Do You Dare? – Madonna Truth or Dare Perfume Review

Truth or Dare
Madonna – The Candy Perfume Girl

This post should come with a disclaimer – I am a Madonna fan, or as I put it ‘a royal subject of her Madgesty’. I just can’t help myself – I love her music, I admire her immensely for doing everything a man can do but better (and for getting away with it), for doing a lot with average talent, heck even this blog is named after one of her songs, so yes it is fair to say that I kinda like the Queen of Pop. I am also a HUGE fan of white florals, which may lead you to think that I was destined to adore Madonna’s first perfume ‘Truth or Dare’, I mean after all how could I not be biased when one of my favourite icons releases a perfume that fits very nicely into one of my favourite genres?

The truth is that the release of Truth or Dare was quite nerve-wracking for me. First things first, there have been many rumours about a Madonna perfume over the years and it would be fair to say that she should have done it a long time ago, back when she was more of a leader and less of a follower. Secondly, aside from a few glorious exceptions (Rossy de Palma, Tilda Swinton and Sarah Jessica Parker etc.) celebrity perfumes tend to be naff, thoughtless concoctions created as a quick cash cow for whoever feels the need to put their name to one. But as news of Truth or Dare startled to trickle into the blogosphere my fears were put to rest and I was particularly encouraged by the fact that her perfume would be a Fracas inspired white floral – a genre that she is known to love.

Truth or Dare, Madonna’s first and long-awaited foray into the perfume market is created in conduction with Coty, it is also part of her new lifestyle/fashion brand of the same name and was developed by perfumer Stephen Nilsen (Donna Karan Gold, Hillary Duff With Love). With Truth or Dare Madonna was looking to create something personal that was an expression of herself and her love for perfume, but could also be accessible to others, she wanted “something classical and timeless and yet modern” [1]. It is aimed at women between the ages 25-45, with the main focus being on the 35-45 bracket, a fact that I find baffling seeing as Madonna is currently 53 (at the time of writing). Anyhoo, on to the fragrance…

Madonna JPG Sketch for Blond Ambition Tour
Jean Paul Gaultier costume sketches for Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour.

“My oldest memory of my mother is her perfume (Fracas). I carry it with me everywhere. She always smelled like gardenias and tuberose, an intoxicating mixture (that was) feminine and mysterious. I wanted to re-create this scent, but with something fresh and new about it as well. Something honest and yet daring – hence the name Truth or Dare” [2]

The Notes

Top: Gardenia, Tuberose and Neroli
Heart: Jasmine, Benzoin Tears and White Lily Petals
Base: Vanilla Absolute, Caramelised Amber and Sensual Musk Aura [3]

How Does it Smell?

When my bottle of Truth or Dare arrived (expertly smuggled across the Atlantic by the lovely Kathleen of No Disassemble Charlie No. 5) I almost didn’t dare smell it, my expectations were high and I wasn’t quite sure that I could face the disappointment. Luckily for me I wasn’t disappointed and I exhaled a massive sigh of relief upon the first spray. Truth or Dare is everything I expected – a perfectly decent modern white floral.

It opens with a cocktail of sweet flowers – a heady mix of jasmine, lily, tuberose and gardenia (unsurprisingly there are no hydrangeas), which is mixed with a touch of neroli to give the effect of hot fleshy flower buds and pale green stems. Truth or Dare is relatively heavy on the tuberose and the gardenia with the other notes serving as supporting acts rather than lead players.

The association with Fracas is clear from the outset, but where Fracas is a huge vamp of a floral, Truth or Dare is a bit more relaxed and definitely more modern. Although there are significant differences between the two it is good to see that Truth or Dare is quite indolic for such a mainstream perfume and the florals are beautifully indolic, buttery, fleshy and narcotic.

Truth or Dare is very much a perfume of contrasts, choosing to envelop the flowers in a not-quite-gourmand accord of vanilla caramel and amber (known as the “addiction accord” [4]) rather than using animalic notes to increase their intensity. I call this accord “not-quite-gourmand” because it is soft and sweet (and slightly nutty) like marshmallow without being particularly edible – a syrupy thick cloyingly sweet cupcake fragrance this is not – and whatever sweetness Truth or Dare has is used to add to that sweet narcotic nature of the florals.

The dry down is rather plush and powdery thanks to a large dose of snuggly benzoin and musk. The florals become much more rubbery and creamy as Truth or Dare develops into the base, and at all times they are harmonious with the soft, warm and cosy notes. This development may not be amazingly new or ‘fresh’ but it does work really well and for me it does fill the void in my collection for a white floral with a really fluffy, creamy base.

Despite being a modern white floral Truth or Dare has a retro feel to it, in the sense that it feels very retro-Madonna. Everything about it; the look, the name (after the Blond Ambition Tour documentary) and the advertising harks back to the early 90’s, the Vogue and Blond Ambition era, where Madonna was at the height of her fame and I truly think that if she made it back then the scent wouldn’t be vastly different.

Truth or Dare is very well done, it smells much more expensive than it is and is much better than it needed to be. Madonna has been very involved in Truth or Dare’s development and it shows – according to perfumer Stephen Nilsen in Katie Puckrik’s article for the Guardian (a very interesting article – do read it) she has a “real appreciation for luxury” and also shares the same view as many perfume lovers on the subject of IFRA, candidly remarking “fuck IFRA” in true Madonna style.

Although Truth or Dare is well done it isn’t particularly groundbreaking, and as others have said I can’t really see die-hard perfumistas going gaga for it (see what I did there?), but it is a standout amongst celebrity perfumes and I would happily recommend it to people looking for a decent, well priced white floral that isn’t too challenging.

Truth or Dare’s silage and longevity are also relatively decent and although it is quite feminine it would easily work on any guy, albeit one who isn’t too frightened by a strong white floral, in fact I wore it to work this week and I’ve had more compliments from co-workers for Truth or Dare than I have any other perfume, perhaps the Queen has yet another hit on her hands? I’ll let you decide, go on – try it, I dare you!

The BottleTruth or Dare Collection

I am in two minds about Truth or Dare’s bottle. It is generally less fugly and definitely less coffin-like in real life but it does look and feel quite cheap, especially the cap which is weirdly tiny. Still, I do really like the blend of white and gold together so all-in-all it’ll do.


Truth or Dare is currently exclusive to Selfridges’s in the UK and is available in 30ml, 50ml and 75ml Eau de Parfum with prices ranging from £25-£42. Matching body products are also available.


This review is based on a bottle of Truth or Dare from my own collection.

[1] & [2] Women’s Wear Daily

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