To extrapolate that Madonna's Truth or Dare celebrity fragrance is a Fracas-inspired vehicle is a given unless you had been living under a rock for the past 20 years. Not only had the reference been clearly made when the classic Fracas by Robert Piguet was re-issued under new directorship sometimes in the mid-1990s (along with the equally classic and controversial Bandit perfume) ~and Madonna was letting the world know she wore Fracas because it reminded her of her mother~ the famous quinquagenarian has been known to love tuberose and gardenia anyway. True to form, though not daringly enough, her fragrance Truth or Dare, late on the bandwagon of celebrity fumes, is indeed a sharp, loud tuberose with added side notes of waxy gardenia, coconut for a tropical feel to the white flowers and amber-musks in the base. It's the right thing to wear if you're decked in a conservative tailleur and fishnet veil with black eyeliner and red lipstick and horny after a handsome toreador just like Madonna herself was in "Take a Bow". (The image says it all, really; lady and tramp in equal measure).
Because Truth or Dare is a true celebrity perfume (the face behind it infinitely more important than the juice), but at the same time coming from a celebrity who is well known for her genuine interest in fragrances and her vast collection, I decided to evaluate the fragrance in a "game" of plus and cons. After all, Madonna has played the Madonna-Whore duality herself for decades.
The minus points
By now tuberose and gardenia have been tackled beyond the iconic Fracas in a pleiad of guises by niche perfume companies, sometimes to incredible results: The natural green and tropical vibrancy of Carnal Flower by Frédéric Malle is hard to beat. The silkiness of the initially mentholated Tubéreuse Criminelle by Serge Lutens is unsurpassable. The refinement of Beyond Love by Kilian, very close to Fracas, but a bit more natural feeling, is a wonder of artistry and nature: Calica Becker used the fresh flowers as a reference to narrow the gap between the oil and the real blossom and the injection of coconut gives a sensuous mantle of real human skin. For real gardenia we have Estée Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia which smells as real as the living thing, green buds, browning petals and all.
Madonna's effort therefore seems too little, too late. If Truth or Dare had been issued 15 or even 10 years ago (why wasn't it? that is the question) we would have been more responsive to its white flowers message. By now, it's almost a cliché. (And inspires its own caricature, please open with caution) Even Kim Kardashian has issued her very own version in her first fragrance; with an added dose of sugarcane, of course...And if rock-babe Courtney Love issues a celebrity perfume in the future, I'm sure she will get endless propositions on the same model of tuberose-gardenia given her self-proclaimed love of Fracas as well. (Whether she will capitulate though, that's another matter)
The plus points
Presenting a waxy tuberose-gardenia combo ~and a loud, unashamed one at that~ to the audience of teeny-bopper consumers who are used to sugar-laced sanitised white florals or fruity swirls with a ton of ethylmaltol & patchouli in there is commendable. Obviously not only teenagers have a right to a celebrity perfume and fans of Madge have reason to celebrate, I guess. It's not going to garner you "youthful" comments though, be prepared (Not a bad thing in itself) and if you live in a subdued environment that only tolerates "clean" non-perfumey perfumes and winces at anything else, you will have to wear this at home alone with the windows taped.
As to the perfume composition, the duality of the name Truth or Dare is cleverly built into the formula overseen by Coty. There is on the one hand the tropical, sweet, nail polish acrid, very indolic (with jasmine and jasmolactones), loud white floral tentacle with a hint of lily; lethal and femme fatale. On the other hand there is the more subdued belly of resinous ingredients, benzoin, emitting a hint of vanilla, amber and the blank canvas of synthetic musks, giving an almost monastic feel due to their subdued effect and low projection. This schizoid personality of Madonna's Truth or Dare seems totally intentional and for that reason I can't but admire the smarts (and dare I say, the guts).
Bottom Line: Madonna wouldn't be shamed to death to be caught wearing her celebrity perfume, which is more than I can say for many other celebrity scents out there. If you are a lover of Fracas, tuberose-gardenia compositions and loud, a tad vulgar-but-out-for-a-good-time perfumes, it's worth a try.
Note: The ad campaign has been deemed too racy for prime-time. Was this really unexpected? Nope...