Friday, 30 November 2012

Virgins, Confessions & Blond Ambitions - Madonna & Perfume Come Together

Image: ahem... Persolaise

I'm not quite sure where the last few weeks have gone, but it seems that it's time for another joint list with my partners in perfumed compilation. In this instance, the task of choosing our theme fell to me and, true to form, I decided to veer away from conventional ideas and go for something idiosyncratic. So I'm afraid I indulged the geeky fan boy in me and asked the other members of my team to prepare lists inspired by the Queen Of Pop herself: Madonna.

I did very briefly worry about whether they'd rise to the challenge. But I was hopeful that with three decades' worth of music, imagery and controversy from which to draw ideas, they'd be able to produce lists as compelling as the ones they came up with for our other shared endeavours. I'm also very pleased to announce that we're being joined by a guest writer for this particular project: Candy Perfume Boy is a self-confessed Madonna fan (in case you didn't know, his moniker echoes the name of a track from 1998's Ray Of Light album) and so it made sense for us to invite him along for this ride.

But anyway, on to my list...

It's been a characteristically busy year for Ms Ciccone. She released another album. She celebrated the 30th anniversary of the appearance of her first single. And, of course, she entered the celebrity scent market with Truth Or Dare. She also embarked on her ninth world tour and as I've always found her stage efforts to be excellent encapsulations of her strengths, I've chosen to pair up each of her nine shows with an appropriate fragrance. Here we go:

Virgin Tour - Patchouli Patch (L'Artisan Parfumeur)
Madge's first foray into the world of live performance was arguably her most free-spirited, most spontaneous, most hippie-esque effort, which instantly suggests L'Artisan's Patchouli Patch. With its endearing hints of damp earth and unwashed skin, the fragrance is an excellent evocation of the ideals we now like to associate with the Summer Of Love... a time which, ironically, could have been dubbed the 'Anti-Virgin Tour'!

Who's That Girl Tour - Un Bateau Pour Capri (Eau D'Italie)
There's something delightfully Italian about UBPC's celebration of hair spray, tanned skin, citrus oils and sea salt. Madonna was in equally Mediterranean mode when she embarked on her 1987 tour, so it makes sense to combine the big hair and the bigger attitude with Eau D'Italie's homage to gold bangles and massive sunglasses.

Blond Ambition Tour - Carnal Flower (Frederic Malle)
This 1990 extravaganza was the Material's Girl's first presentation of the type of tour which has now become her signature: eye-popping production values, an emphasis on theatrical story-telling, and precision-engineering that would bring tears to a Swiss watchmaker's eyes. Add those characteristics to the show's unabashed sexuality, and you soon arrive at Dominique Ropion's Carnal Flower, an unclothed, flawless, rigorously detailed take on the most demanding white flower diva: tuberose.

The Girlie Show - Absolue Pour Le Soir (Maison Francis Kurkdjian)
1993 was when the physicality became too crude for many. More often than not, it remained compelling, but the rough edges were beginning to grate. Kurkdjian's APLS is a similar beast: its fans can't get enough of its debauched filth; detractors criticise its loudness and brashness... but then they're probably missing the point.

Drowned World Tour - Après L'Ondee (Guerlain)
After a long absence from live touring, the then-Mrs Ritchie returned in 2001 with a bleak, hypnotic serving of operatic grandiosity. Although this concert didn't feel the need to be overly endearing, it was probably Madonna's most moving, thought-provoking show, so it seems apt to match it with one of perfumery's most haunting accomplishments, the silent, devastating wail of despair that is Après L'Ondee.

Re-Invention Tour - Fahrenheit 32 (Christian Dior)
The predominant subject of Madonna's 2004 show was liberty: the music, the lavish screen backdrops and even the costumes became progressively lighter, looser and happier as the spectacle reached its conclusion. I dare say there are quite a few perfumes which convey a similar sense of freedom but the first one that comes to my mind is usually Fahrenheit 32. A rare example of a convincingly natural-smelling minty, marine composition, it never fails to make me picture blue skies and equally endless possibilities.

Confessions Tour - 2 Man (Comme Des Garçons)
In her 2006 show, Madge combined sci-fi imagery with themes of religious devotion. The latter usually suggests frankincense, and although there are many ecclesiastical fragrances around, I'm aware of only one that's bizarre enough to convince its wearer that it's been teleported from some unknowable cathedral of the future: CDG2 Man, the smell of a church inhabited by androids from Saturn.

Sticky & Sweet Tour - Tocade (Rochas)
When she decided to hit the road in 2008, Madonna was in retro mode. From the Keith Haring visuals to the evocation of Hollywood glam, many aspects of this particular show focussed on looking at the past through the lens of the present. This nostalgic element - combined with the bright reds, blues and purples of the costumes - recalls Maurice Roucel's Tocade: a gloriously old-school vanilla-rose wrapped in electric neon.

MDNA Tour - M/MInk (Byredo)
Despite (or because of?) its guns, pain and violence, M's current dash around the world is probably her most overtly religious. It is also dark, industrial and frequently callous. So what we need here is an incense fragrance which feels as though it carries the weight of urban realities, a fragrance which doesn't mind wearing its faith on its sleeve but makes few attempts to smile and ingratiate itself to passers-by. What's that wafting from the giant censer suspended from the ceiling? It must be M/MInk, one of the weirdest, most perplexing incense creations ever unleashed upon the world.

For more Madonna lists, don't forget to visit Eyeliner On A Cat, Fragrant Moments and, of course, Candy Perfume BoyOlfactoria's Travels is sitting this one out.

Please be sure to come back on Tuesday for a very special interview as well as an exciting, 24-hour give-away. Also on Tuesday: an interview with me on at around 12:20 pm (UK time).

And finally... this goes against my better judgement, but I've been dared to do it (don't ask!) so let's just call it a pre-December burst of festive silliness. As filmed by yours truly earlier this year, here is Ms Ciccone, in all her cone-breasted glory, performing Vogue at Hyde Park. Oh, and if you think she's just a tiny speck in the distance, wait till you get to the 3-minute mark...



  1. Great idea to do the scents of Madonna. I completely agree with Carnal Flower and not just because her Truth or Dare is a tuberose scent also CdG2 is another very appropriate one. I might have included something from the big 80's florals for her earlier years (Giorgio Beverly Hills?) but, I like the Patchouli Patch idea. This also makes me want to go out and try M/Mink again. I am looking forward to her new flanker (Bare, Nude?? I forget...).

    1. Dubaiscents, thanks very much. I wanted us to have a bit of fun with these posts. I did wonder about a large 80's power-frag, but I decided it didn't go with any of the tours.

      By the way, M/MInk is well worth checking out.

  2. My goodness, this is the most fun posting I've read for such a while. Thank you :-)) I've never even heard of some of those perfumes. I'll have to check them out.

    Now I'm going over to the read the other bloggers lists.

    1. Raya, thank you. I hope you enjoy all the other lists.

  3. This put a smile on my face. And brought back many memories. Thanks. And yes, Blond Ambition and Carnal Flower... that works!


    1. D, there had to be a tuberose in there somewhere, and Carnal Flower is one of my absolute favourites.

  4. Okay, I didn't see this one coming! But thank u! It's never to soon to start festive silliness IMHO. More the better!


    1. Seb, as of tomorrow, I'm officially allowed to have mince pies, so yes, I thought the fun could start a day early ;-)

  5. Good fun to read. I am VERY reliably informed that she herself wore (or wears) Annick Goutal Gardenia Passion, Caron Poivre and Piguet Fracas... so obviously a strong, spicy white flower girl!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    1. James, we must have the same sources of information ;-) I wonder what she'd make of the current version of Poivre.

  6. Just a quick thought:

    Usually, when we wear fragrance, it evokes a certain image/memory etc. (you've probably heard this before). I think it's absolutely novel and fun that you've turned this notion on its head and used an image (Madonna's tours) to inspire a fragrance.

    I think you've got Tocade and Carnal Flower spot on!


    1. Joshuaang, yes, I'm sure I HAVE heard that somewhere before... ;-)

      I'm glad you like the idea.

  7. Sir, you always produce a great list of fragrance and I see we both managed to post about Kurkdjian. Another fav of mine made your list as well, 2 Man. I'll have to look into the others.

    1. Barney, thanks very much indeed, and yes, it's so cool that we both went for the Kurkdjian!

  8. Wow, I am impressed with your thorough account of all of Madonna's tours! Very cool. Neither you nor I could resist using one of the most delicious words known to man-- ecclesiastical. It makes me shiver with delight. This theme was so much fun for me!

    1. Carrie, thanks very much.

      Is 'thorough' a euphemism for 'geekily obsessive'? ;-)

      And yes, ecclesiastical is a great word.

      I'm glad you enjoyed the theme; I did too. Now I'm looking forward to our 'end of year' lists.

  9. Are you trying to tell me that you've been too all these shows?

    Really entertaining post BTW. Just what I needed when I realised I've got no money to pay for xmas prezzies.


    1. Dot, I'm glad the list cheered you up. And no, I can't say I've been to all the shows. Although it would have been amazing to see some of the earlier ones.


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