Lady Gaga Fame (2012): Autopsy of a Hyped Fragrance {Perfume Review & Musings}



Lady Gaga's debut juice Fame is such a let-down that we wanted first to vent about it on Twitter. Having to think in condensed 140-character form and wondering how best to express the disappointment provoked by what's contained in the bottle inspired the subtitle of the review: "Autopsy of a Hyped Fragrance". Come to think of it, better keep it for the blog. 

The perfume, as promised, is undeniably black, in appearance at least. But if it evokes any gloom, it is that of banality. The sky of inventiveness reads severely overcast. You might still find the ad campaign worth watching (see here, here, here and here), and the hype, a good effort, but the perfume itself is the total loser in this success story. 

If Fame seems to demonstrate anything, it is that the more global a following you have, the worst the scent that might be concocted to enable you to connect to your widely spread fan base. Fame is a terribly diluted proposition, a fruity-floral from hell screaming a silent scream of alienation where there could theoretically have been the equivalent of Gaga's meat dress dressed with spices in a flacon...

 To convey the idea of daringness, we were told about bodily excretions: sperm, blood, what not. Then, later it came to be that it was about the metaphors of those things. The word "hooker" was thrown in to apparently imply that it might attract wannabee hookers and hooker fans. We were promised puzzling stench and lots of pondering on borderline smells. But then you land on marketing planet earth and realize the discrepancy which exists between a political program and economic reality. 

Time and again we have stated on this blog how olfaction can be much more of a creator of shock waves for our senses and subconscious, than the visual arts can. And everybody seems to agree. Gaga may wear the meat dress once on stage, and be replayed in it in the tabloids ad nauseam, but wearing the perfume of the meat dress would mean, theoretically, that it could be every day and in the subway. And that is simply not possible for mere mortals. As a friend says, it's a whole different cultural approach. When your reality threatens to smell of meat gone bad, you do not want to be reminded of it. Also, a meaty perfume already exists, but only for the happy few. Try Comme des Garçons Guerilla 1 for bottled effluvia of fresh red meat emanating from the butcher shop. 

No disrespect meant to J-Lo, who at least has no pretension of creating an arty happening, but Fame is exactly the kind of girly, clean, lactonic fruity-floral you have come to expect from the Jennifer Lopez franchise, only done well over there. If Fame comes dressed in vanishing black perfumed water and pretend Alexander McQueen Armadillo shoes, it's fundamentally the same kind of perfume as the one you will find in a glitzy, pink, rhinestone-blessed bottle signed J-Lo. 

Let us rewind a bit. If you really want to know how it smells like more literally, Fame starts with a juicy, fruity and tart opening. It smells like nothing controversial. In fact, the blackness of the scent is belied by the abundance of white musks in it ensuring the signature of the perfume is easy. It all feels immensely generic. But since this could just be a ploy to hook on people before it gets more complicated, you go on and especially look for the much vaunted, central Belladonna accord. Indeed, according to Perfume Selection principles 101, commercial perfumes will be at their most conventional in the opening to bait in customers. You have to go beyond appearances sometimes to discover some gold nuggets. 

As the composition progresses, the fruity accord becomes mellower, slightly more mature, more autumnal and riper. A musky, dry note surfaces which feels "black". Your thoughts go in the direction of Khol paste and you wonder if this could be the Belladonna accord? And yet, the slightly Gothic sensation is quickly underscored by a creamy, caramely note. Again, at this stage, you have to conclude that the debut perfume of Lady Gaga is an effort in über-commercialism. It's a snooze. It taps into the safest category of celebrity juices, the lactonic fruity-floral. It is meant to be comforting. If anything, Lady Gaga wants her Little Monsters to suckle milk in case they find her antics too jarring. There is a certain welcome softness and delicacy to the volume of the scent (incense), but really, it's like listening to the most syrupy of crooners using his most whispery voice in a moment of conventional pathos. In the end, we are offered standardized feelings and thoughts. 

The smell of fame in Fame by Lady Gaga hints at victimhood. You have to endure it and it's the very definition of an empty-eyed stereotype looking at you. In this sense, it might somehow smell of death.

Official fragrance notes: Belladonna, saffron, honey, apricot nectar, incense, tiger orchid, jasmine sambac. 



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4 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. I'll give you guys what I wrote on facebook:
    Fame, it is really an EXTENSION OF HER ART, an art piece if you would

    -Gaga wanted it to smell like
    a slut, whore or a prostitute, The feeling of being wanted, the feeling like or of fame
    "The way your husband makes you feel...[when]he knows exactly what to say you that will make you feel sexy...that mating call...I am larger than life" (remember when she said it was going to smell like blood and semen XD, related)
    - Like fame she wanted it to be seductive but also dangerous and terrifying at first And I really need to say again all like fame itself LOL
    -The First Ever Black Eau de Parfum, Black and clear when sprayed, the duality of fame, dark and light, bad and good

    Ultimately it is not about the smell, although it is just that for perfume enthusiasts, it is about the message and the sibilance of it

    • I get your point. But then, if it is not about the smell, wouldn't it have been more consistent to seal shut the perfume like Viktor & Rolf did for their first scent or fill the bottle with a non-scent? If Fame is an extension of her art, then it lacks the provocative, creative, shock value of what she does visually, although, admittedly, Madonna would disagree. That, she transfered to the visual aspects of her perfume: the color of the juice, the bottle, the ads.

      I personally don't think we're in a context where a banal fruity-floral is going to feel ironic in a Lady Gaga bottle. The only shock value I see in Fame is how shockingly trite it is. If a pedestrian fruity-floral becomes the neutral ground on which to express fame, there is some truth to that, but in my view, only after we see how many bottles of Fame get sold and accepted as valuable to prove her statement that fame is an illusion.

      If it's supposed to speak to seduction within marriage, I'm afraid it smells more like your husband wants you to do the laundry like clockwork, with his favorite detergent, rather than evoke a mating call. Gaga spoke of "cycles of desire" for this scent, and to the nose, it feels more like laundry cycles.

      "Terrifying", "dangerous" and "addictive" are complete misrepresentations of this scent (or only if you live in your head).

      Chant Wagner
  2. I was so impressed by the marketing at Sephora that I decided to take a sniff,

    After spraying the first squirt I thought I made a mistake and sprayed a couple more times, yes, it smelled like liquid nothing

    Needless to say the whole product has practcally vanished from the stores

    Why would anyone pay a premium for nothingness, this is marketing gone berserk

    • It's like conceptual marketing in a way. The perfume is a very innocuous fruity-floral, dressed in black and with golden talons. Then, there is Gaga's name on it. Who needs more? I think she realized at some point she was doing nothing groundbreaking despite some of her claims to edginess and said something like it was fun anyway, or she was not taking herself that seriously.

      Chant Wagner

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