to ride the bus home without offending virtually everyone, but it settled down very nicely.
It's impossible to talk about a tuberose scent without making comparisons to the touchstones of the genre. Fracas is obvious, along with Carnal Flower, and of course it's not on a par with either of them, but it is better than a host of others and is really more like a subdued and sweeter Balenciaga Michelle. I also find it to be close kin to the long gone Piqué by Redken if my scent memory serves me correctly, but it has a gourmand undercurrent of caramel and vanilla. This is not to say that it's syrupy-sweet, which it definitely isn't, but the caramel is just enough to give it a distinction lacking in most mid-range to lower priced tuberose scents. It also reminds me a bit of what good old Coty Sand & Sable used to smell like back in the day, but it's not as bright. Truth or Dare is also a product of the Coty fragrance empire in fact, created by Givaudan perfumer Stephen Nilsen, who also authored one of the better celebrity scents from a few years ago, With Love by Hilary Duff. The official listed notes are gardenia, tuberose, neroli, jasmine, benzoin, white lily, vanilla absolute, caramelized amber and sensual musk. It's almost as though someone sneaked into the laboratory and put a few drops of Prada Candy and a smidgen of Natori into an otherwise straight-ahead white floral, and I like the result.
Coty has done some very nice celebrity fragrances, notably Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely, but they have also released a lot of really bad and cheap-smelling mass market scents. I kept waiting for the money to run out on this one, but after several hours Truth or Dare was still going strong and smelling just fine. Projection is moderate and longevity is good, which is to be expected for a tuberose perfume, and overall it's smooth, wearable and not at all overpowering. My skin tends to amplify white florals but it stays pretty close; I would not call it quiet but it's easy to live with. You really need to be a tubey fan, though; even though it's not a sillage monster like Fracas or the original Carolina Herrera, it's still a Big White Floral at heart. I have a weakness for this type so I am predisposed to like it. (I just wish the perfumer had managed to sneak in some hydrangeas, even though only the climbing ones have a scent.) The bottle is really the only jarring note. It's a tippy, hobnail-edged opaque white flask that won't be mistaken for anything else on the fragrance counter, but it looks to me as though it belongs on your maiden aunt's dresser along with her reading glasses and rheumatism pills; vaguely medicinal and a more than a little Victorian, so its appearance is very much at odds with what’s inside. The team behind this fragrance really hit the mark with the formula so I don't know how a project with this much money and planning behind it could have ended up with such a weird bottle, because in every other way they played it safe. By “hit the mark” I mean that it's pleasant and wearable and not in the least edgy, and they are not going for niche marketing or the exclusivity angle; Macy's doesn't take those kind of chances and neither does Coty. So for those (including me) who were expecting or at least hoping for something as original as Tubéreuse Criminelle from the ever provocative Madonna, think again. This should be a moneymaker for all concerned, but in the final analysis it's just good, but not great.
Truth or Dare the fragrance is currently available exclusively at Macy's as Eau de Parfum, starting at $55 USD for the 50 ml size. Body lotion and shower gel are also in the line.
Image credit: Madonna wearing one of her signature costumes via madonnafansworld.over-blog.com, original source unknown.
Disclosure: I tested this fragrance in-store at Macy's on several occasions.